—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸
You already know how much cats love their beauty rest—so much that it sometimes seems like they sleep all day.
How much do they actually sleep? Why do they sleep so much? Do they dream about birds and mice?
Let’s find out.
Cats Are Not Nocturnal
Contrary to what you’ve heard, cats aren’t nocturnal, they are crepuscular, which describes a group of animals most active during periods of low light. Just like their bigger ancestors, their prime hunting times are dawn and dusk, and they aren’t as active during the darkest hours, when other predators may be out.
You are probably like me and have seen many cats out in the middle of the night, but I think I know why that’s the case.
Stray cats in large cities or busy areas may find it safer to hunt later at night because of the amount of cars and people out and about around dusk.
It’s also possible that rodents and other prey are easier for the cat to see and hear when there aren’t blaring car horns and the hustle and bustle of people moving around.
Lastly, cats don’t really have any big predators to worry about in big cities like they do in more rural and wooded areas.
We’ve all been awoken by our cat around 2 or 3 a.m. for playtime. So, what can you do about it? I highly recommend playing then feeding right before you go to bed.
This will not only drain their energy but redirect energy to digesting food instead of waking you up.
Also, getting them on a schedule is extremely important. Try to feed them at the same times every day, and lay in your bed when it’s time to wind down or go to sleep.
Your cat will learn your schedule, know when they get fed, and realize when you’re down for the count. Whatever you do, do not get up in the middle of the night to feed or play with your cat, or they will expect it every night.
They Don’t Call It a Catnap for Nothing💤
While cats spend more than half their day sleeping, they actually spend very little time in a deep sleep. This is because they are predators, and need to wake at a moment’s notice to hunt or protect themselves.
Of the average of fifteen hours, they sleep a day, 15-30 minutes each hour is spent in light sleep, while 5 minutes is spent in a deep sleep. This allows the cat to use spurts of energy to hunt down prey or avoid predators.
Also, because cats are obligate carnivores, eating mostly animal protein, they’ll get what they need in a small meal and have no need to be awake to graze all day, like other mammals.
Let’s take a look at some questions about cat sleep patterns.
Do cats dream? 💭
Just like humans, cats dream when they are in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. You may have seen them twitching, moving their legs, or if they’re young kittens, nursing the air.
While scientists are still unsure of the role dreaming plays for everyone, they believe mammals need it to repair and restore their bodies and brains.
What do cats dream about? Likely, their day-to-day lives, just like us. Younger cats and kittens will spend more time in REM sleep (just like human babies and children) because they have more information to process.
Is it normal for a cat to snore?
Snoring is the vibration of airways when a person or animal is asleep. Sometimes, it’s normal, but sometimes, it can indicate a health issue, like sleep apnea.
Either way, always mention it to your vet so they can confirm whether it’s cause for concern or not. Here are the most common scenarios for snoring, outlined by The Spruce Pets:
- Cat breeds with shortened nasal passages, like Persians, Burmese, and Himalayans.
- Overweight cats. Try to manage your cat’s weight to prevent this.
- Certain sleeping positions. You can tell because after your cat moves to another position, the snoring should stop.
- Respiratory illness including a bacterial or fungal infection or even asthma.
- Foreign objects – even something as small as a blade of grass can cause a cat to snore.
Uncommon and concerning situations include:
- Starts snoring or snoring becomes louder.
- Snoring is accompanied by sneezing, coughing, or change in appetite or behavior.
- Snoring with panting, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.
Consult your vet immediately to determine the cause and start treatment.
Can cats suffer from sleep disorders?
While it’s not common, they can suffer from sleep disorders. We’ll cover the three most common ones according to PetCareRx:
This condition is when there is a longer than normal pause in respiration during REM sleep. It typically gets progressively worse over time and causes extreme exhaustion during the day.
Symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for breath, and spasms of the diaphragm. Breeds with shortened nasal passages, like Persians, and overweight cats more often suffer from sleep apnea. Surgery is sometimes required to fix the problem.
Diagnosing narcolepsy is important because the symptoms of sudden sleepiness or collapsing unconscious are also signs of heart disease, epilepsy, or diabetes.
These symptoms occur during the day after some sort of exciting activity, like eating or playing, and the cat falls into a deep sleep for anywhere from a few seconds to 30 minutes. While there is no cure, cats with a severe disorder may be put on antidepressants or stimulants.
Restlessness & Insomnia
While very difficult to diagnose, if you notice your cat is extremely restless at night and during the day, accompanied by meowing or crying, take your cat to the vet to rule out an underlying illness.
Once ruled out, some things that will help your cat get more sleep include playing with them before bed, giving them a big meal, or getting a second cat.
Do cats need a cat bed to sleep?
Technically, no, however, they do like to curl up in warm, cozy, small places to take a nap. Look for a cat bed with a super soft material for your cat to sleep in, and they’re guaranteed to be happier than just sleeping anywhere.
Did you get a cat bed and your cat’s not using it? Sometimes, adding their favorite blanket or even a tiny bit of catnip will attract them to something new.
What position do cats sleep in and what do they mean?
You’ve undoubtedly seen your cat sleep in a million positions and they are quite the contortionists. Here are a few positions broken down by iHeartCats:
- Cats curled up with their tail around them and feet under their bodies is usually to conserve heat and protect their vital organs. Most cats typically want to be left alone in this position, but you can probably squeeze in a head or bridge-of-the-nose scratch.
- Sleeping in boxes, drawers, or other things with walls makes a cat feel secure.
- Belly up means they feel completely safe and confident in their environment.
- When a cat is sleeping like a loaf or a hen laying an egg, they typically fell asleep slowly, likely enjoying their surroundings while they did it.
Do a cat’s sleep habits change with age?
Yes. Kittens and seniors will sleep up to 20 hours a day, where adult cats in the 1-7 year range will sleep the average 15 hours mentioned earlier in this article.
Can cats sleepwalk?
A normal healthy cat will not sleepwalk. Cats with brain damage or lesions around the brain may sleepwalk. If your cat sleepwalks, please consult your vet.
Cats are Olympic sleepers. They're not nocturnal but rather crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk.
Now you know how cats sleep, and why catnaps really are crucial to their survival in the wild. Even indoor cats are still wired to be masterful hunters, and always have energy on reserve.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on a snoring kitty, and if you notice any lethargy outside of the normal sleep cycle, talk to your vet. And don’t worry when you see your kitty running in their sleep. They’re probably chasing a mouse.
The Dog People Powered by Rover, Are Cats Really Nocturnal?
PetMD, Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
Animal Planet, What Is the Normal Sleep Time for a Cat?
Purina, Do Cats Dream?
The Spruce Pets, Snoring in Cats
PetCareRx, Common Cat Sleep Disorders
iHeartCats, Your Cat’s Sleeping Position Can Tell You What They’re Thinking
Canidae, What Do Cats Dream About?
Article by Elizabeth Italia 🙋♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist