We’ve all heard of a cat nap, but anyone who lives with a cat can say with confidence that cats spend hours a day snoozing.
Have you ever found yourself wondering why your cat seems to spend the majority of their time sleeping? Is she just bored? Preserving energy? Is it because he’s active at night and prefers to get the majority of his rest during the day?
In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions, and more, in our discussion of cat sleep patterns.
Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk. These low-light times of day are when many small prey species, such as rabbits and mice, are most active. Essentially, these are prime hunting hours for cats.
Of course, while most domestic cats have no need to hunt, the instinct remains present. Even if your cat doesn’t hunt, he or she will likely be up and about during twilight hours. You may notice a cat acting more playful, and meowing for his breakfast or dinner during these hours as well.
Like humans, cats experience both Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-REM (NREM) sleep.
A quick refresher: the REM sleep phase is the phase in which a human would dream; NREM is deep sleep. Both sleep phases are important because they allow for certain bodily functions that only occur during rest.
According to Pet Place, during NREM sleep, your cat’s body repairs itself, building muscles and bones, while strengthening the immune system.
Much of your cat’s sleep will likely be lighter than heavier. You may notice that your cat rests with his eyes shut, yet his ears will move when something makes a sound. This light sleep is due to the fact that cats instinctually stay alert, even when they’re resting, to remain aware of threats.
While most domestic cats face minimal threats, if any, this instinct is, well, instinct. There is no off switch. In order to survive while also getting sufficient rest, cats have mastered the art of light sleep, or ‘cat naps,’ as they are fittingly described.
Generally, cats sleep as much as they feel they need to. Kittens and senior cats tend to sleep more than adolescent and adult cats. According to Sleep.org, cats are known to sleep up to 15 or 20 hours each day.
Adolescent cats may have erratic sleep patterns due to their abundance of energy. These youngsters commonly spend lots of time playing and being active, sometimes to a level that becomes bothersome. Kittens experience energy bursts when they eat, but will quickly tire and return to sleep in between feedings. Kittens need more sleep than an adult cat because their body is working hard to build strong bones and muscles.
The NREM sleep phase is vital to this process. As cats age, the number of hours they are awake will begin to normalize. Once cats mature into adults, around 18 months old, their energy tends to level out.
Sleep cycles normalize around this age, and your cat’s sleeping patterns become much more predictable. As cats continue to grow older and transition into their senior stages, they will often sleep more than they used to. This is due to lower energy levels and decreased mobility.
One of the reasons why cats sleep so many hours each day is to conserve their energy.
Cats are predators, which means they must hunt their food. Since hunting requires intense bursts of exertion, cats tend to rest in between hunting sessions so they have sufficient energy reserves for when they need it most.
Once again, domestic cats may not rely on hunting to feed themselves, but they still retain this predatory instinct. This is why cats also tend to play in short bursts. Once they’ve exerted their energy they’ll just resume resting.
Learning that your cat spends up to 20 hours a day sleeping may be shocking, or even jealousy-inducing to you. But, once you understand the reasoning behind it, it makes a lot of sense.
Cats spend their time in light sleep, both so that they are aware of their surroundings, and have saved the energy required to catch their prey (or, in most cases, their toys.)
While some may consider felines lazy, cats are just using their downtime strategically!
Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.
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