Why Is My Cat Sleeping So Much? Understanding Feline Sleep Patterns

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This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was originally published in 2010 and has been regularly updated. This article was last reviewed on June 13, 2024

If you have questions or concerns, call your vet, who is best equipped to ensure the health and well-being of your pet. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.

why is my cat sleeping so much image
why is my cat sleeping so much? Probably not — all cats sleep two-thirds of the day. Photo: rberteig

Why Is My Cat Sleeping So Much? Insights from Wellness Exams

During my wellness exams, conversations with cat owners often begin the same way:

  • Edgy cat people: “How should I know? Why is my cat sleeping so much?”
  • Upbeat, happy cat people: “She’s got it made! I feed her and then this cat sleeps all day.”
  • Stressed cat people: “He’s doing fine. He wakes me up in the morning to get fed. Then he goes to sleep while I have to go to work. He’s got a better life than I do.”

This variety of responses sums up a cat’s sleep pattern in a nutshell.

Key Point: The normal adult cat sleeps about 16 hours a day, which is twice as much as we do. Here’s why:

  • Cats have evolved to conserve their energy for hunting, even though domesticated cats have their meals provided. Their natural instinct is to sleep and store energy for these activities.
  • Understanding this can help answer the common question: “Why is my cat sleeping so much?”

It’s All About the Hunt

House cats have evolved from their big cat roots into domesticated pets, but many instinctual patterns remain the same. My little orange house kitty often looks like he’s stalking prey in the Serengeti that is my basement.

Why do cats sleep so much? It’s because creatures need food to survive, a primary life force. Cats instinctively save their time and energy to hunt for food. Then, they sleep.

Consider feral cats as an example:

  • Energy Conservation: Feral cats conserve energy by sleeping, often in colonies, and then go out at night to kill and eat.
  • According to Sarah Zielinski, a science writer for Smithsonian, “Feral cats’ daily activity pattern of sleeping during the day and being active at night likely reflects the behavior of their prey, small mammals, and helps them avoid humans.”

By comparison, house cats exhibit similar behavior:

  • Most house cats have food readily available but still conserve energy as if they need to “hunt” for their next meal.
  • A 2011 study found that feral cats spent around 14% of their time running or hunting, whereas house cats spent only 3% of their time on these activities.

Myth: Cats Are Nocturnal

Despite popular belief, cats are not nocturnal.

  • Crepuscular Nature: Cats are more accurately described as crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.
  • During these times, birds’ color vision is less effective, and small prey mammals have trouble spotting predators. This increases hunting success for wild cats around 7–8 p.m. and 2–4 a.m.

A house cat’s routine might involve waking you up at dawn to get another can of food, then going back to sleep. They often exhibit bursts of energy at sunrise and sunset.

Cat Naps

While cats spend at least two-thirds of their lives asleep, their sleep differs from humans:

  • Alert Sleep: According to Animal Planet, cats experience both non-REM and REM sleep but remain alert even when dozing.
  • Frequent Naps: Cats sleep in a position that allows them to pounce at a moment’s notice, with catnaps usually lasting 15–30 minutes each.

Understanding these patterns can help answer common questions like “Why is my cat sleeping so much all of a sudden?” and “Why is my cat sleeping so much and not eating?”

cat sleeps too much
Exactly how much time your cat sleeps may vary depending on the weather. Cats may sleep more in colder months. Photo: Simone_ph

Is Your Cat Sleeping Too Much?

Because it’s difficult for many of us with busy lives to actually determine how much our cat is sleeping, we must generally take notice of our cat’s daily patterns and demeanor. True changes in your cat’s sleep patterns indicate a call for concern. Here are two questions to ask yourself:

Has Your Cat’s Daily Routine Changed?

