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Why Do Cats Sleep So Much? (Understanding a Cat’s Sleeping Habits)

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: February 3, 2023 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: October 24, 2022  
Author:  Dexter Jones

Why is my cat sleeping so much? Turns out it's complicated.

In the eternal debate on whether cats or dogs are the better pet, one thing the dog side has always made a point of bringing up is that "Cats don't do anything. They just sit around sleeping all day."

why do cats sleep so much

I'm a cat lover myself, but every time my brother and I would get into this discussion, he'd always bring it up (To be fair, I'd bring up the whole "dogs eat poop" thing so...).

Still, at some point, it does beg the question. "Why DO cats sleep so much?"  

Do they need a lot of sleep or are they just a bunch of lazy lumps?

Is there potentially some health reason they sleep as much as they do?

Well, the good news is that, after doing a little digging, I found more than a few things that surprised me about my cat's behavior.

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much (in short)

It’s a survival mechanism. Cats have evolved over the centuries to sleep for long periods throughout daytime hours.

This is because cats in the wild need to sleep in order to conserve all their energy to hunt, chase and kill their next prey.

Although domestic cats don’t need to hunt, this primal instinct to sleep and prepare for the next hunt still carries on.

Below we dig further into the main reasons why cats and kittens end up sleeping almost the entire day away.

1. From Dusk until Dawn!  

If you've ever wondered why Mr. Biddles always seems to lay out sleeping on your pile of clothes for long periods during the day yet is a bit too energetic or eager during the twilight hours when everyone is tucked into bed, it may just be blamed on evolutionary genetics.

As it turns out, ancient cats were very often either nocturnal or crepuscular hunters

Here, crepuscular (i.e., active during sunrise or sunset) and nocturnal animals would do most of their hunting around the evening periods and even into the night before sleeping during the day. 

So their unique sleep cycle is a key part of their primal hunting instincts.

This often was considered an evolutionary shift, as many different animals that cats would eat (mice, snakes, etc.) were more commonly active at night compared to during the day.

why does my cat sleep all day

Over time, as they became more domesticated by humans, these cats would steadily begin to shift their schedules a bit to match our own. 

However, it's not unlikely that your cat may have pulled from the genetic lottery and retained this "sleep all day, run around all night" mentality. 

2. Pain or Sickness

On the more distressing side of a cat's sleeping habits, they sleep when they are sick or otherwise in pain

Again, cats aren't necessarily "howlers" when it comes to suffering or feelings of sickness or discomfort.

They are experts at disguising signs of illnesses.

This is another evolutionary trait and was used to ensure they weren't tipping off any surrounding predators that they were injured or not as strong as they'd normally be.

In today's society, unfortunately, this trait acts as a bit of a detriment since it's very easy to be confused with many of the other reasons listed that may be the cause for them sleeping and hiding away more.

While illness and injuries may be the more pressing and serious example of this, so too are things like obesity

For many cats, obesity can be painful for their limbs and even cause problems to their endocrine system. These problems can be lifelong issues if not immediately tackled and taken care of.

The most effective way to know if your cat is overweight or normal is by placing your hands along their side and feeling for their ribcage. 

If it isn't immediately noticeable through touch alone, your cat may need to visit a vet to have its health looked at and to come up with a potential solution. 

3. Energy Conservation

Primal instincts! We touched on this a bit with the aspect of them being scared or nervous, however, it's also true that they can sleep more during the day if they've had an active and energetic lifestyle. 

Because cats are like most other natural predators, which rest to conserve energy before massive short bursts of energy (sporadic mad dashes, playtime, fights, etc.). 

This is totally fine and completely natural in animals.

If you find that your cat is doing this while not doing many or any of the other listed things on this list, know that everything is 100% A-OK. 

4. Taking A CatNap

A cat nap! We've all heard the phrase used before. Turns out, it's true! Many times, what we perceive as a cat sleeping is more of a quick "wink" of sleep. Oftentimes, they will have their eyes only partially closed while their tail and ears will sway or move periodically, so not technically a deep sleep at all.

This is because, rather than actually "sleeping", our feline friend is actually doing the aforementioned resting while covertly checking out the area.

This is just something that cats do no matter how healthy, stress-free, or energetic they may be. 

why do cats need so much sleep

The easiest way you'll know a cat is sleeping is if they are almost completely still or are laying on its side or back. 

Generally, if you see your cat "curled" up, they're sleeping. On the other hand, if you see them laying prone or in an active position, odds are that they're essentially pretending to sleep to regain strength and get ready to pounce at a moment's notice.

5. Boredom

Another interesting reason may be that your cat just has nothing to do all day. I imagine this is probably the case for my cat. 

Yes, we do a bit of things in the house, but I'm often really busy and he's, well, a cat.

Well, as it turns out, this type of boring lethargy is just pervasive in humans. 

Our animals can similarly find themselves sleeping the day away due to a lack of stimuli. The solution is to make a point of giving them something to play with and do. 

This can range from putting together a couple of climbing shelves, to setting up a catio, to just taking a few minutes out of your day to play with them.

One of the most effective ways to tire your cat out is by letting them run outside your backyard or your immediate area. 

I know this may not be the best option for everyone, but if you have a safe outdoor environment, consider looking into them running free outside and being a cat. 

That generally has them nice and tuckered out by the end of the day.

6. Stress or Depression 

This one may be a cause for concern so pay attention. Cats are unlike other animals when it comes to stress or feelings of discomfort

While they can potentially have more aggressive reactions when stressed out (hissing, spraying, etc.), they can also take the complete opposite approach by hiding or being a lot less active and social than they used to be.

For some cats, conserving energy is a sort of coping tool when it comes to stress or being scared. 

This is another potential evolutionary trait your cat can pick up. The difference here is that your cat is only sleeping or hiding away during the day because they are potentially stimulated too much. 

These cats use resting and relaxing as a way to calm themselves down since anything else may be too much for them.

why do cats need so much sleep

As it turns out, they aren't all that different from us need to relax when we've got a lot on our plate and need to bring things down a notch. 

The good news is that many primary care veterinarians can help with this issue. In some instances, they may have to refer you to a pet behaviorist based on what is stressing your cat as well as steps on how you can reduce stress in your home.

8. Irregular Sleeping Patterns

Lastly, one other area that may be off is sleep patterns. However, it may not be the cat's sleeping patterns that are off, but yours! 

Yes, if you're a hard worker or a heavy TV/PC watcher, you may be sleeping too little rather than them sleeping too much.

Check out your sleep situation and make sure you're getting your 8 hours in before seriously looking into any of these other potential issues. 

Many times, you'd be surprised just how much our sleep affects how we perceive others and their sleeping patterns.

9. Old Age

It comes to us all.

This is a really simple one, and it goes for us humans too. Senior cats will normally have less energy and reduced mobility which means they will sleep much more than younger cats.

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much? Summary

Whilst we cat owners generally need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep in a day, that isn't the case for cats. 

In many instances, a kitty can sleep upwards of 20 hours without any issues or problems.

So long as, when he is awake, he's exuberant, energetic, and eager to live life, let him get his rest. 

And hey, if it's particularly crazy to you, take a minute to check both his and your sleep schedules. 

It may just be you that needs a bit more sleep than them automatically needing less.

About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.