Why do cats sleep so much?
Sleep, eat, sleep, repeat… cats live the dream! But why do cats sleep SO much? While a cat’s constant need for naps might seem lazy, there’s actually a very interesting evolutionary reason behind it
Updated on the 18/01/2021, 15:34
If you had to pick your cat’s top skill, what would it be? We bet sleeping - a lot - would be a contender.
Whether it’s the bed, the sofa, a scruffy old box, your hat or the laptop you were just about to use, cats manage to fall asleep just about anywhere. Plus, it only takes a second before they’re out like a light - they’re true nap masters!
Jokes aside, we can’t really blame our feline friends for their constant snoozing - it’s all a part of their DNA! So why do cats sleep so much, and how long do cats sleep for? Let’s find out!
How much sleep do cats need?
Warning: you might be a little jealous when you hear this! Cats sleep for around 12-16 hours every single day. That’s more than most mammals on the planet, and around double as much downtime as us humans need.
Elderly cats and very young kittens might sleep even more than this. Yes, that means they spend pretty much all their time asleep! That nap is sounding more and more tempting by the minute…
We know what you’re thinking - why can’t we sleep as much as cats? Well, the thing is, your kitty actually has a fairly good excuse for their sleeping hobby. And while sleeping for ⅔ of their lives might come across as lazy, it’s actually quite the opposite.
Why do cats sleep a lot?
While cats are lazing the day away in a series of cosy naps, they’re actually doing something fairly important - saving their energy for hunting.
“Cats sleep to save energy for hunting. To be efficient predators, cats need short spurts of energy to generate the speed and strength needed to capture prey. Domestic cats, fed at home, have no need to hunt; yet they are ruled out by the genetic code of their ancestors” explains Helen L.Wilbur in her book, M Is for Meow.
Yes, domestic cats are lucky enough to be served up food in their bowl every single day - no hunt necessary. Nevertheless, hunting is still part of their DNA and they’ve evolved this way despite now being a domesticated animal.
Cats are predators. They need to find and hunt prey in order to eat and stay alive. This requires short but intensive bursts of energy. On top of this, cats are prey as well as predators. They’re watching their back constantly in fear of being hunted. This increases their energy needs even more.
So, your cat sleeps a lot to build up and store this energy to hunt and protect themselves from predators. Now you think about it, their napping is actually the opposite of lazy - so, you’ll have to let them off!
Is it normal for a cat to sleep 20 hours a day?
Older cats, and very young kittens, may well sleep for this long. However, if your cat starts to sleep longer, all may not be well. Is your cat ill perhaps, or due a vet health check? A cat that is kept indoors may become depressed and stop moving around as much, resulting in them sleeping a great deal to simply pass the time. Be certain that you are providing plenty of opportunities for enrichment and activity. After all - we want our cats to be as happy as possible!
4 facts about cat sleep
We’ve answered the burning “why do cats sleep so much?” question... so why not take the opportunity to learn something else about cats and sleep? Here we go!
Cats are crepuscular
Most people assume that cats are nocturnal - but this isn’t true at all! Cats are actually crepuscular, which means they’re most lively around dawn and dusk. In the wild, this is the time that prey is more active, making it easier for them to hunt for food.
So, if you’ve ever wondered why your kitty goes mad just as you’re settling down for bed and wakes you up with meows in the early morning, now you know why! The dawn, and twilight hours are their active time.
Cats are light sleepers
If you’ve had a cat for a long time, you’ll know how easily cats wake up. They can appear to be in a blissful, deep sleep - but their body springs back to life with the slightest sound or touch, ready to defend their territory.
But why is this? We spoke earlier about how cats are prey as well as predators - this means they’re programmed to be able to fight or flee at any given moment. Because of this, most of the time, your kitty will be sleeping very lightly - more of what we humans would call a snooze.
Most cats are in light sleep for around half an hour, followed by 5 minutes of very deep sleep, before quickly switching back into light sleeping mode. This way, they’re aware of their surroundings but still get adequate rest. Perfect survival tactic.
Cats dream, just like we do!
Spotting your cat’s ears and paws twitching while they’re asleep has got to be the cutest thing ever. When you spot this, it’s very likely that your kitty is enjoying her short spurt of deep sleep and wandering around in a feline dreamland.
That’s right - scientists believe that cats dream too. This deep, dream sleep is crucial - at this time, your cat’s body is busy regenerating itself and checking everything’s in order.
As for what they’re dreaming about, we can’t tell you - but we’re guessing it's probably cuddling with you, eating their favourite cat food, and chasing lots of insects and yes, mice and birds and maybe even the occasional rabbit.
Cats adjust their sleep pattern to keep contact with us
This might be the most interesting cat sleep fact of them all. Even though cats sleep for a whopping 12-16 hours per day and naturally sleep through daylight, they often adjust their sleeping schedules to fit in with us humans.
Even though they will sleep to conserve energy, they will awaken for a bit of social time with us, too. Of course, they also awaken to tell us it’s feeding time, or play time, or grooming time… but they certainly don’t ignore the fact that we are around.
So, that was everything you need to know about cat sleep. Now you know why cats sleep so much, you can stop feeling so envious of your kitty’s constant nap time! Talking about naps, we think we can squeeze one in right now - zzz...