How Much Do Cats Sleep? Plus Other Related Questions
By Dr. Carly I. O'Malley June 01, 2019
Have you ever wondered where the term ‘cat nap’ comes from, or just about your cat’s sleeping habits in general? You may notice that your cat sleeps a lot throughout the day, but do you know how much sleep is considered normal for your cat? A cat’s sleeping habits can change throughout his or her life, and sudden changes in how much your cat sleeps may be an indicator of their health and welfare. In this article, we will discuss cat sleeping habits to help you learn more about the feline friend in your life.
How Much Do Cats Sleep?
Adult cats between the ages of 8 weeks old to 11 years old sleep on average 15 hours per day, whereas kittens before the age of 8 weeks old typically sleep closer to 20-24 hours a day. Senior cats (cats over 11 years of age) also tend to sleep closer to 20 hours a day. Unlike humans who typically sleep approximately 8 hours straight at night, cats prefer to nap throughout the day to get their beauty sleep in the form of short and long cat naps (NSF).
What Factors Affect A Cat’s Sleeping Habits?
While we presented the average number of hours per day an adult cat or kitten sleeps, there are a number of factors that can influence how much your cat sleeps on a regular basis. Some of these factors include the age of the cat, time of day, time of year, preferred sleeping location, and health status. We will discuss more about how each of these factors affect your cat’s sleeping habits below.
Just like human babies, kittens require more sleep as they are growing and developing. They tend to sleep more than adult cats at closer to 20 hours of sleep per day. By the age of 7 to 8 weeks of age, most kittens begin showing the sleeping habits of adult cats, which is closer to an average of 15 hours a day (Bateson, 2013; NSF). Senior cats spend more time resting than adult cats, sleeping closer to 20 hours a day (NSF).
- Time of day
Domestic cats mostly adapt their sleeping patterns to match their human’s sleeping patterns. Typically, this means that cats sleep at night and are active during the day. However, the ancestors of our cats were nocturnal, meaning they were active at night. This allowed them to evade predators and to hunt prey (Bateson, 2013). Many domestic cats adopt a crepuscular activity pattern, meaning they are active at dawn and dusk. They adapted to be active at these times to catch prey, but for indoor cats this typically works out well for when their owners are home from work and able to spend quality time with them (NSF).
- Time of year
Similar to humans, cats may adjust their sleeping behavior by season or weather. Cats tend to sleep more when it is cold and grey, such as in the winter, and may sleep more in the heat of the summer (NSF).
- Preferred sleeping location
Cats show preferences for where they like to sleep. Many cats like soft, warm surfaces to sleep on (fleece blankets seem to be a big hit with cats!). Some cats like to sleep up high on cat trees while others may prefer to be closer to the ground, on a bed, or on a couch. Cats in multi-cat households may use preferred sleeping spots at different times of the day. This means they may adjust their sleep schedule based on the schedule of the other cats in the house. Therefore, it is important to provide enough desirable sleeping surfaces to allow each cat the opportunity to rest when they choose to (Stella & Buffington, 2013).
Now that we know more about the factors that may influence a cat’s sleeping habits, let’s explore additional sleep-related questions.
Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
Cats are predators that stalk and ambush their prey, meaning they have to have short bursts of energy to be fast and agile enough to get a meal. Cats sleep a lot in order to rest and conserve energy for hunting. Not every hunting bout results in food, meaning they have to conserve enough energy to make it between meals, even while actively hunting for food (NSF). All cats, wild or domestic, sleep about 15-20 hours a day, which is more than most mammal species (with the exception of bats and possums). Even big cats, such as lions, sleep for about 15-20 hours a day, with female lions sleeping less than male lions (NSF).
Domestic cats do tend to sleep more than their wild counterpart, the European wildcat. Domestic cats spend about 41% of their time on individual resting (sleeping alone) compared to the wildcat's 10%. However, wildcats spend 11% of their time on social resting (sleeping in physical contact with other cats) compared to only 2% in domestic cats (Berteselli et al., 2017). Ultimately, if you are sharing your home with a cat who seems to be sleeping all the time, there is no need to worry! Napping all day is a normal cat behavior. All you can do is be jealous of their relaxed lifestyle.
Do Cats Dream?
