Last updated: February 14, 2017
Cats are champion sleepers. If there was a World Championship for which animals could sleep the longest in any 24 hour period cats would win paws down! They start with a morning (cat) nap, afternoon forty winks, dinner, postprandial snooze , then there is a frantic period of cat capers around sundown. After that there is a general shutdown till four in the morning when they jump on your chest and wake you up for morning maneuvers and breakfast before it all starts again. Really – all that sleeping is truly exhausting – so why do they do it? Read on!
Cats Are Crepuscular Creatures
Oooh! Big word alert! This impressive bit of vocab. just means that cats prefer twilight to any other time of the day. In the wild a cat has evolved the kind of vision that works best when the light is dim but not yet dark enough to be night-time. That’s why, just after dinnertime you’ll probably see a very hyperactive kitty running around the house faster than a speeding bullet and pouncing on, cuffing, biting and stalking everything he sees at this time of day. As I’m writing this, it’s 7pm and my cat is revving up for action after his routine forehead and chin rub which he gets every night at the same time. (He sets his watch by it!)
Building Up His Strength
If you ever check out lions or cheetahs in the African Savannah, you’ll see that they expend an awful lot of energy when they hunt and kill their prey, and they still only manage to catch it about 30% of the time, and that’s a lot of energy expended for nothing, so you’ll see that they need to rest a lot, which they do. Now, clearly, your kitty is not a lion – he just thinks he is! But it doesn’t matter if he’s a well-fed ten-pound pet cat, he still remains only half-domesticated, and even though he’s content to live with you, he still retains most of those instincts that make him a wild animal. This means that his mind is always on the hunt even though he kills things more appropriate to his size like birds, mice and rats. See? He’s a hunter and hunters need their sleep.
Quality of Sleep
As humans, we spend about 20% of our sleep in R.E.M. sleep (Rapid Eye Movement.) This is when we’re dreaming, and following moving pictures across our minds eye. Cats do the same thing, except that they spend about 60% of their sleep time dreaming. Wow! It must be so great to be a cat, with your life being one long movie! During this time they’re such a treat to watch. They may “run” in their sleep, make noises and twitch, meow, squeak and even growl. We can only guess at what they’re dreaming about, of course, but it looks like an awful lot of fun!
The other 40% is deep sleep, when the body repairs itself, the immune system replenishes itself, and young kittens do all their growing. Cats may dream during this time, but it’s more likely that they’ll be found tucked away in a safe place doing what cats do best!
Catnapping is not deep sleep. The cat is aware of his surroundings and can snap into action at a moment’s notice. He is “just resting his eyes!” The name is a dead give-away. If you or I have a doze, we’re said to be “catnapping” because we’re sleeping very lightly.
How Old Is Your Cat?
Younger and older cats tend to sleep more, kittens because they’re growing, and they need sleep in order for their bones to strengthen and develop. In fact, for the first couple of weeks kittens do nothing but eat and sleep. Older cats, that is any cat over seven years old, may have health issues like arthritis which affects their ability to run around. If you think your cat may be in pain, see your vet about appropriate medication – it may dramatically improve his quality of life! In fact, he may even live a few extra years!
Is He a Tubby Tabby?
Have you been a bad kitty parent? Have you allowed your little darling to eat his way to obesity? Being fat starts a vicious circle. If he eats more he gets fatter and can’t move around so much. If he isn’t active burning off the calories he’ll get fatter, and sleeping more hardly burns any calories at all. Get your vet to put him on a low calorie cat food and don’t try the D.I.Y. method. Cats who slim down too fast can end up with other health problems such as liver damage. And start a play routine with him to melt away those rolls of fat! (Won’t do your rolls of fat any harm either!!!) You will soon have yourself a slim, happy, healthy cat who will be able to climb trees, ambush you when you least expect it and chase that laser dot for hours!
Is He Bored Stiff?
If you keep your cat indoors and don’t keep his mind stimulated, he’ll just go to sleep. Well, wouldn’t you? No books to read, no toys to play with, nobody to talk to or cuddle up to – bo-ring!!! If you’re not at home during the day make time for a play session in the evening, and make sure he has plenty of toys, preferably the kind that imitate prey animals, like the wind-up or battery-powered kind – or the tried-and-trusted laser pointer. Your kitty will thank you!
The Importance of Sleep
Do you know how it feels when you don’t get your eight hours a day? You feel like death warmed up, don’t you? Imagine you’re a cat and you don’t get your sixteen hours. You may think that if you’re sleeping for two-thirds of your life four hours or so a day wouldn’t matter much, but we are not cats, and Mother Nature designed them the way they are for a reason. If a cat is denied his usual measure of sleep he can undergo serious stress and this can actually make him sick. He may even go a bit ga-ga till his sleep pattern is restored!
The Last Word…
So now you know. Don’t think that if kitty sleeps a lot it’s because he’s lazy. He isn’t. Just look at what he does when he gets up! He’s just being the cute little predator/carnivore he was designed to be. If you are one of those people who don’t have any love for cats, don’t worry, because all of us cat-slaves have more than enough to go round!