A quick glance in my bedroom on a sunny day will likely reveal my three male cats sprawled on the bed. If I step into the room, Jack, Phillip and Leroy may each crack open an eye, swivel an ear toward me or change position — but they’re in no hurry to get up unless they hear the distinctive clink of the ceramic food bowls being placed on the kitchen countertop.
Some might think this trio of cats — and their female housemate, Katie, who prefers to sleep at the top of her cat tree in the living room — are quite a lazy bunch, but that’s not so. Because of their innate predatory nature, cats need much more sleep than you and I do.
“Cats, being predators, need to conserve energy for hunting,” explained Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant and author. “It takes a lot of work to catch prey; hence, they nap.”
Like my trio on the bed, who become aware of my presence the minute I step into the room, cats spend most of their “sleeping” hours ready to get up and go. “When cats nap they are aware of their surroundings,” Krieger said. “Check out a napping cat’s ears; you’ll note that their ears will turn toward a sound.”
So how much sleep does a cat really need every day? And is your cat sleeping too much— or not enough?
Kittens need more sleep than adults. They spend their days frolicking and discovering, and they use up a lot of energy simply growing. “Newborns can sleep as much as 90 percent of the day,” Krieger explained. “Eight- to 12-week-old kittens can sleep 20 hours a day, but it depends on their activities. Highly energetic kittens may sleep longer.”
Don’t worry: If your kitten has a particularly fun-filled day of playing and exploring, he may need more sleep. “Kittens should play and explore,” Krieger said. “Play helps them develop muscle coordination and timing. Exploration also helps them discover and orient themselves to their environment.”
Be concerned: A kitten who sleeps almost all the time or seems lethargic or uninterested in her surroundings may be sick. Take her to the vet as soon as possible.
Sometimes I think my cats sleep the entire day, waking up only to eat, but in reality, adult cats sleep around 15 to 18 hours per day. This can be affected by many factors, Krieger said. “On cold, wintry days, cats will sleep longer than on sunny days. Cats who are active and energetic with lots of stimulation may nap longer.”
The time of day when a cat sleeps the most may depend on the daily rhythms of the household. “Although cats are naturally crepuscular — the most active at dawn and sunset — they will adapt their sleeping schedules to their people,” Krieger said. “Cats are flexible.”
Don’t worry: If your cat has a particularly active day, he may sleep a bit more. It’s not unusual for your adult cat to sleep more during colder weather.
Be concerned: Sudden changes in behavior — including sleeping — can mean something is amiss. “Pay attention when cats start sleeping more than usual or altering their usual sleep patterns,” Krieger said. “It could be a sign of a medical problem.”
As I grow older, I seem to want to sleep more, and the same typically holds true for senior cats.
“Elderly cats, like kittens, need to nap and sleep more than adult cats,” Krieger said. “Twenty hours a day is average.”
This holds true in my house. Katie, our senior cat, will sleep for hours on the couch or at the top of her cat tree, while the boys — ranging from 4 to almost 9 years old — seem to be awake a few more hours each day.
Don’t worry: Senior cats look for soft, comfortable surfaces on which to sleep. Don’t be alarmed if you find your cat curled up in a new, comfy spot.
Be concerned: If your senior cat starts sleeping less than she used to, she may be showing signs of hyperthyroidism. Have her examined by a vet as soon as possible.
Thumbnail: Photography by olga maer/shutterstock.
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A lifelong cat owner, Stacy N. Hackett writes frequently about cats, cat breeds and a range of pet-related topics. The inspiration for her writing comes from her four cats — Jack, Phillip, Katie and Leroy — and her Cocker Spaniel/Labrador Retriever mix, Maggie.