- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
It’s likely your cat spends their days snoozing–in fact, chances are, they’re catching up on a nap as you’re reading this. You wouldn’t be the first person to wonder why cats sleep so much and if it’s normal. But experts confirm, cats are programmed to get plenty of sleep; it’s literally in their DNA. In a typical 24-hour cycle, your cat could rack up a collective 20 hours of sleep! So, why all the Z’s and when could excess sleep indicate an underlying concern?
How Much Sleep Do Cats Sleep In 24 Hours?
To put it simply, cats sleep a lot. Sleeping habitats of cats vary with age and activity level, averaging 15 to 20 hours a day. That’s an average of 70% of their lives asleep! But, Dr. Mikel Delgado, Rover’s resident cat expert on The Dog People Panel, says cats aren’t always getting a deep, restorative sleep for all their hours of snoozing. Cats do experience deep sleep like humans, but since their naps only last about 15-20 minutes per cycle, their periods of deep sleep are much shorter, typically around five minutes.
A Cat’s 24-Hour Sleep Cycle
Dr. Gary Richter, Rover’s resident veterinarian on The Dog People Panel, breaks a cat’s sleep cycle into four simple periods: the loaf, evening zoomies, deep sleep, and morning zoomies. Every cat will make her sleep cycle her own, but here’s the big picture of what to expect:
- “Loafing” the day away. You might find your cat with her paws tucked under her body, able to pounce at a moment’s notice. She’s enjoying one of her many 15-20-minute catnaps and might dip into a short period of deep sleep.
- The zoomies hit. After a day of catnaps, your feisty feline is ready for a late-night hunt. Dusk is one of the two most active times for cats, influenced by their hunting instincts.
- Deep sleep. Cats do experience deep REM sleep like humans, and this would typically occur after a cat’s predatory instincts have been satisfied at night. You might notice your cat sprawling out during deep sleep phases, less likely to wake and pounce.
- Morning zoomies. From zoomies to begging for breakfast, dawn is the second of the two most active times of the day. Once she completes her “hunt” her daytime cycle of catnaps before the next hunt will begin!
Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
1. Crepuscular Hunting Instincts
She might not hunt more than her toy mouse these days, but your cat comes from a long line of fierce predators. “Cats are crepuscular, not nocturnal, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk,” Dr. Delgado says. As predators, cats have adapted to this schedule to hunt more efficiently—and now reserve their late-night and early-morning energy for zoomies.
“Extra playtime during the day and before bedtime can help your cat relax and sleep easier at night,” Dr. Delgado says. Look for toys that mimic prey—allowing her to hunt, catch, and “kill” it. Feeding your cat after the play session, Dr. Delgado adds, will help complete the predatory cycle and encourage restful sleep.
2. Normal Resting and Sleep Cycles
Not all sleep is deep sleep when it comes to your cat’s hours of snoozing. You could think of these light sleep periods more like a rest—closing her eyes and listening to her environment. “They may appear to be out cold, but their senses are still sharp enough to spring them into action,” Dr. Delgado says. Many cycles of rest and deep sleep throughout the day will keep your cat happy and healthy.
As cats age, they tend to develop a calm demeanor—playing less, cuddling more, and more often than not, taking a nap. Senior cats just sleep more on average than younger cats, says Richard Goldstein, DVM, at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
4. Cooling Down
The modern house cat descends from desert ancestors. To thrive in the hot, arid environment, these wild cats needed a way to cool down and regulate their body temperate during the day. Sleeping, scientists say, does just the trick for cooling body and brain temperatures.
Your cat might be sleeping out of boredom, a common affliction of indoor cats. Enriching your cat’s environment will keep her from snoozing too much. Think: cat trees, window perches, and engaging toys. Some other signs your cat is bored might include:
- Excessive vocalization like yowling, meowing, or night calling
- Lack of interest
- Anxious behavior
- Getting into mischief
- Behavioral issues with other pets
Cats get a bad rap for being aloof and inflexible, but they’re actually quite adaptable. Studies found that outdoor or feral cats sleep during the day, conserving energy for late-night and early-morning hunts. Indoor cats, in comparison, are more likely to enjoy a state of restfulness during the days, saving sleep for a schedule similar to their human companions.
7. Seasonal Changes
“Cats sleep longer in winter months when daylight is short, and during bad weather,” writes East Shore Veterinary Services. It seems not even felines can resist multiple catnaps on a cozy, rainy day.
How To Tell Your Cat Is Sleeping the Right Amount
As the kitty’s trusted human, you are the best judge of normal sleep and behavior. Cats are creatures of habit who live by their schedules. If you notice that your cat’s sleeping schedule drastically changes or is accompanied by other unusual behaviors, it may be time to talk to your vet.
Signs Your Cat Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep
Cats typically sleep more when they don’t feel good, Dr. Richter says. But, there are a few medical conditions that could disrupt your cat’s sleep.
Kidney disease, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism could cause your cat to wake up frequently to drink water or use the litter box. Likewise, if your cat is in pain, she may be up all hours of the night unable to get comfortable. In senior cats, an inability to sleep or settle at night could be related to Feline Cognitive Dysfunction. If you’re not home to monitor a change in sleeping habits, consider the help of a pet camera.
Signs Your Cat Is Sleeping Too Much
If your cat is sleeping more, sleeping in unusual locations, or being less interactive than normal, it might be time to investigate says Dr. Richter. Lethargy could be accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Inappropriate urination
- Decrease in activity
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Changes in eating habits
- Bad breath
- Changes in vocalization
If you’re wondering if you should let your cat sleep all day, the answer is probably not. All cats thrive on physical and mental enrichment. So, encouraging moments of play will keep her the happiest. If your cat’s age, temperament, or health isn’t allowing your cat to safely play, your vet can help come up with solutions.
Getting the right amount of sleep is as important for our pets as it is for us. The sleep patterns of a cat look a little different than a human’s—rooted in their genetic makeup and survival instincts, with their modern-day lifestyles also playing a role.
When it comes to how much sleep your cat needs a day, it may vary with the season, age of your kitty, and her routine. As a kitty caretaker, it’s important to take note of your cat’s typical catnap schedule. When there are sudden changes in the amount of zzzs they’re catching in a 24-hour cycle, you’ll know to enrich their lives a little more or take a trip to the vet. If there are no sudden changes, don’t lose sleep over your cat’s regular naps—take a page from her book and enjoy a catnap with her!