Why Cats Sleep A Lot

Cats sleep. A lot. The average adult cat sleeps between 15 and 20 hours a day. This adds up to to your cat sleeping about 70% of their day.

Kittens can sleep up to 24 hours a day, waking only for short moments to nurse. As your cat enters their senior years, the amount of sleep increases.

Why do domestic cats sleep so much?

House Cats are Crepuscular

Domestic cats are crepuscular which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. This period of heightened activity dovetails with the activity patterns of small rodents and birds that felines tend to hunt.

This pattern is why your cat tends to try and wake you up at 6 am for their breakfast, and why your cats seem to develop a case of the zoomies in the early evenings.

Black cat sleeping on a bed.

Cats are Wired for Short Bursts of Energy

A big reason why your cat sleeps so much is to prepare for the hunt. The anatomy of a cat is designed for short and quick bursts of energy as the feline chases down their prey. Stalking and chasing prey takes up a lot of energy.

Cats sleep to rejuvenate their energy stores in preparation for the next hunt, even if it’s just to chase down that toy mouse down the hall.

High Protein Diets Require Energy to Digest

As obligate carnivores, cats eat a diet high in protein. Protein, in the form of meat, takes a lot longer to digest than carbs.

The same way you may feel sleepy after a heavy meal, your cat will often head for a nap after breakfast to digest their meal.

Orange tabby sleeping.

Cats Become Long-sighted During Sleep

When a cat sleeps, their eyesight becomes long-sighted as they relax. When the cat awakens, their eyesight will come back into focus (Bradshaw, 2012, p. 28).

Sleep Positions of Cats

Cats have two types of sleep: a deep sleep and a lighter sleep where the cat is ready to spring into action.

The loaf position is where the cat will sleep upright with one or both front paws tucked underneath their body. While the cat looks extremely relaxed, this position allows the cat to quickly react to any changes in the surrounding environment.

Cats in the loaf position are snoozing lightly.

White cat sleeping on a chair.
A white cat sleeping in the loaf position.

When a cat is curled up tightly in a crescent shape, your cat is sleeping deeply. This defensive sleep position ensures that none of your cat’s vulnerable body parts like the belly are exposed.

If you walk into the room and your cat doesn’t react, that’s a sign that your cat is sleeping deeply.

An orange tabby sleeping inside a cat basket.
A curled up cat with their head tucked in is sleeping deeply and does not want to be disturbed. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

The curled portion also helps your cat to keep themselves warm by reducing the amount of area exposed to the air.

If the cat has their head tucked underneath their paws, that’s a sure sign that the cat is sleepy deeply and doesn’t want to be disturbed.

A gray tabby sleeping in her side.
A curled up tabby cat, sleeping deeply.

When your cat is splayed out with their belly exposed during sleep, this mean your cat is extremely relaxed and comfortable in their environment.

Two kittens sleeping in a cat bed.
Cats who sleep with their bellies exposed are extremely comfortable and relaxed.

References

Bradshaw, J. W. (2012). The behaviour of the domestic cat. Cabi.

Related