Adult cats tend to sleep 15 to 17 hours and in intervals during a 24 hour period. Some cats, particularly elderly cats and kittens, can sleep 20 hours a day. All cat lovers joke about this, and wonder – why do they sleep so much? Is it that our modern housecats are overly pampered, perhaps even lazy?
Not at all! They are sleeping to conserve their energy. All cats, including the big cats, are predators and they are hardwired to leap into action, to chase their prey (or toys) and hunt for suitable food which is what they do mainly at night (which is why they see so well in darkness). Cats are the most active at twilight: dusk and dawn, which is when prey animals such as rodents, birds, and bugs are the most active. Therefore a lot of sleep is required even if the ability to spring into action from sleeping isn’t necessary for survival.
Cats spend so many hours sleeping to store energy reserves and allow their bodies to detox and stay strong for the hunt, even if it’s to stalk a catnip toy. Unlike most humans cats have the ability to spring into action from a light or deep sleep. Hunting takes a massive amount of energy and the best way to nurture energy is through sleep or rest. A dozing cat is conserving energy for future activities.
We’ve heard cats referred to as being nocturnal, but that’s incorrect, they are crepuscular. These are animals that are active during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn when they seek out food and water. Our modern housecats do best with being fed two meals a day, one in the morning and the other in the evening.
Cats aren’t the only crepuscular animals: dogs, nighthawks, moose, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs, bears, ocelots, deer, moose, squirrels, mice, rats, chinchillas, skunks, wombats, wallabies, possums, spotted hyenas, bobcats, and mosquitoes.
A few interesting and important Notes:
1) Cats being very individual creatures often develop their own sleep patterns, this is normal. Sometimes they mimic our sleep patterns. If you notice a change in your cat’s sleep pattern this could be a sign of illness, especially for older cats. Call your veterinarian.
2) A cat responds to sunlight for waking up. If your cat sleeps with you and your drapes or curtains allow sunlight in the early morning this could explain why your cat wakes you up before you are ready. We recently found a company which makes very interesting inserts for windows which can black out light and sound: http://www.indowwindows.com/
3) Yes, they do dream! And they do have an REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM phases just like we do. Don’t you love it when you cat appears to be dreaming of running through a field and moving their mouth like they are chewing, or chomping on a plump bird?