Why Do Cats Sleep So Much? Here's What You Need To Know

Everyone needs a good cat nap.

Cat naps have been a part of human life since the ancient Egyptians decided to emulate their revered pets' behavior and grab a quick snooze. They were on to something, too. Cat naps, according to NASA, ideally should be between 10 to 20 minutes, can increase alertness, lower stress, improve memory, and give you a better boost than a cup of coffee, at least for humans.

For cats, laziness is a way of life. When cats aren't eating, scratching, or asking to be scratched, they usually catch some shut-eye. Cats are very good at staying well-rested. Cats average around 16 to 20 hours of sleep daily, with older cats and newborns sleeping significantly more. In fact, according to the Sleep Foundation website, "nearly 40% of cats sleep more than 18 hours per day." Indoor cats tend to sleep more than outdoor cats because there are fewer worries and less to do.

Two Kittens Sleeping Cuddled Up
Akimasa Harada / Getty Images

It's Instinctive

Cats can take it so easy because they are at the top of the food chain in the wild. That means they do not need to worry about being eaten while sleeping, making it easy to relax. It also means that when cats are ready to eat, they will need to catch their dinner, which uses a lot of energy that they have cleverly been saving up by sleeping all day. In the wild, after cats chase down their prey, they eat a protein-packed meal and settle for another nap. They don't need to spend hours grazing like cows or fishing salmon out of a stream like bears. For cats, life is mostly a cycle of eating, sleeping, and repeating.

Their Crepuscular Sleep Cycle

House cats, of course, don't have to hunt for their food. That doesn't mean their instincts have changed, though. According to the Sleep Foundation, cats have a crepuscular sleep nature, meaning they have two peak activity times, the morning before sunrise and the evening around sunset. This genetic makeup is also why cats tend to be most active in the early morning and during the twilight hours when they are instinctively more on their guard waiting for predator and prey, even if they live a comfortable life indoors.

Varying Levels of Sleep

While cats are napping, they are not always in a deep sleep. As cat owners know, a cat may be sleeping, but if something interesting starts happening, the little furball springs to full attention. Cats sleep with one eye open, explains PetMD.com, "Deep sleep tends to last about five minutes, after which the cat goes back to dozing. This dozing-deep sleep pattern goes on until the cat wakes up." When they are in a deep sleep, cats can dream, reports Catster. "If you've seen your cat's whiskers or paws twitching while she's asleep, there's a good chance she's dreaming."

Sleep is Normal

So how much sleep is too much? It depends on the cat. 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 your cat usually wakes at 7 a.m. demanding breakfast and suddenly starts sleeping until 9 a.m., it may be time to talk to your vet. "If the behavior changes for only a few days, your cat may have just been sleeping off a mild bug," according to VetInfo.com, "Usually, serious health problems will have other symptoms such as behavior changes and changes in eating and drinking patterns. If there are other symptoms, visit your veterinarian." The site also indicates that cats may sleep longer if stressed, anxious, or bored, which is much easier to remedy than a medical issue.

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