The first thing you should realize is that cats are most active between dusk and dawn, which means that they sleep mostly during the day and become active around twilight. This can come as quite a shock if you’re bringing a new kitty home for the first time. Your cat will waste no time investigating and getting into trouble — usually while you’re fast asleep! But as soon your cat is done with breakfast, as the rest of the world winds up for action, you’ll find him winding down for a long day of slumber.
Cats are naturally crepuscular predators meaning they hunt mostly at dusk and dawn. This means they are most active during the twilight dawn or dusk, sometimes well into the night period when prey such as rodents are also very active. Hunting naturally expends a lot of energy, and cats then rest and sleep for long periods to recharge. Some of these wild traits are exhibited by our pet cats. If given the opportunity many cats will remain active during night-time hours.
A cat’s sleeping habits can easily puzzle anyone less familiar with the feline lifestyle. For the best part of the day, a cat will act like the retired elderly on a well-deserved holiday, constantly on an all-day snoozing diet. If your cat’s always-off mode makes you feel like the world’s most boring housemate, you’ll be happy to know this is not personal. Cats sleep a lot, naturally.
How Much Do Cats Sleep?
Cats sleep an average of 15 hours per day. However, they can sleep as much as 20 hours within a 24-hour period. In general, cats do the majority of their sleeping during the day, since they are most active overnight. If you’ve wondered why that is, the answer lies in their physiology.
Since cats are natural predators, their brains and bodies are made to have them hunting mostly at night, when their excellent eyesight can help them catch prey while staying undetected.
Though domesticated, our kitties still display many behaviors found in wild cats such as lions and tigers. Since hunting prey takes lots of energy, cats sleep as much as possible so they will have the energy needed to pounce on their prey, even if it is only a catnip toy or rubber ball.
How Much Sleep Do Cats Really Need?
Cats typically sleep so much of the day for a good reason. As mentioned above, they’re biologically programmed to do so. If your cat is sleeping 15 hours per day, then you can pretty safely assume that she needs 15 hours per day.
If you’re worried because she’s suddenly sleeping more than usual, or because she’s lethargic when she’s actually awake, that’s another thing. If something like this is bothering you, definitely don’t delay talking to your vet.
Cats do go through cycles in the amount they sleep, though. As kittens, they’ll probably sleep a LOT of the day. When they’re in their “adolescent” years, they may suddenly develop bizarre sleeping habits that have them bouncing about the house at all hours of the day (and night).
As an adult, you’d expect a fairly regular schedule (which you can help set up as a habit), of anywhere between 12 and 20 hours depending on the day and the cat. Seniors may have more trouble moving and may start to slow down, so you would expect to see their sleep needs fall on the higher end of that scale.
What Is The Normal Amount Of Sleep For A Cat?
The number of hours that your cat needs to sleep and the typical sleeping pattern for your cat will change as they get older:
- Kittens will likely sleep most of the day, with a few brief bursts of energy between meals.
- Adolescent cats may have erratic sleep patterns combined with periods of intense playfulness.
- Adult cats tend to have more set sleeping schedules that average out at about 12 – 20 hours of sleep each day.
- Senior cats will tend to have less energy and reduced mobility which means they will sleep more than younger cats.
How Many Hours a Day Do Cats Sleep?
More than half of cats sleep between 12 and 18 hours a day1, and nearly 40% of cats sleep more than 18 hours per day. As they grow older, a majority of cats sleep for more hours each day than they did in their younger years.
How Long Do Cats Sleep?
Cats have a polyphasic sleep pattern2, which means they sleep multiple times each day rather than in one, long period, like humans generally sleep. These cat naps average 78 minutes in length. However, cats commonly sleep for periods of time ranging from 50 to 113 minutes3.
The Sleep Cycle For Cats
Like humans, cats have a circadian rhythm4. The circadian rhythm is the internal biological clock5 that guides the 24-hour sleep-wake schedule. In humans, the sleep cycle is diurnal, meaning we are naturally prone to stay awake during the day and fall asleep at night. Cats, however, are crepuscular6. They experience two peaks of activity, one in the early morning before sunrise and one in the evening around sunset.
Researchers hypothesize that a cat’s crepuscular sleep cycle is driven by their predatory natures. Common prey animals for cats have different sleep cycles. A cat’s crepuscular nature allows it to be awake at daybreak to prey on diurnal birds, and at twilight to prey on nocturnal rodents.
What Makes a Cat Sleep Less?
Since cats are very adaptable creatures, they are experts at adjusting their schedules to get by on less sleep. For example, if a cat is exposed to higher amounts of natural or artificial light, it will sleep less than other cats. Cats that are kept active by their owners through playing and other stimulation may sleep a bit less overall.
And if you decide to feed your cat less food than you have previously, be prepared for them to be awake more often. However, doing so also makes more of their sleep fragmented, so think carefully before cutting back on their food.
Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
Like humans, cats need to sleep11 to survive. In humans, consistent sleep allows the body to recharge for the next day. Sleep also plays a part in memory formation and boosting the immune system.
Researchers hypothesize that other mammals, including cats, receive similar benefits. NREM sleep may help the body recharge12 and conserve energy, while REM sleep can help regulate emotions and other recovery processes. In fact, some mammals, such as rats, lose weight13, are unable to regulate body temperature, have weaker immune systems, and eventually die if they cannot sleep.
When should I be concerned?
There isn’t a set amount of sleep to indicate a heath problem or health emergency, instead it’s about knowing your cat’s normal sleep patterns and recognizing when that pattern changes significantly. If your cat begins to sleep a lot more or a lot less than is usual for him/her there may be a health issue, it’s time to visit your vet.
Cats who begin to sleep more than usual could be ill or experiencing pain. On the other hand, if your cat begins sleeping less than usual they may be suffering from hyperthyroidism or other conditions.