Why Cats Sleep So Much

Posted by Dr. Roth on

cat sleeping in bed with face curled in paws

Any pet parent with a cat knows that their feline friends sleep a lot more than they do. In many cases, it seems as though the cat sleeps all day, waking a few times here and there to grab a bite to eat, something to drink, or for a quick play period. 

To humans, the amount of time cats spend sleeping can seem like a problem. A feline's lengthy sleeping habits, however, are typically perfectly normal. But why do cats sleep so much, though, and when should pet parents become concerned?

How Much Should Cats Sleep?

Generally speaking, how much time a cat spends sleeping depends on their age, and sleeping habits will likely change throughout their life:

  • Kittens sleep most of the day and have short bursts of energy between their meals.
  • Adolescent cats have varied sleeping patterns, often interspersed with periods of playfulness.
  • Adult cats tend to have the most predictable sleep patterns and generally spend between 12 to 20 hours a day sleeping.
  • Senior cats, who are more prone to mobility issues and less energetic in general, often sleep more than younger felines.

Most pet parents with adult cats will begin to learn their feline's sleep patterns pretty quickly. For instance, they may notice their cat wakes up with them for breakfast and some social time before going about their day. As the humans of the house get on with their routine, the kitty may head off for the first of many naps of the day. 

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

Cats sleep a lot for a variety of different reasons. These reasons are perfectly normal, and they typically aren't a cause for concern:

To Conserve Energy

Wild cats have to hunt for their food. As such, they sleep a lot to conserve energy. While domesticated house cats don't usually have to hunt for anything to eat – although they may track down the occasional bug or rogue rodent – they still retain those wild instincts.

To Keep Cool

In warmer parts of the world, cats sleep as a means of keeping cool. Their sleeping habits help to regulate their body temperature. 

The Weather Influences Them

Most pet parents have felt the desire to stay in bed on a rainy day. Or perhaps they've noticed that a dreary day makes them feel sleepier, even if they got a full eight hours the night before. Even exclusively indoor cats are susceptible to feeling the effects of the weather outside. 

They're Most Active at Different Times Than Humans

Cats are crepuscular, which means that they're most active at the twilight hours of both dusk and dawn. For wild cats this makes sense, as it allows them to avoid larger predators that might be active in the late hours of the night or during regular daylight hours. 

While many house cats keep similar patterns, they may also become accustomed to different sleeping habits. Felines are sociable creatures. A domesticated cat may alter their sleep schedule so they can spend more time with their pet parents or other pets in the house. Cats may also develop different sleeping patterns based on their feeding schedule, which is much more predictable than the eating schedule of a cat in the wild. 

They Enjoy It

Many pet parents have had those days where they don't want to get out of bed. They want to sleep in because they can. It feels good to lounge in a comfortable spot. Cats aren't all that different. Many laze about because they enjoy it. Their personalities or breed traits may align more towards that of the lazy loaf, which isn’t inherently a bad thing.

cat waking up from nap under blanket

Is a Cat Really Sleeping?

Like humans, cats do reach deep sleep, but they don't do so every time they lay down for a nap. Much of their time spent lounging is actually snoozing or light sleeping. During these times they're getting rest, but they're still alert to their environment or movement around them. Pet parents may notice that their feline's ears still move around when there's a noise. Some cats may even “sleep” with their eyes slightly open. This is all to avoid potential dangers and their brain and nervous system have specifically evolved to benefit from many types of sleep depth. 

When Should Pet Parents Be Concerned?

Cats sleep a lot. Their snoozing patterns alone typically aren't enough to let pet parents know there's something wrong. Understanding a feline's habits and body language when snoozing, however, can help.

Pet parents with suddenly sleepy cats should keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Physical pain when moving or limping
  • White or light colored gums due to dehydration

If a pet parent notices their cat sleeping significantly more or less than usual, signs of abnormal movement, or if they’re fully awake but physically lethargic it may be time to check in with an online vet in case any other illness symptoms may be presenting but are going unnoticed.

cat sleeping and snuggling in arms

Worried About a Cat's Sleeping Habits?

For cats, sleeping a lot is perfectly natural and shouldn't be a cause for worry. If pet parents start noticing their feline is sleeping even more or less than usual, however, checking in with a veterinarian or using a live vet chat service can’t hurt. Sudden changes in a cat’s sleep patterns can indicate a health or behavior concern and getting a credible opinion on the matter could help cat parents find issues before they become more medically serious. Diagnosing the cause of the sudden sleepiness can help pet parents get the treatment their cat needs to ensure their ongoing health and happiness. 

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