We’ve probably all noticed it… our feline friends are great at finding somewhere to drop off for a nap! But why is that? Vet blogger Laura investigates…

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. Cats are well adapted to this night-time behaviour; they have poor colour vision but do see well in dim lighting. This is hugely advantageous when hunting at night. 

The Feline Body Clock

Interestingly studies of pet cats have shown that their body clocks are not set in stone. In many cases pet cats adjust their routine and sleep at night-time while their owners rest, being active instead in daylight hours. This relies on the cat being stimulated with play during the daytime hours. Adjusting their body clocks allows them more interaction with their human owners. Adaptation of their routines often follows their feeding schedule, if cats are fed during the day they are more likely to spend more awake time during daylight hours. However young kittens often retain active nocturnal behaviour, so don’t be surprised if a new addition gets up to lots of mischief at night. Many owners report hearing their kitten playing in the dark when they have gone to bed for the night. 

How long do cats on average sleep for?

  • House cats often sleep longer than their outdoor companions, anything from 13-15 hours’ sleep per day have been reported for adults.
  • Elderly cats may sleep up to 20 hours in a 24 hour period. 
  • An adult farm cat sleeps on average 9 hours a day and will spend more time engaged in hunting behaviours.
  • A cat lacking in mental stimulation will often resort to a nap. Whereas an active cat will not necessarily require extra rest. 

Cats experience sleep cycles just as we do. Each cycle lasts roughly 100 minutes, and in this period the cat will be fully awake for just under thirty minutes. The majority of sleep is spent in light or drowsy sleep, where the cat is easily roused. There are usually two periods of six or seven minutes spent in deep sleep, when it is very difficult to rouse the cat. During deep sleep the cat experiences rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and it is therefore believed that cats dream just as we do. 

What influences how long cats sleep for?

  • Age is a major factor in how much sleep a cat gets. Elderly cats and kittens will spend even more time sleeping than adult cats.
  • House cat versus outdoor or farm cat. House cats have been found to sleep significantly more than their outdoor counterparts. Farm cats spend more time hunting and are less likely to have adapted their routines to their human companions. 
  • Mental stimulation. Although it is normal for cats to rest and recharge, particularly after an active period of play or hunting an under-stimulated or bored cat will often resort to sleep. It is important that pet cats have plenty of opportunities to play and also to interact with their owners.
  • Health. Cats who have underlying illness or disease may sleep much more than cats with no health concerns. 
  • Weather. When the weather is poor, cats will often rest for longer – avoiding the worst of the conditions.
  • Temperament. Some cats are more relaxed, laid back and likely to rest and sleep than others. There can be a genetic predisposition to how much a cat might sleep.
  • Breed. Certain breeds might be more relaxed and cuddlier, with others retaining more wild characteristics. However, it is hard to generalise as with anything there will always be individual differences. 

Ensure your cat has a comfortable sleeping spot (or two). Cats will naturally prefer to retreat to a quiet corner to rest, offering a comfortable place for your pet to retreat to will go a long way towards keeping them happy. 

Between naps you can encourage your cat to be active through play. Pouncing and chasing games are often much loved by cats. Feeding puzzles and games can also help to give mental stimulation to your cat at mealtimes, or when offering a treat. 

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In most cases pet cats sleeping for a large part of the day will be normal, however if you have any concerns or have noticed a difference in you cats behaviour that concerns you talk to your vet. 

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