Why Do Cats Sleep So Much? The Reasons Behind All Those Catnaps
There’s a good reason why cats love napping…though you might be surprised by just how much sleep they get every day.
If you’ve ever owned a cat, then you know that the term “catnap” is pretty much the understatement of the century. Cats don’t just like to take quick naps here and there—they sleep for hours upon hours every day. But how much sleep is normal, and why do cats sleep so much in the first place? We asked pet experts to help us answer those questions, and more, below. Once you’ve solved this mystery, find out about some other peculiar cat behavior, including why cats love to sleep on you and on laptops.
How much do cats sleep?
If it seems like every time you catch a glimpse of your cat, he’s happily snoozing, you might wonder exactly how much sleep he’s getting every day. (And you’re probably also thinking, Mmmm…wouldn’t that be nice?) While every cat is different, all cats sleep a significant amount. “Most cats sleep between 12 and 15 hours a day, but they typically sleep in several short bursts, rather than all at once like humans tend to,” says veterinarian Marty Becker, DVM, an adjunct professor at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
And kittens sleep even more than that, if you can believe it! “Kittens need more sleep than adult cats, as their bodies and brains grow, develop, and absorb all the new experiences they have each day,” explains Dr. Becker. “Kittens can sleep up to 20 hours a day, and they tend to play hard and sleep hard.”
Why do cats sleep so much?
We know—it seems like cats are sleeping the day away, especially when compared to humans’ typical eight hours of shut-eye. So, why do cats sleep so much? There are a couple of key reasons for this feline phenomenon.
They’re storing up energy
“Cats sleep a lot, and that is in part because they’re wired as stalk-and-rush hunters,” says Dr. Becker. “They are used to being active in short bursts to find and kill prey, with a meal and a nap afterward. Multiply that by catching eight to ten mice a day.”
If you think about how much energy goes into hunting, nabbing, and eating prey—especially compared to throwing something in the oven or microwave—it starts to put things into perspective. While your kitty may have it easier than his ancestors when it comes to meals, he’s still wired to be super active during short bursts followed by hours of napping to replenish his energy. Cats are also physiologically “ready to hunt at any time, and have to grab sleep when they can,” adds Dr. Becker.
While cats have a reputation for sleeping a lot, you might be surprised to learn how much dogs sleep, too.
They’re not sleeping as soundly as you think
Here’s another interesting fact to consider: Your cat probably isn’t sleeping quite as soundly as you might imagine. Ever heard of sleeping with one eye open? Cats have practically mastered the art. “Even though it may appear that cats are in a deep sleep, they are still very alert to their surroundings,” explains Jodi Ziskin, a healthy pet coach and the director of communications for Treatibles. “They can spring into action if they hear or smell something of interest.”
This is also related to their instinct for avoiding nighttime predators. As a result, they do sleep deeply at times, but it’s typically in five- to 15-minute periods before they resume their “dozing” status. This back-and-forth sleep pattern may also help explain why cats need to sleep for so many hours.
Are cats nocturnal?
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Despite what you may have heard, cats are not nocturnal—they’re crepuscular! Unlike nocturnal animals, which are active at night, crepuscular animals are active at dusk and dawn. “Cats tend to exert a whole lot of energy during these hours,” explains Ziskin. “When they sleep, they’re ‘recharging’ so they can be more active during the dusk and dawn hours.”
Why those hours? It again goes back to their history as hunters. The cats of old would hunt during the early morning and twilight hours and then sleep during the main daytime and nighttime hours when their natural predators were on the prowl. This is one of the reasons that cats often like to sleep tucked away somewhere, like next to their owners or curled up in a box—it’s part of their instinctual and evolutionary desire to stay safe.
Can cats ever sleep too much?
So is there such a thing as cats sleeping too much? Possibly. While adult cats can sleep for up to 20 hours a day, more than that could signal a problem, and you should always be on the lookout for other telltale signs of trouble. “Cats can sleep too much if they are bored or depressed,” explains Dr. Becker, “so it’s important to make sure that your cat is both emotionally and physically healthy if they seem lethargic or like they are not engaged with their humans and environment.”
If that’s the case, try incorporating more playtime into your cat’s day. Doing so engages his brain and body and can even help strengthen your bond when playing together. When you’re not around, the best cat toys can help keep your kitty happily occupied. If the issue persists, however, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to make sure your cat isn’t sick.
Additional reporting by Meghan Jones.