Why do cats sleep so much?
If it ever feels like your cat sleeps a lot, chances are it's because they do. On average, cats sleep upwards of eighteen hours a day. Their hours of sleep may or may not coincide with yours; many cat parents are familiar with 3a "zoomies". Here's what you need to know to better understand your cat's sleep needs, and how you can use that understanding to align your cat's sleep schedule with your own.
Cats are crepuscular
We know cats are obligate carnivores, now, let's throw in a new vocabulary word: crepuscular. Contrary to popular belief (and my own cat's persistent behavior), cats are not nocturnal. Cats are crepuscular, which is a fun way of describing animals that are active at twilight—dawn and dusk. Looking at their evolutionary history as wildcats, a crepuscular nature makes sense for our domestic felines.
Wildcats take the opportunity to hunt at dusk and dawn, laying low during daylight and nighttime to avoid larger predators. "The most quoted theory for crepuscular activity is that it offers an optimal balance," explained BBC Earth News. "There is just enough light to see, but it is dark enough to lower the odds of being caught and eaten." Predators, like hawks, have decreased vision during the twilight hours, presenting as less of a hazard to crepuscular cats.
Cats are known for their naps
After most cats finish breakfast, they'll embark on an eventful day full of rest. Cats are notorious for naps, however what humans tend to interpret as a light nap is actually both non-REM and REM sleep for cats. In the wild, cats need to sleep with one eye open, on alert to spring up at any given moment. Humans typically experience deep sleep for 1.5 of their 8ish hours, while cats snooze for moments throughout the day, getting their REM sleep in five-minute intervals through their intermittent snoozes.
Cat's sleeping patterns allow them to store energy efficiently in a way that complements an instinctual dawn or dusk hunt. Hunting requires quick sprints of energy, with stretches of quiet concentration. Cats need to be alert and exert more energy at sunrise and sunset to catch their next meal, so it makes sense that through evolution, hour housecats follow a similar schedule.
Cats live on protein, a powerful energy source that fuels future hunts and great sun-drenched snoozes. Proteins contain the naturally occurring amino acid L-Tryptophan, which is a catalyst in the production of serotonin—that wonderful chemical that makes brains relaxed and happy.
Sync cat's naps with your sleeps
Cats march to their own beat—and sleep on their own schedule. But, if you're slightly sleep deprived because of your cat's tendency to run or meow late at night, you are in luck. Here's how to make some slight adjustments in your cat's schedule to better match your own.
Play is a way we can stimulate our cat's desire to hunt, so take some inspiration from your housecat's wild counterpart. Use small rodent-shaped toys like our Catnip Mousers for fetch, or wand-style toys to captivate your cat just like an insect would. Engage with your cat in active play to help work up their appetite before dinner, and ensure that they'll be ready for sleep around the same time you are.
Everyone loves a midnight snack
While we don't advocate for free-feeding, it could help even the most tenacious kitty to have a food puzzle for some evening entertainment. It might be tempting to also leave out a toy or two, but be sure to always store toys out of your cat's reach for future supervised playtime.
Rise and shine (or don't)
Due to your cat's crepuscular nature, they'll be ready to start the day long before most humans. This tends to be a problem, especially if those humans enjoy sleeping in. To start the day on the right paw, don't cave in to your cat's meows for an early breakfast. Or their bonks to your face. We know, it's easier said than done, but trust us: breaking the cycle is worth it. When you give your cat breakfast immediately after getting out of bed, you feed their behavior, literally reinforcing the daybreak choir because you're giving your diva exactly what they want. Even better, you can disassociate your cat's dependency on you for food with an electronic feeder. (I would do this, but I think a solid reason my cat loves me is because I give her Human-grade Fresh Smooth Other Bird).
Things for when they're not sleeping
While cats spend most of their time sleeping, we know they enjoy many other things, like eating. But, also, bird watching, sunbathing, scratching, jumping... you get the gist. Giving your cat opportunities to entertain themselves, even if you're not able to facilitate, will help provide more exercise throughout the day.
[#BeginTLDR#]Adjusting to Daylight Savings can be a challenge for humans, and in some ways, their cats [#SplitTLDR#]Cats are naturally gifted sleepers, able to space out their intervals of rest throughout the day[#SplitTLDR#]Cats are crepuscular—active at dawn and dusk, but you can curb their late-night or early-morning behavior with a few easy tips[#EndTLDR#]