We all know the stereotypical cat in stories and on television, sleeping soundly while the world goes on around them. And in our own lives, it seems that our cats would sleep their life away if they could!
Sleep is an important part of a cat’s health and it’s largely genetically controlled. Did you know that most adult cats, depending on environmental factors, sleep on average between 15 and 20 hours per day?
Why so much? Let’s explore!
It’s a popular misconception that cats are nocturnal. But it does seem like a convenient ‘excuse’ for a cat to be seemingly sleeping all day!
Cats are actually crepuscular, meaning that they are most awake and active during dusk and dawn. This is built into their genetics, and it is thought to be because these are the times that their prey is most active.
This is often the reason why cats get the zoomies in the evening when you get home, and also at 4am when you’re trying to sleep!
Like humans and all other animals on this planet, cats sleep to recharge and heal. Genetically they need lots of sleep to recharge from the multiple short, sharp bursts of activity they do during the day. Hunting (which outdoor cats will perform dozens of times a day) is a hugely energy-depleting activity which requires lots of rest to recover from.
Interestingly, three-quarters of their sleep is actually very light. Light enough for them to hear and react quickly to possible threats like predators and opportunities like prey.
This is the typical ‘cat nap’, where they seem to be asleep but if you move towards the fridge or the cupboard where their food is stored, they’ll magically appear and be fully awake!
Some cats may spend this ‘half-asleep’ time with their eyes slightly open.
The remaining one-quarter of sleep time is deep sleep. This is true recharge time, and you may see your cat’s face or paws twitching as they act out their dreams!
Again, like humans, cats do sleep when they are bored. This is particularly relevant to indoor cats, and why it is so important to ensure they have an enriching environment. The outdoors provides unlimited opportunity for enrichment, thus outdoor cats tending to sleep less than indoor cats.
Cats naturally evolved in hotter temperatures, and tend to be more active when the weather is warm. In cold weather, cats expend more internal energy to keep their body temperature warm, so they tend to like to curl up somewhere nice and comfortable.
Atmospheric pressure may have something to do with it as well. Anecdotally, clients report (and in my own experience) their cats can sense impending weather and atmospheric pressure changes, and may sleep more (or the opposite) as result.
Illness can cause extended sleep requirements as the body tries to heal. If your cats sleep duration has suddenly gotten longer, always consider this as a possibility, especially if there are other signs of illness as well.
So if you think your cat is wasting his life, sleeping all the time, think again! They are genetically wired to rest for many hours a day. Sleep, Eat, Groom, Repeat. What a life hey!