Do Cats Sleep More in Winter?

Shortened daylight hours and colder temperatures makes most of us feel like burrowing deep into our warm, cozy beds. You may have noticed that your feline companions are also napping even more than usual during the winter months.

So, do cats sleep more in the winter? Depending on the climate you live in, the answer may be yes. If you live in an area that has dramatically shortened days and much colder temperatures during the winter months, your cat may end up sleeping more than they do during fall and spring.

Cats Sleep A Lot to Conserve Energy

A cat’s physiology is already primed for a lot of sleep. Even during warm days, cats can sleep between 15 and 20 hours a day. The reasons for this is energy conservation. As predators, cats hunt with short bursts of energy in order to run down fleeing small rodents and birds. In between those quick expenditures of high energy, cats will sleep to restore their energy.

The cold weather and shorter daylight hours tend to slow down a lot of mammals and cats are no exception. Colder weather brings with it a higher energy cost in order to maintain a healthy body temperature.

A black kitten and a gray tabby kitten sleeping on a red bed with white polka dots.

Colder Temperatures May Mean Less Quality Sleep

Studies have shown that older cats in particular are affected by colder temperatures when they sleep. One study demonstrated that as ambient temperatures dropped, both young and older cats experienced a disruption in sleep quality.

Cats may sleep more during the winter months to make up for the lower quality sleep they are experiencing.

Your Schedule May Influence Your Cat’s Sleep

The shortened days may be inducing you to hit the hay at a much earlier hour in the day. Heading to bed earlier than normal will influence your cat to come join you in your warm bed and snooze. Cats are really good at tracking where the humans are in the house and will come find you.

Cats Sleep Inside During the Winter to Stay Warm

The healthy body temperature range of a cat is between 99.5° and 102.5° Fahrenheit. A body temperature in a cat that falls below 99° F puts the cat at risk for hypothermia and frostbite. To keep extra toasty, your cat may spend a lot more time indoors, sleeping, and close to something warm.

Sometimes that something warm is you. You may notice that your cat sleeps a lot more in the winter right next to you. Your body is an enticing heat source in the winter for your cats. Sleeping near Peter vents and on top of radiators is also a favored spot for cats to sleep during the colder months.

A black cat and a gray tabby lying together on a sofa.
Cats will seek out other warm bodies during the colder months.

Your Cat Sleeps More Curled Up During the Colder Months

You may also notice that your cat’s sleeping position also changes. Conserving warmth influences your cat to sleep more tightly curled up to minimize the amount of surface areas is exposed to the cold.

When to Be Concerned About How Much Your Cat is Sleeping

While an increase in sleeping is normal for many cats during the colder months, keep an eye for any unusual changes in energy levels. If your cat is refusing to eat, showing signs of being very lethargic, or failing to groom as normal, these can be signs that your cat needs to see your veterinarian.

Cat Stimulation During Winter

It’s important to make sure your cat still has stimulation during the winter months. With less access to outdoor time, your cat can become bored without play time and interaction. Boredom can lead to overeating and excess sleeping.

So make sure you provide entertainment. If your cat loves catnip, sprinkle some of it on the floor or on a cat toy. Put up a window bird feeder for the viewing enjoyment of your cat.

The lack of direct sunlight can have an effect on your cat’s mood so try to set up areas in your house for your cat that are close to windows that allow sunlight in.

References

Bowersox, S. S., Dement, W. C., & Glotzbach, S. F. (1988). The influence of ambient temperature on sleep characteristics in the aged cat. Brain research457(1), 200-203. https://doi.org/10.1016/0006-8993(88)90077-7

The cat in the (Knit) hat. (2021, January 6). De facto Cat – Scientific truths behind the myths we’ve come to believe about cats. https://defactocat.wordpress.ncsu.edu/2021/01/06/the-cat-in-the-knit-hat/

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