How much sleep do cats need?

Even though some animals can go with extremely little sleep, all known species on the planet (including plants) need it. Among all pets and domestic animals, we know that cats can be incredibly sleepy. And indeed they are. But how much sleep do cats need? Is it normal for them to sleep the most day?

orange cat sleeping on a cat tree
Photo by Tambako The Jaguar, cc

There is a biological reason why cats need to sleep a lot. All cats, including big ones, are sprinters by nature. They only chase their prey for short distances and often rest to gather strength for their next sprint.

And to achieve that, cats need to sleep a lot:

  • Kittens usually spend about 12 hours per day sleeping.
  • Adult cats sleep between 7 and 12 hours per day, but this number can go up to 15 or more.
  • Older cats sleep as much as adult cats as far as the total number of hours. However, their sleep is more fragmented.
  • Cats may spend an additional 4 to 8 hours in a “drowsy” state. Technically speaking, this isn’t sleeping, but it can appear as such to pet owners.

What can affect your cat’s sleeping time?

So, 7 to 12 hours for adult cats: that’s quite a range, meaning some cats sleep almost twice as much as others. Why so?

Not only because cats are different. Time of year, the abundance of prey and possibilities for activities all contribute to changes in the sleep-wake patterns of cats, as well.

Here are the factors that affect your cat’s sleep the most:

  • Amount of light. Cats are extremely responsive to light, just like many creatures on this planet. Basically: the more light, the fewer time cats spend sleeping; this includes both natural and artificial light. Thus, don’t be surprised when your cat gets more active as the spring approaches—while birdsongs contribute to this, the amount of light is the leading cause. This also means that bad weather, such as a cloudy day, can make your cat sleepy. This isn’t surprising when we notice how it similarly affects us.
  • Activity and stimulation. If you interact with your cat more, talking or playing with him, he will sleep less during the day. Boredom leaves your cat to no other options than to sleep. Besides, if you play with your cat during the day, most of your cat’s sleeping will occur at night. Note: both over-stimulation and lack of stimulation can make your cat an extreme sleeper. Boredom, just as too much to do can cause stress. One of several signs of stress in cats is an increased amount of sleep.
  • Amount of food. Reducing the amount of food given to your cat not only reduces the total time spent sleeping, but it also makes the sleep more fragmented. On the contrary, feeding your cat more than what is needed not only leads to obesity, it will also cause excessive sleepiness. This makes sense when we look at a cat’s natural food gathering sequence—in the wild, a cat is active before a meal (through hunting) and will take a nap soon after it. Thus, if food is available to your cat upon waking, what may happen is that your cat stays in a nearly continuous state of sleep with only short meal breaks here and there, which could lead to future health problems. Alarmingly, many indoor pets live like this. The first step to change this would be to feed your cat scheduled meals and provide some activity before each meal.
  • Medical problems. Many medical conditions can affect your cat’s sleep, as does the medicine used to combat them. For example, cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which affects older cats, increases the total time spent sleeping, and makes sleep more fragmented.

Remember, the factors affecting your cat’s sleep aren’t simple or straightforward. It isn’t only about how much your cat sleeps, but the whole sleep-wake cycle over 24 hours or even several days and weeks. You can’t change one part without affecting another.

In general, cats will claim their hours of sleep no matter what, and for us, it’s better if we keep them active during the day so they can indulge in sleep at night.

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