  • Young Cats: Young cats actually sleep longer than adult cats — up to 18 hours a day. But these younger kitties have massive spurts of energy and interest in life when they are awake. If your young cat is not as active when they awake from a normal cat nap or disinterested in play, they might be sleeping more because they are ill. Time to call the vet.
  • Geriatric Cats: Geriatric cats also sleep about 18 hours a day, but they tend to have a very specific routine once awake, prowling about for a period of time, looking for food or attention, and then returning for another nap. If any of this routine has changed, there may be something wrong. Time to call the vet.
  • Middle-Aged Cats: Good old regular middle-aged cats should also follow that normal routine of bothering you for food, attention, etc. If that cat doesn’t want to get up at their normal time and be completely responsive, then the cat may be sleeping too much. Time to call the vet.
  • Seasonal Changes: Note that the amount of time your cat sleeps may vary depending on the season of the year, or the weather. Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, DVM, and Dr. Michelle Miller, DVM, writing for the Chicago Tribune, say: “We are not the only ones affected by the weather. Cats may sleep more during those dark, stormy days or when it’s cold. Changes in daylight also will affect their sleep patterns, just like with people.”

Has the Quality of Sleep and Waking Pattern Changed?

  • When cats don’t feel well, they are adept at masking their illness. Sick cats will become more reclusive and, yes, sleep more. This may be the only signal to you that something is wrong.
  • You know the personality of your cat. Whether they are shy or gregarious, you should get the same usual response from them when they wake up or you wake them up.
  • You should be able to tell the difference between “Don’t bother me, I’m sleeping” with that bright-eyed, annoyed look in their eyes when you poke at their belly, versus “Oh, I am having a hard time getting up, and I feel like crap” look in their eyes.

The majority of you fabulous cat people should rest easy when your cat sleeps most of the time. If anything changes in the sleeping routine, however, please be alert.

cat sleeping all the time
If your cat sleeps too much, meaning they don’t get up at their normal time and are more reclusive than usual, there may be a health problem. Photo: GwendolineQuinlan

When to Be Concerned About Your Cat’s Sleep Patterns

While it’s normal for cats to sleep a lot, there are times when changes in their sleep habits may signal a problem. Understanding when to be concerned about your cat’s sleep patterns can help you identify potential health issues early.

Key Indicators to Watch For:

  • Sudden Increase in Sleep: If you notice a sudden change and wonder, “Why is my cat sleeping so much all of a sudden?”, it could indicate stress, environmental changes, or health issues.
  • Sleeping and Not Eating: A cat that is sleeping excessively and not eating might be experiencing underlying health problems. This combination warrants a visit to the vet.
  • Changes in Behavior: If your usually active cat becomes lethargic and sleeps more, it could be a sign of illness. Pay attention to other changes in behavior and consult your vet if needed.
  • Reclusive Behavior: Cats that are sick often become more reclusive and sleep more. If your cat starts hiding and avoiding interaction, it might be time for a veterinary check-up.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Has your cat’s daily routine changed?
    • Young cats typically have bursts of energy, and any deviation from this could indicate illness. Older cats have specific routines, and changes may suggest health issues.
  2. Has the quality of sleep and waking pattern changed?
    • Observe if your cat is harder to wake or seems lethargic upon waking. This could be a sign of underlying health concerns.

Consulting a Veterinarian:

  • If you’re still wondering, “Why is my cat sleeping so much?” after observing these signs, it’s crucial to seek professional advice. Your vet can perform a thorough examination to rule out any serious conditions.

By monitoring your cat’s sleep patterns and being aware of potential red flags, you can ensure your furry friend stays healthy and happy. Remember, while cats do sleep a lot, significant changes in their sleep behavior should not be ignored. According to experts, sudden changes in sleep patterns can indicate health issues, stress, or environmental factors impacting your cat’s well-being (source).

In this quick video, cat expert Abigail Tucker explains a little more about why cats sleep so much:

YouTube player

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why is my cat sleeping so much?

Cats sleep a lot to conserve energy for hunting, which is a natural instinct even in domesticated pets.

Why is my cat sleeping so much all of a sudden?

A sudden increase in sleep could indicate stress, environmental changes, or underlying health issues.

Why is my cat sleeping so much and not eating?

If your cat is sleeping excessively and not eating, it may be a sign of illness and should be checked by a vet.

Why is my female cat sleeping so much?

Female cats might sleep more due to hormonal changes, especially if they are not spayed.

References



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