Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

Last updated: March 29, 2019

Overview

If you own a cat then you know how much they love to sleep. Our feline friends can sleep up to 16 hours a day. And this is just for younger cats. Older cats spend as much as 20 hours a day sleeping. And they can easily fall asleep any place and under any circumstances. I have a tabby and he can fall asleep with half his body dangling over our fence. Some cats even spend hours of sleep while sitting upright.  So, why do cats sleep so much?

It’s all about the genes

Cats are crepuscular. This means that they are active in between dusk and dawn. Don’t confuse them with nocturnal animals. Nocturnal animals are those who sleep during the day and are active only during the night. With crepuscular animals, although they spend more time sleeping during the day, they can also be active when they need to.

Just like wild cats, domesticated cats prefer to hunt at night. Their sharp vision can see in the dark and give them an advantage over their prey. Cats roam around at night to catch mice and other small animals. Even young kittens practice their hunting skills by going after insects. They are often “stalking and hunting” inanimate objects, like balls or toys, as a way of practicing their hunting skills.

This is also why you will often see you cat spending much of the day sleeping. It’s the same reason they are active and running around much of the evening and early in the morning. This is something that surprised me the first time I got a kitten. It spent nights running around the night and snooping every corner of his new home.

This sleeping habit might also be a result of evolution. Before they got domesticated, cats lived in the wild. In fact, some big cats like lions and tigers still do. In the wild, cats must hunt for their own food. They don’t have humans to provide them food on a regular basis. The entire hunting process takes up too much energy. Cats must stalk their prey, chase them, and kill them.

Cats can recover their lost energy by sleeping. This is something that domesticated cats have inherited from their ancestors. Sleep is also induced by the feeling of being full because of a large meal. Again, just like humans and wild predators. House cats may be cute and playful, but they still have the biological impulse of their wild ancestors.

Catnaps

For humans, catnaps are periods of short, light sleep. This is exactly how to describe the way that cats sleep most of the time. This is a means for cats to get all the rest that they need while still being alert enough to waken immediately. This is why most of the time when you try to sneak up on a sleeping cat, they’ll surprise you by waking immediately.

It is easy to tell if a cat is sleeping lightly. Their eyes twitch and rotate towards the noises around them. Their eyes will also open a bit. Cats can get into this light sleep even when they’re sitting down.

Bed Weather

Just like us, a cat’s sleeping habits are also affected by the weather.  Cats behave differently depending on their breed, age, overall health, and temperament. However, cats like to sleep more when the weather calls for it. Even indoor cats can yawn or feel sleepy during cold or rainy days. These are days that I call “bed weather” because I just want to curl up on my bed and sleep. Just like humans, cats sleep a lot when the weather demands that their bodies conserve heat.

Can cats dream?

Just like humans, cats can also go into deep sleep. Kittens and older cats spend up to 40 percent of their sleeping time in deep slumber. It is easy to tell when cats are in deep sleep. Cats in deep sleep are often in a curled-up position. They also have their eyes tightly closed. There are also instances when they will have their tails over their face. They use their tails as their sleeping mask.

Deep sleep is important for cats. This is the stage of sleep when their bodies regenerate and heal themselves. Deep sleep is also the time when cats dream. When they dream, you will observe their whiskers or paws twitching. This is their equivalent of Rapid Eye Movement (REM sleep) in humans. Some studies suggest that the sleep patterns of cats are similar to those of humans.

Do cats snore?

Some cats snore while they sleep. Snoring in cats happen when their airways get obstructed by extra skin in their soft palates. Sleeping cats who snore are most often those who are more relaxed. If you hear your cat snoring once in a while, this is normal and not alarming at all. Healthy cats can also snore. However, some cats snore more often than normal.

Overweight cats are more prone to snoring. Although this is not a pressing health concern, this can lead to health problems in the future. Just like in humans, obese cats are more prone to developing health problems.

Brachycephalic cat breeds are also more prone to snoring. These are the breeds of cat that are short-nosed or flat-faced. An example of this is the Exotic Shorthair. They developed this breed to be a short-haired version of the Persian. Because they bred them to have shorter noses, the tissues located in their upper airways have become really twisted. When air moves through these twisting tissues, vibration and snoring occur. There are even instances when loud breathing noises occur while a cat is awake.    

Most of the time, we just ignore snoring because it makes a cat look cute. However, snoring should be a sign of concern if accompanied by some symptoms. If snoring is accompanied by discharge from the eyes or nose, snoring may be due to mucus in nasal passage due to a respiratory infection.

Snoring should also be a cause of concern if your cat sits with its neck extended and it is breathing rapidly. This is a sign that your cat is having breathing difficulties.

You should bring your pet cat to the vet if you observe it snoring and coughing. It can be a sign that a respiratory problem is worsening your cat’s snoring. Panting, or breathing with its mouth open, is also a sign of respiratory problems.

Snoring could also be a sign of health issues if you notice that your cat is feeling lonely or has lost its appetite.

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