On average, cats sleep for between 13 and 16 hours in a 24-hour day. This varies depending on the cat’s age and individual personality, but it is roughly twice the amount of sleep that we require as humans. So why do cats need so much more?
Fundamentally cats are predators. This means that they are anatomically and physiologically designed to hunt for their food, whether they actually need to or not. Wild cats are commonly observed hunting their prey and then sleeping for extended periods of time and this is because hunting requires a huge amount of energy. Domestic cats are no different and even if they are only hunting their favourite toy or actually chasing after a mouse, the resultant effect is the same. They need to employ energy-intensive techniques such as stalking, pouncing, chasing and even climbing. Additionally your cat is on high alert throughout a hunt with associated high levels of adrenaline and energy expenditure to keep the body fuelled. All of this means that despite a relatively short period of time when your cat is actually hunting, he uses up disproportionately large energy reserves. This results in a necessary refuel afterwards and the best way to do this is to take a nap!
Contrary to popular belief, cats aren’t nocturnal. They are instead crepuscular by nature. This means that they are most active around dawn and dusk. Historically this also fits with there hunting instinct as these times are when prey are at their most active. Cat’s eyes are also more adapted to night vision, allowing them to observe movement and see more clearly than us in low light. Many cats will continue to stay active during the night leading to the myth that they are nocturnal. However, many more cats will also sleep at the same time as us. What is almost universal though is their choice to wake us at dawn and demand their breakfast! Additionally, if they have indulged in even a small amount of night-time hunting activity they will have pretty depleted energy reserves at the start of the day and so begins their first nap of many…
Cat sleep varies between a light doze and a much deeper sleep. Light sleep usually lasts anywhere between fifteen minutes to half an hour, whereas deeper sleep generally only spans about five minutes at a time. When cats are experiencing light sleep, they are able to wake into action at an instant’s notice. Their posture reflects this allowing them to spring into position almost immediately and their ears generally remain erect throughout the sleep, responding to sounds in their environment. They may have some tail movement and perhaps even have one eye ‘half-open’ during this type of sleep, just to make sure they don’t miss any mice strolling by! During deep sleep however, their posture including their ears will be far more relaxed and you may observe them twitching or paddling the air with their paws.
Kittens and more mature cats tend to sleep more than the average adult healthy cat. However, regardless of whether your have a mischievous kitten or a more leisurely older cat, they do need to constantly recharge their batteries. This allows them to make the most of their time when they’re awake and interacting with you.
If you are concerned that your cat seems to be sleeping more than is usual for them, always seek advice from your vet.