If you’re a cat owner, you’ve no doubt noticed that one of your little companion’s top priorities is clocking those sleep hours — lots of ‘em. Cats tend to sleep an enormous amount compared to humans, averaging around 15 hours a day (and sometimes upwards of 20). As you enviously glance over at your cat curled up in a ball catching some zzz's (for the umpteenth time today!), you might also ask yourself… how come? Why do cats sleep so much?
The Crepuscular Critter Clock
Incoming biology lesson! Cats are crepuscular animals — which is to say that they’re active primarily during twilight. This is not to be confused with nocturnal, which refers to animals active at night that sleep during the day, a term people are more familiar with. Cat sleep happens instead at any point in the day or night that is not twilight, the periods of dawn and dusk. Their sleep schedule is the polar opposite of pulling an all nighter. What does it mean to be crepuscular for a cat? A cat’s gotta store up plenty of energy to hunt — it’s in their blood.
Cats and Sleep: Instinctive Behaviors
Domestic cat sleep patterns are a holdover from a time when their ancestors — lions, lynxes, panthers, etc. — hunted for their meals (they still do, but household kitties usually don’t). Their natural predatory instincts may not be as useful now, but in the wild, cats are hard-wired to chase and hunt in the evening and early morning. But cats don’t do all of their sleeping in one long go like their human counterparts do — they sleep a little bit here and there throughout the day. This seemingly erratic sleep pattern accounts for two distinct needs:
Storing Energy: To prepare for hunting at dusk and dawn, to chase and bring down other animals to eat — well, it requires a lot of energy! In order to store up that energy, cats conserve their stores by finding a safe space to curl up and get some shuteye. These instincts are hard to shake — your kitty at home has these same hard-wired instincts, even if they’re fed on your chosen schedule a square two meals of kibble each day.
Preparedness: Cats have predators too, you know! If cats in the wild hunkered down for a 7-9 hour marathon sleep session like we do (or should do), they wouldn’t stand a chance against a hungry hippo (big cats) or sharp-taloned eagle (mid-sized cats). Instead, they actively sleep with their senses still sharp — particularly hearing and smelling.
So why do cats sleep so much? Storing all that energy for the big hunt and running from predators turns out to be a lot of work! While your kitty at home might never face a predator or hunt for a meal (except when they hear the pop of a wet food lid or stray piece of string), that energy gets used up running around the house (some people call this the zoomies), playing with toys, pouncing, or stalking the family dog. Ever wonder what’s happening when your kitty is sleeping?
Can Kitties Dream?
When your cat is curled up and building up the necessary energy to toss a string around in the evening, can they dream? The answer is a resounding yes. Your feline friend experiences various sleep stages and rapid brain movement during deep sleep, just the same as you do but cats have two major sleep modes:
Deep Sleep: Similar to your own, when cats are in deep sleep, which lasts them around 5 minutes at a time, they experience rapid eye movement and are susceptible to dreaming, though we don’t know exactly what kitties are dreaming about.
Dozing: Cats, as previously mentioned, are alert even when sleepy. Their dozing allows them to be on the lookout for predators while still getting necessary rest hours.
This dozing/deep sleep pattern continues back and forth until your cat wakes up, energy stored and ready to go! According to research, cats are only in deep sleep for about 25 percent of their entire sleep cycle. When your kitty is dreaming, they might twitch their paws, whiskers, and tails, or make little cooing or chattering sounds — they’re just after a dream mouse they can’t quite catch up to!
My Cat is Snoring, Should I Be Worried?
Cat snoring is actually pretty normal — especially in short-nosed or brachycephalic breeds like Himalayans or Exotic Shorthairs. It’s most likely to happen when your cat is relaxed and happens, put simply, because their airway is obstructed by extra skin from the soft palate. If your cat is sawing little logs, there’s likely nothing to worry about! Roll that kitty onto their side if they like sleeping on their back and they’ll probably stop snoring then and there! If snoring is new and persistent, don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian — just know that cat snoring is fairly normal. In fact, a cat snoring can be kind of cute, don’t you think?
Take a Queue From our Feline Friends
Cats are masters at sleeping, only being out-slept by a handful of other critters out there — while you might look at your fluffy friend and think they’re just a lazy critter because of their excessive sleep habits, those who know realize they’re anything but. Cats are experts at slowing down, storing energy, and using it when it's needed in a big, wild burst! Take a queue from your cat — slow down, let yourself rest up more consistently instead of only catching a few, unfulfilling hours of sleep here and there. The next time you’re feeling the weight of the world, take a catnap. You’ve earned it! Why do cats sleep so much? Maybe they’re just better at kicking back and relaxing.