Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

A quintessential image of the feline species is a dozing cat, resting peacefully on a comfortable rug or the lap of their owner. Cats are known the world over for their love of sleep, often leaving their owners wondering, why do cats sleep so much?

It’s a natural feline behaviour, to be sure, but the length and frequency of cat sleep patterns have various influencing factors, ranging from age and health to inherent instincts. In this article, we explore the possible reasons behind your cat's extensive sleep habits, offering insights to help you answer questions like, ‘How long do cats sleep?’, ‘How much sleep do kittens need?’ and ‘Why do cats cover their eyes when they sleep?’.

Some common reasons are:

White cat sleeping on a wooden counter.
White cat sleeping on a wooden counter.

1. They’re Taking a Catnap

A catnap is a common phrase for a reason, as they are a huge part of a feline’s daily routine. Unlike a deep sleep, a catnap allows our furry friends to rest while remaining alert to their surroundings. Such a light form of sleep aids in conserving cat energy and is key to their ongoing well-being.

Taking a catnap isn't just a whimsical behaviour; it's a significant part of their natural instinct to stay energised and prepared.

2. Your Cat is Anxious or Stressed

Humans aren’t the only species who suffer from mental health concerns. Cat anxiety and stress are emotional states that can profoundly affect a feline’s personality and behaviour, including their sleep patterns. Changes in routine, such as altered feeding times or new individuals in the home, can trigger stress in cats, with the anxiety often manifesting as a disruption in their normal sleeping habits.

Some of the other symptoms of cat anxiety owners can look out for include:

  • Increased aggression or irritability
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Excessive grooming or scratching
  • Hiding more than usual or avoiding interaction
  • Unusual vocalisations or meowing
  • Elimination outside the litter box

3. Your Cat is Sick

Various cat diseases can influence their sleep habits, such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, cancer and hyperthyroidism. They can also be impacted by parasites from roaming, grooming and hunting.

When cats feel unwell or are experiencing discomfort, they often retreat to secluded spots like under the bed or atop their cat tree, and you might notice them sleeping more than usual. Such behaviour can be a sign of pain or discomfort.

Obesity is another concern that may affect your cat's mobility, leading to decreased activity and more rest due to the discomfort of movement. Just as you need to be aware of common sick cat symptoms, every owner should monitor their cat's weight. If you struggle to feel their ribs, consult a vet to assess their health and address potential issues like obesity or related endocrine diseases.

Recognising these early signs of an uncomfortable cat can be vital in promptly addressing any underlying health issues.

4. Your Cat is Bored

All animals get bored, including even the friendliest of felines. Cat boredom can manifest in various problematic behaviours, including destruction, over-grooming, and constant meowing. If you notice your cat has energy or is not settling into a deep sleep, try to provide adequate cat stimulation to keep your feline friend engaged and content. Interactive toys, climbing structures, and regular playtime will greatly reduce boredom, promoting a healthy balance of activity and rest.

5. Check Your Cat for Injuries & Symptoms

Cats' dynamic (and sometimes acrobatic) activities, like jumping and running, can sometimes lead to injuries like muscle strains or ligament tears, resulting in an increased need for sleep during recovery. Infections or open wounds can also cause more sleep as their immune system fights off the ailment.

More sleep doesn’t just stem from acutely injured cats. As they age, arthritis and joint pain are also common, often leading to lethargy and a greater need for rest.

If you notice your cat showing signs of discomfort, stiffness, or injury symptoms, a veterinary visit will help with diagnosis and treatment planning, including pain management and mobility improvement strategies. 

6. Your Cat is Nocturnal

All cats are nocturnal or crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), which differs from the human sleep schedule. This natural behaviour stems from their predatory instincts. Understanding this can help explain why your cat is more active and awake at night, leading to different sleep patterns compared to the rest of the household.

7. Your Cat is Conserving Energy

Another natural instinct for cats is conserving their energy, primarily inherited from their wild ancestors. Having plenty in their reserves for activities like hunting, playing, or exploring ensures they don’t fall short in comparison to competitors or prey. By sleeping for extended periods, cats build up the energy required for intense physical activity, a trait especially integral in their natural predatory roles.

How Long Do Cats Sleep?

The duration and pattern of a cat's sleep vary with age:

  • How much sleep do kittens need? Kittens typically spend most of their day in a deep sleep, interspersed with short bursts of energy for feeding and brief play.
  • How much do adolescent cats sleep? Adolescent cats may exhibit unpredictable sleep patterns, often alternating between sleep and playful activity.
  • How much do adult domestic cats sleep? Adult cats usually settle into more regular sleep routines, averaging between 12 to 20 hours a day.
  • How much sleep do elderly cats need? Senior cats, due to reduced energy and mobility, often sleep more than their younger counterparts.

As cats mature into adulthood, they often develop a consistent sleep-wake cycle, which might include waking up with you, engaging in activities like eating or socialising, and then returning to sleep as you go about your day.

When Should I Be Concerned About Cat Sleep Patterns?

While you enjoy your life with a feline companion, always monitor any significant changes in your cat's sleeping patterns. If you observe excessive sleepiness, lethargy, or a drastic change in energy, it could indicate underlying health issues. In such cases, consulting with a veterinarian can help you understand their normal behaviour and identify when something might be amiss, ensuring that you give your cat the best possible cat care.

FAQs on Cat Sleep Patterns, Needs & Habits

  • Can cats sleep in your bed? 

    Your cat may choose to have a deep sleep or nap in your bed as a sign of trust, comfort, and affection. It's a place where they feel secure and loved. While some owners enjoy this bonding experience, others might prefer to provide separate sleeping arrangements for hygiene or uninterrupted sleep. It's important to consider both the cat's and the owner's comfort in this decision.

  • Why do cats cover their eyes when they sleep?

    Cats often cover their eyes while sleeping to protect their eyes from light. It's also a natural instinct for safety, allowing them to shield their eyes while remaining semi-alert to their surroundings.

  • How do I get my cat to sleep at night?

    Try establishing a consistent evening routine to encourage a cat to sleep at night. Engaging in playful activities before bedtime can expend their energy, making them more inclined to rest during the night. Additionally, creating a comfortable and inviting sleeping area for your cat can promote better sleep patterns and habits.

  • Why does my cat sleep on me? 

    When a cat chooses to sleep on you, it's often a display of faith and regard. Cats are drawn to the warmth and comfort provided by their human companions, and it’s also a way for them to mark their territory and show that they feel safe and secure in your presence. This behaviour is a significant indicator of the bond between the cat and its owner.

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