Cats can sleep 17 hours a day, which is equivalent to 70% of the day. These hours are divided into several naps throughout the day and the total daily hours will depend on several factors. For example, the age of the cat, it’s diet, degree of activity, diseases and environmental factors. In this article we will talk about feline sleep, its phases, what is normal and what is not. We will also mention both external and internal factors which affect their sleeping behavior.
Is It Normal for Cats to Sleep so Much?
According to science, it is normal. Domesticated cats are hunters, their behavior is similar to that of their wild feline ancestors. Booth stray and house cats share similar anatomical and physiological features which evolved for the purpose of hunting. Regardless of their habitat, whether they live one the street or in a home with guaranteed food supply, cats retain their hunting instincts. Due to the high amount of energy expended in the process of hunting, Wild cats sleep after hunting their prey. Domestic felines do the same. However, instead of hunting small prey they usually expend that energy by playing with their caretakers, running, jumping, stalking and keeping their body tense. These activities cause adrenaline rushes that exhaust them, and they need sleep.
The widespread notion that cats are nocturnal animals, that they sleep during the day and are awake at night, is not entirely true. The highest peak of feline activity coincides with dawn and dusk, which means that they are crepuscular animals (twilight animals) and not nocturnal. This also has to do with the hunting time of their wild relatives. During twilight their prey is most active and more visible. In the deep hours of the night, your cat will in many cases sleep as soundly as you.
Why Do Kittens Sleep so Much?
Many people who first welcome a kitten into their homes worry that their cat sleeps a lot and does not play. During their first weeks of life, cats need to sleep longer than adults, being able to sleep up to 20 hours a day. This is due, in part, to the release of growth hormone secreted by the pituitary gland during sleep. It occurs within twenty minutes of the deep sleep cycle. It is during sleep, therefore, kittens grow and develop. Similar to human babies, during sleep their brain processes the external information that they have learned while they have been awake. Resepcting your kitten’s sleep habits is therefore crucial for its growth and development.
When they reach four or five weeks of life, sleeping time decreases until they reach the hours of sleep of an adult cat. Again, similar to infants their, their curiosity increases. They begin to investigate their environment and interest in play emerges. At that age kittens are able to run and control their tail. At that point, their senses of sight and hearing are well-developed, some baby teeth erupt, and weaning begins.
What Is the Sleep Cycle of Cats Like?
When they sleep, cats alternate phases of light and deep sleep. Most of their sleep is light, around 70%. These are naps of a few minutes known as catnaps or dozes. Cats are able to catnap in various positions. During that time they keep their ears in an elevated position to respond and wake up easily to stimuli. There is a reason behind this sleeping pattern. In addition to being predators, felines are prey to other animals, they evolved to stay alert to possible dangers. Domesticated cats carry this behavior in their genes.
Do Cats Dream?
After about thirty minutes of light sleep, cats enter the deep phase of sleep known as REM phase. This phase occupies the remaining percentage of their total sleep. During this phase, despite having a totally relaxed body, cats have semi-conscious dreams just like people. This is because they maintain alert senses and brain activity similar to when they are awake. As a result they can move their eyes, legs and ears rapidly, and even to vocalize and modify their posture while napping.
An adult cat spends 7 hours awake and 17 hours sleeping of which 12 hours are light sleep and 5 hours are deep sleep.
Sleep Disorders in Cats – Causes and Prevention
There are several factors that can affect your cat’s sleep behavior and patterns for the worse. Here are the most frequent ones:
Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, affect your cat’s sleep. Freezing cold or extreme heat significantly increase the time cats spend sleeping. It is advisable that if cats live indoors, an adequate room temperature is maintained that does not interrupt normal sleep patterns. During winter times it is best to provide blankets and warm places for the cat to spend time in. It will also help to avoid respiratory diseases. This is especially important for hairless cats, such as the Sphynx cat breed.
Cats are experts at hiding their ailments, so it is very important to pay attention to changes in sleep patterns. Change in sleeping behavior can indicate that something is wrong. If your cat sleeps more than necessary or is lethargic, it is best to go to the vet to rule out health problems. A diet low in protein and essential amino acids as well as neurological diseases that affect the central nervous system, can cause sleep disturbances. Sensory deficits, abdominal diseases (intestinal, liver or kidney), cardiovascular diseases or hematological disorders such as anemia, and chronic pain can also be a cause. In some cases, oversleeping in cats is accompanied by anorexia and reduced grooming.
If less sleep is accompanied by an increased appetite and thirst, it can indicate an endocrine problem of older cats, known as hyperthyroidism.
When cats spend most of the day alone and do not have the company of other animals or their caregivers they get bored. If they don’t have anyone to play or spend time with they get depressed. When cats can not find a better activity, they sleep. That is why it is very important to spend time with your feline friend, it will improve his mood and health.
At this time, female cats are more active due to the action of hormones. They sleep less because they spend much of the day attracting the attention of potential males, even when they live indoors. Male cats also spend less time sleeping during their heat cycles. They are usually dedicated to marking territory or fighting with other cats in order to win a female’s attention.
Stress greatly affects cats. It can be causing health problems such as anorexia or feline idiopathic cystitis, behavioral disorders and changes in sleeping habits. When cats are stressed they spend fewer hours sleeping and are usually looking for a hidden place to sleep in.
Many of these situations can be avoided or improved, so it is important to be attentive to your cat. That is, closely monitor possible changes in sleeping behavior and grooming habits. You should also pay attention to whether the cat meows more or less or if he is hiding or overly aggressive. Noticing these small changes can alert us that something is wrong. In these cases, it is best to take the cat to the veterinarian. The vet will make a correct diagnosis and apply the appropriate treatment according to the cause.