Yes, it is believed that cats do dream. A study done at MIT on rats showed that rats go through similar sleep stages as humans and that includes REM sleep. REM sleep is the stage of sleep where dreams happen. From this study, it has been assumed that other animals, such as cats, experience the same sleep stages and do dream (MIT, 2001). If you watch your cat sleep, you may notice them sometimes twitching their ears, nose, and toes, and this is likely when they are dreaming. Dreaming is our brain’s way of organizing information we received throughout the day, and it is assumed that this is what is happening when animals dream as well (MIT, 2001).
What Should I Do If I Suspect My Cat Is Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little?
Cats hide illness very well, so as cat parents, it is important to pay close attention to how your cat behaves on a daily basis. This will help you notice any small changes in behavior that could indicate stress or illness. This includes monitoring how much your cat sleeps. As mentioned previously, it is normal for cats to sleep most of the day, but if you notice your cat is suddenly sleeping less or more than normal, that could be a sign to pay more attention to their overall health and welfare.
There are a number of factors that could cause temporary changes in your cat’s sleeping behavior. Some of these factors include:
- Moving to a new house
- Changes in family members in the house such as someone moving in or moving out
- Getting a new cat or losing a cat
- Opening the windows for the first couple of times in the spring
- Critters or other cats hanging around outside your house
- Critters in the house (mice running around at night, ick!)
- Any other sudden changes in or around your cat’s environment
If you think your cat is sleeping too little, it would be important to evaluate their environment, especially in multi-cat houses, to make sure the cats have enough preferred sleeping spots. If you suspect your cat is sleeping more, it might be a good idea to bring them to the veterinarian for a checkup. Sleeping more could be a sign that your cat is not feeling well.
What Do I Do If My Cat Is Waking Me Up At Night?
While many domestic indoor cats do adopt their cat parent’s activity patterns, some cats may retain nocturnal tendencies. They may spend all night running around your house and attacking your feet while you are sleeping (especially adolescent cats). This can be disruptive to your sleep. Luckily there are ways to encourage your cat to sleep at night with you. To encourage your cat to sleep at night and play during the day, it is important to provide them plenty of mental and physical stimulation during the day. Stick to regular feeding, playing, and cuddling schedules. Schedule regular play sessions during the day, particularly in the evening before bed time. This will help your cat burn energy and make it more likely they will be tired enough to sleep at night.
It is also important to ignore your cat as best as you can at night. If you interact with your cat in any way when they try to wake you up, then you are rewarding their behavior. They will continue to do it. Even if you think you are punishing your cat by yelling at them or spraying them with a water bottle, cats do not perceive your behavior this way. They will continue to bug you at night to get you to wake up. Many cat parents make the mistake of thinking their cat is hungry and wake up to feed them in hopes their cat will leave them alone and let them sleep. This is a big mistake as your cat will continue to wake you up for food. Remember to stick to strict feeding, cuddling, and playing schedules during the day so your cat learns they will get everything they need from you during the day. This will allow you to sleep at night. If you want to learn more about how to discipline a cat using positive reinforcement training, then read our article here.
Cats are interesting creatures with a lot of weird quirks that we love. One of those quirks is how lazy they seem to be since they just lay around napping all day. Well, now you know that it is completely normal for cats to sleep for about 15-20 hours a day. As fierce predators, they need to rest! Even if our house cats are not actually fierce predators anymore, we can still pretend they are. So the next time you see your kitty sleeping and dreaming all day, let them dream of being fierce lions and of cuddling in your lap. Be sure to provide your little lion a soft fleece blanket to snooze away on in the sunshine, and keep an eye on their sleeping habits as a way of monitoring their health and welfare. Happy snoozing!
Bateson, P. 2013. Behavioural development in the cat. In D. Turner and P. Bateson (Eds), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour (p. 201-212). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Berteselli, G.V., Regaiolli, B., Normando, S., De Mori, B., Zaborra, C.S., and C. Spiezio. 2017. European wildcat and domestic cat: Do they really differ? Journal of Veterinary Behavior 22:35-40.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 2001. Animals have complex dreams, MIT researchers proves. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Sleep habits of cats. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
Stella, J.L., and C.A.T. Buffington. 2013. Individual and environmental effects on health and welfare. In D. Turner and P. Bateson (Eds), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour (p. 201-212). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.