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It’s well known that humans need at least 7–8 hours of sleep to be able to function properly. Cats on the other hand can sleep for a whopping 15 hours a day, and some cats are known to spend 20 out of 24 hours asleep. Not surprising when you consider that they are related to the king of beasts – the lion – who also needs his 15 hours of beauty sleep.
Are Cats Just Lazy?
So why do cats sleep so much? Are they just plain lazy, or do they need it to replenish their energy reserves so they’re able to chase down their next meal? If you watch a cat for any length of time you’ll soon come to realize that they are born and bred predators. Years of domestication has had no noticeable effect on watering down those instincts. Like any predator in the wild hunting takes energy – and lots of it! The evolutionary response for cats seems to be to conserve as much energy as possible – hence the long sleep patterns.
Crepuscular Rather Than Nocturnal
Being wired as a predator means that your fluffy little carnivore starts to get all wired up during the twilight hours (early evening and early morning), ready for a bout of chasing and hunting. The technical term for creatures who are more active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk is crepuscular.
Sleeping With One Eye Open
Cats will often take a quick cat nap of 15 minutes to half an hour. Cats don’t like to be caught by surprise so during a cat nap phase they will often sleep with their eyes half open or position themselves so they can pounce at a moment’s notice.
Deep Sleep and Dreaming
Deep sleep in a cat is short-lived and will usually only last about five minutes. During periods of deep sleep your cat will have rapid brain movements with most scientists believing that they do indeed dream. Have you noticed your cat’s paws, whiskers or body twitching whilst they are asleep? This is evidence of brain activity and a likely sign that they are dreaming of chasing mice or birds in the backyard. You may also notice rapid eye movements – known as REM sleep.
After five or so minutes of deep sleep cats will return to their cat nap phase and alternate between the two until it’s time to wake up and go hunting. Surprisingly, kittens will go straight into deep sleep mode, skipping the cat nap phase entirely.
Other Sleep Patterns
On rainy days you’ll probably see your cat yawning more and looking for a comfy place to lay their head down to sleep. Cats are also known to adjust their sleeping patterns to their feeding times, and as they are sociable creatures you may also see them planning their sleep patterns around being able to spend more time with their family – as in you.
So when you see your cat snoozing you know that they’re just recharging their battery so they can have more fun during their awake hours.
Image: hotzeplotz via Flickr
Fur Everywhere says
Great article! I think Lita sleeps about 20 hours a day. Carmine tends to sleep a little less. 🙂
Cathy Armato says
I never realize how much my cat slept! Lucky her!
Sweet Purrfections says
Mom Paula says she wishes she could relax and sleep as easily as we do.
Michelle Wolff says
I notice mine sleep less when I play with them more. I sometimes meditate by watching mine sleep – they look so peaceful!
Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats says
I’ve always loved the word “crepuscular.” I’ve always thought cats sleep because they’re solar powered; they need time in the sun to power up. 😉
I think that a cat’s sleep/wake pattern is really interesting. It is like they graze on sleep all day long. Humans need an 8-hour block of sleep each night, but cats sleep for a little while and then they wake up for a little while. I think there are still a lot of lessons we could learn about sleep from cats.
Back when I had cats, they used to “run” in their sleep all the time. I was fun to watch!
…and here I was thinking they were just being lazy! Its so strange to me that cats have remained so instinct driven after so many years of domesticated life.