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Why do cats sleep so much?

5 May 2020.


At Cat in a Flat we know that if sleeping were a competitive sport, cats would certainly be in the running for a gold medal. With the average pet cat sleeping for 15 hours a day – and some going for even longer than that – you’d be forgiven for wondering why do cats sleep so much? Are they simply just lazy?

So cats aren’t just lazy, then?

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ll already know that they’re super smart animals with a knack for expertly adjusting to different environments and circumstances.

As highly adaptable creatures, cats have evolved to be most active at dusk and dawn as this is when their prey is generally most available; the scientific word for this is ‘crepuscular’. Sleeping outside of these periods allows cats to save their energy for that all-important hunting time – and if you’re lucky, you may even get a present!

It’s worth noting that cats are not actually nocturnal, which is a common misconception. With that said, many cat mums and dads would argue that their fur-babies are much more active at night than they are in the daytime, with most having experienced the ‘zoomies’ – or Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs) if we want to get technical – in the small hours!

How much sleep do cats actually need?

Cats are normally quite good at figuring out their own schedules and knowing how much sleep they need. Just like us humans, kitty sleeping requirements vary from cat to cat, with some needing more shut-eye than others.

As a general rule, kittens and adolescent cats aged up to around three years are more likely to have irregular sleeping patterns, whereas adult cats will probably have more of a routine in place. When your cat reaches its senior years – around 11 years – he or she may start requiring more sleep.

So to answer the question ‘how much sleep do cats actually need?’, we’re sorry to say that there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer! The more you get to know your cat, the more you’ll start knowing what’s normal for them – so do keep an eye on any changes in sleep patterns or behaviour.

What can affect a cat’s sleep patterns?

There are lots of variables that can affect how and when your cat sleeps.

You may find that your cat sleeps less in summer than in winter, which can be down to the higher levels of natural light available and the longer days – and it’s something that us humans can also experience!

Changing your cat’s diet, such as the type of food or amount you feed him or her, can also contribute to sleep patterns changing. If your cat is on a diet and you’re feeding them less than usual, you may notice that they don’t sleep as much or that their sleep becomes more disjointed. Please note that you should always consult your vet before you change your cat’s diet for any reason.

Perhaps the most obvious reason for a change in your moggy’s sleep pattern is a change in its environment such as moving to a new house, introducing a new pet into the home, or even having a (human!) baby.

Tabby cat asleep on a white fluffy rug
Photo by Christopher Schruff

When is a change in sleeping habits normal, and when should you see the vet?

One moment, they’re sound asleep. The next, they’re racing around like mad.

If your cat tends to go from zero to 100 from absolutely nowhere, this can be down to a sudden build-up of pent up energy, especially in indoor cats. One way to tackle this is to provide your cat with lots of interactive games and toys. DIY toys out of toilet rolls are a cheap and cheerful way to keep kitty entertained.

Most of the time, zoomies are absolutely nothing to worry about, and it can be quite entertaining to watch our furry friends zip around the house in unexpected flashes of hyperactivity.

But if you notice that your cat is suddenly experiencing more bouts of the zoomies than usual – or indeed that they’re sleeping much more or less than they normally do – it could be a signal that something’s wrong.

Any shift in behaviour – sleeping or otherwise – alongside unexplained weight loss, changes in toilet habits, unusual meowing or any other atypical vocalisation should never be ignored, and always be examined by a professional.

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