How Much Sleep Do Cats Need?

You’ve seen memes. You’ve liked or shared photos on Facebook. And let’s face it: you’ve probably snapped some photos yourself.

Of course, we’re talking about adorable sleeping cats. It’s normal to think of cats as spending the whole day stretched out or curled up and dozing away. After all, there’s a reason we use the term “catnap.”

But how much do cats really sleep? Can they sleep too much? While they sleep, are they dreaming like we do? And for the concerned pet owner, what can be done to help a cat get the best sleep possible?

In this guide, we’ll answer all these questions and more as we delve into the details about cats and sleep.

How Much Do Cats Sleep?

There can be variation from feline to feline, but most cats sleep on average about 12-16 hours a day. This may sound like a lot, but when you think about just how often you’ll find your cat snoozing, you’ll probably realize how much that time adds up.

Some cats may sleep even more than this 12-16 hour average. Kittens, for example, may need to sleep up to 20 hours a day to accommodate their growth. Older cats also usually want and need more sleep starting around age 7 or 8.

When Do Cats Sleep? Are Cats Nocturnal?

House cats often sleep whenever they want to or whenever they can. Without the pressure of needing to hunt for food, they have significant flexibility to sleep as they wish.

But in general, cats don’t follow the same type of sleep patterns as people. They don’t sleep in one large chunk the way most humans do, and they aren’t nocturnal per se. Instead, in the wild, cats tend to be most active in the morning and evening (dawn and dusk), largely based on the availability of prey at those times. But they may also hunt at times during the day in between naps.

If you notice that your cats tend to be active in the early morning or as the sun is going down, it may be related to their natural instincts. Domesticated cats, though, wind up often building their sleep times around your daily schedule (including when you sleep and when you feed them!).

Do Cats Dream?

Like people, cats go through different stages of sleep with different levels of brain activity, but their experience of these stages is much, much shorter. For example, humans normally have an hour and a half to two hours of sleep during the stage with the most brain activity, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Cats, on the other hand, probably only get a small fraction of this amount of REM sleep each night. During this time, though, you may notice slight involuntary movements that can be a reflection of your cat dreaming.

Also, during their sleep stages, cats sleeping is pretty light. You’ve probably noticed this as most cats are easily awakened by sounds or movement and are quick to jump up and run away or want to play (or glare at you in amazement that you decided to wake them up!). But this light sleeping also likely derives from wild instincts that put a priority on being able to wake up quickly to pursue prey or flee a predator.

Is My Cat Sleeping Too Much?

Since it’s normal for them to spend well over half the day asleep, it’s usually not a concern that your cat sleeps a lot. But what may be concerning is if they are very fatigued when awake or if you notice a major change to their sleeping habits. In those cases, talk to your cat’s veterinarian.

How Can I Improve My Cat's Sleep?

Cats tend to be good sleepers without extra help, but if you want to encourage good sleep in your cat, start by focusing on their diet. This can help make sure they have a good amount of energy when awake and then get quality, restful sleep. It’s also good to get your cat some good playtime and physical activity such as with toys or a laser pointer. Like with humans, it’s not good for your cat to only lie around all day. In addition, make sure that there are some comfortable places for your cat to sleep such as in bed (if permitted) or in a well-padded spot in your home.

Lastly, if you want to improve your sleep, consider feeding your cat at night instead of the morning. If you feed your cat in the morning, they may be inclined to wake you up early to get fed. Feeding them in the evening can prevent this problem and help you sleep undisturbed in the morning.

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