Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

Discover why cats love napping so much. And learn the difference between a healthy slumber and one that could indicate a problem.

May 28, 2023By Donna Hobson
why do cats sleep so much

Cats are so well known for their excessive sleeping habits that humans label their afternoon snoozes as "cat naps." But did you know that there are important evolutionary reasons why your feline needs to engage in so much shut eye?

Still, sleeping more than usual could indicate that your cat is ill and is not something you should ignore. Discover why your cat loves to sleep and learn how to tell the difference between a healthy slumber and one that indicates something is wrong.

How Many Hours Do Cats Spend Sleeping?

black and white cat sleeping
Credit: Image by Екатерина Гусева on Pixabay

The average cat spends between 15 and 20 hours a day sleeping. Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk - their optimum hunting times in the wild. Most domesticated cats will adopt a similar night-time sleeping routine to their families, but some are closer to being nocturnal and will remain active through the night.

Still, cats are adaptable creatures who can change their sleep routine based on environmental influences. For example, cats exposed to higher amounts of light (natural or artificial) will generally sleep for shorter periods than other cats. And cats who are kept active through regular activity with their owners will sleep a little less than their peers.

In addition, a cat's sleeping patterns change during its life. Kittens tend to sleep for most of the day, with a few brief bursts of energy before meals. Adolescence is the most playful stage of life, where you'll likely see your cat sleep less.

As they enter adulthood, their sleeping pattern becomes less erratic, settling into a regular 12-20 hours of sleep per day. Approaching senior years, their body slows, and sleep can increase by several hours a day.

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

kittens sleeping together on tower
Credit: Image by luxstorm on Pixabay

Cats are predators and preyin the wild, so they hunt in short bursts of high-energy activity. They spend so much time resting or sleeping to conserve energy for these hunts. Remember, less than half of their pursuits are successful in the wild, so sufficient rest is essential between each attempt.

Domestic cats don't need to hunt because they have us to cater to their every need. Still, their instincts remain as your feline prepares for the next "hunt." In addition, sufficient sleep helps to maintain a cat's immune system, keeping them strong and healthy.

However, it's essential that you know the difference between a "normal" amount of sleep and an excessive one. This has less to do with the number of hours your cat sleeps and more with whether they are deviating from their usual routine.

Excessive sleep that deviates from your cat's regular sleeping pattern could point to a health issue. If you notice that they begin to hide a lot - in their cat tree or underneath your furniture, for example - it could indicate that they are in pain. Obesity can also lead a cat to feel pain when they move, causing them to sleep more. If you struggle to feel your cat's ribs, it's a good sign that they're overweight, and it might be a good idea to put together a diet plan with your vet.

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Sleeping?

cat close up with sleeping face
Credit: Image by Michael Gaida on Pixabay

Sometimes we think our cats are sleeping when they're just resting. During these "cat naps," a feline may have its eyes closed but maintain normal movement within the tail and ears. In these instances, your cat is merely hitting the pause button and is still ready to spring into action at any moment. Research suggests that only 25% of a cat's shuteye equates to deep sleep; the rest is more of a light snooze.

If you want to know whether your cat is taking a nap or in a deep sleep, try making a gentle noise and see if their ears react to the sound.

How Much Sleep Is Too Much Sleep?

tabby cat sleeping on bed
Credit: Image by Lili-OK on Pixabay

Every cat is different; some can sleep up to 20 hours in a single 24-hour period. Most of the time, this is entirely natural behavior and nothing to worry about. Instead of basing your cat's health on how many hours they sleep each day, try monitoring their usual sleep routine and checking for any changes.

A change to a cat's sleep routine could suggest that they're experiencing a shift in health, gastrointestinal issues, or depression. If you notice a change to your cat's sleep routine, book an appointment with your veterinarian, who can administer a complete check-up to assess your cat's overall health.

Sleeping too much can also indicate that your cat is bored. If your feline spends most of their day cat napping, try changing their routine by adding enrichment toys into their environment and engaging in short play sessions each day. Domestic cats, particularly indoor cats, are much susceptible to boredom and weight gain, so providing enrichment to mimic their natural environment is crucial.

Does Stress Cause a Cat to Sleep Excessively?

cat sleeping in the grass
Credit” Image by Alicja on Pixabay

When you adopt a feline into your home, you accept that it will spend much of its life asleep. Still, there are instances when excessive sleep can point to a health issue of behavioral concern.

Increased sleep and hiding behaviors are your cat's go-to coping mechanisms when they feel stressed or scared. Other stress indicators include hiding from family or friends, only engaging with one person, and becoming stressed when that person has to leave.

A cat's reputation often precedes them, with owners expecting their feline to be completely independent. But cats can form strong bonds and relationships with their humans, as most feline-loving pet parents can attest. Still, depending on your cat's temperament, this attachment can lead them to experience separation anxiety when you are away. When this happens, they can sleep more and more to deal with the stress.

Separation anxiety is more likely to occur in orphaned cats or those who weren't adequately weaned from their mothers. And indoor-only cats can also be more susceptible to separation anxiety because they rely on their owners for companionship.

Common signs of separation anxiety include excessive meowing, a change in appetite, or eliminating outside their litter box. If you think this might cause your feline's excessive sleeping, book an appointment with your vet, who will help you construct a care plan and provide some helpful tips to keep your cat happy when you're away from home.

Donna Hobson
By Donna Hobson

Donna believes that keeping a pet is the key to a happy life. Over the years, many creatures have passed through her home - Sooty the cat, Millie the rabbit, Stuart (Little) the guinea pig, and Trixie the tortoise, alongside her pet goldfish, Zippy, who lived to the grand old age of 24 years! She currently resides with her black kitten Jinx and an aquarium full of fish and snails to entrance them both. When she is not looking after her pets, Donna enjoys researching and writing the answers to all your pet-related wonders.