Cat Sleeping Habits: Catching Zs

By Bailee Noella October 06, 2018

If there’s one thing cat owners can agree on, it’s that cats spend a lot of their time asleep- like, a lot. Even nap fiends can’t help but be impressed by our feline friends who seem to do nothing but hibernate. Sleeping feels good, but surely there has to be a logical reason for all that shut-eye.

In order to understand why cats spend so much of their day snoozing, we have to take a trip to the past. Before we domesticated cats, they roamed the wild. Feral cats didn’t have the luxury of an obedient human plopping down a bowl of food for them at the same time every day! It was up to them to provide their own meals. Since cats prefer eating fresh meat over scavenging for leftovers, this meant that their only option was to hunt. Hunting requires a lot of energy to stalk and chase prey.  When you add up all that physical activity, it’s easy to understand why they want to conserve as much energy as possible. While the tabby in your lap may not need to track live prey for herself, she still has those ancient predator genes telling her to rest up for the next hunt.

Where Do Cats Sleep In The Wild, Anyway?

House cats seem to fall asleep anywhere and everywhere they please: perched on the fridge, curled up in a bowl, or sprawled out on our laptop. Nowhere is off limits for a quick snooze. If they can climb it, crawl under it, or sprawl out on it, it’s a bed.

Cats living in the wild, on the other hand, have to be much more particular about where they rest. Due to the threat of larger predators, they only sleep when they feel safe. They scout for shelter that is tucked away from wandering eyes, and they’ll often find a handful of these areas so they can switch them periodically and keep predators on their toes. They might stake out in a tree, take shelter in an abandoned fox den, or burrow beneath the camouflage of a bush.

Wild cats living in the vicinity of humans will often claim alleyways or old barns and empty buildings. Sometimes they can be found hiding in window wells or beneath decks and porches. Anywhere that provides a quick escape and some warmth is favorable.

How Much Do Cats Usually Sleep?

When cats aren’t catching toy mice, they’re catching some z’s. Cats spend an average of 15 to 20 hours a day getting some shut-eye, or twice the amount of sleep most of us humans get when we’re lucky. That means that they spend two-thirds of their lives asleep, and they’re completely unapologetic. (Don’t worry.  You aren’t the only one who is jealous.)

That Seems A Bit Excessive... What Are The Benefits Of Sleeping That Much?

Cats may not work a 9-to-5, but they still need ample amounts of sleep to replenish their energy. After all, sprinting noisily up and down the hallway in the early hours of the morning is exhausting.

Like many wild animals, cats also like to be alert to danger and ready to spring into action at all times. They stay attentive even while they’re asleep by doing a series of light naps throughout the day, as opposed to sleeping deeply throughout the night like we do. This would have been an invaluable trait to a feral cat that has to hunt using short bursts of energy. While your cat may not hunt live prey (aside from the occasional stray bug), they still play and interact in the same way. And since they miss out on long, heavy slumbers, it’s important to not disturb them while they’re logging hours for their beauty sleep!

OK, But My Cat Sleeps A Lot - Like, A Lot A Lot. Is Something Wrong?

Everyone knows cats and naps go hand-in-hand, but if your cat is sleeping more than usual, it may be a cause for concern. In the wild, animals hide pain and illness so that they don’t become a target for larger predators. Cats still have that instinct firmly ingrained in their biology. For that reason, they are more likely to oversleep when they aren’t feeling well than to openly show that they aren’t feeling top notch by limping around.

While many cats are notorious for lazing around, a healthy cat should still be alert and respond quickly to stimuli. If your cat seems lethargic, is sleeping a lot (even for a feline), or has otherwise significantly changed their usual level of activity, it’s important to bring them to your vet for a checkup. It’s always better to be on the safe side.

Cats Sure Sleep In Some Strange Places.

As we know, it’s important for cats in the wild to switch up their sleeping spots periodically to avoid being caught by larger predators. But believe it or not, your cat has those same tendencies - even in the safety of your home. This means you might find them plopping down in one unusual place for a snooze in the morning, and another unusual place for a snooze in the evening. (Cats are big fans of having options!)

Many cat owners are used to getting on all fours to peek beneath sofas, standing on their tiptoes to search the tops of cabinets, and double checking there isn’t a cat in the sink before turning the faucet on. Some cats balance on handrails or claim their throne on top of a mountain of laundry. There are entire websites and books dedicated to compiling photos of the many strange places owners find their cats taking a well-deserved nap. While these places are rarely five star mattresses, cats will be cats, and it’s nothing to worry about.

How Can I Make My Cat A Sleeping Area?

While cats will curl up almost anywhere (yes, even on our shoes), they appreciate having a comfortable place to rest their heads as much as we do. Take note of places your cat typically chooses to snooze, and consider placing something soft and cozy there. Igloo beds and hammocks are great options, especially if they can be situated in a place where your kitty can bask in the sunlight and keep watch of the room. They like to have a bird’s-eye view of their surroundings so they can be alert to everything going on around them.

We all know that cats are curious creatures, so be sure to cat-proof the area if necessary: put away cleaning supplies, unplug electrical cords, and make sure any plants that you have are non-poisonous to felines. Overall, it’s fairly easy to make a cozy resting area for your kitty.  Often times, though, just your lap will do.

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