Cat Sleep: What Owners Need to Know

Cat Sleep: What Owners Need to KnowIf you love cats and want to know all about them, we’re sure you’ll find the topic of cat sleep fascinating. Our little feline friends have different sleep patterns from us, and their own preferences where it comes to sleeping positions and locations.

Understanding feline sleep patterns and the role they play in your cat’s life can help you make sure Kitty is a happy camper

How much do cats sleep?

Cats spend a great deal of their time sleeping. The average cat sleeps for 13-18 hours a day. The exact number can change according to the cat’s age and personality. Cats that spend the day alone at home tend to sleep throughout the day.

Newborn kittens spend most of their time sleeping. In fact, this is nature’s way to make sure that the kittens do not wander out of the nest, or make noise that might attract predators while the mother cat is away. As the weeks pass, the kittens’ sleeping hours gradually change to match those of the adults.

Why do cats sleep all the time?

Have you ever wondered that? Or perhaps were asked that by someone?

Cats don’t sleep all the time. But it can certainly seem that way when a cat sleeps for 16 hours a day, and is mostly active during the night. Most pet cats prefer to be up at least for some hours during the day, so they can spend quality time with their owners.

If you notice a change in your cat’s sleeping patterns, stay on the alert. Try to see if the change is related to the change of seasons. A very gradual change in activity patterns is also typical as cats age.

However, if you suspect that your cat is apathic, or if they display a sudden and signficant change in sleep patterns, talk to your veterinarians. A checkup may be in order to rule out any health problems.

When do cats sleep?

Most people think of cats as being nocturnal predators because cats tend to sleep during the day and keep awake during the night.

Are cats really nocturnal?

Recent studies showed that most cats are in fact crepuscular. That strange words refers to animals that are most active around dawn and dusk.

However, experienced cat owners say that you can influence your cat’s sleeping times. If you provide plenty of stimuli during the day, in the form of cat toys or a companion cat, the cat is more likely to keep awake during the day and then spend the night sleeping.

If you wish to reduce your cat’s nightly activities, you might try to spend some time with her, playing some interactive games to tire her out before bedtime. You can read more about that in our post: How to keep your cat from waking you up at night.

The famous Catnap

Unlike dogs or humans, cats can spend many hours sleeping relatively lightly. If you try to wake that sleeping cat, he can turn immediately from being deep asleep to fully awake in a matter of seconds. You can often see the cat sit with its eyes half-closed, or even wide open, enjoying a short nap.

Favorite Sleeping places

Cats look for a sleeping place that feels safe and has the right temperature. During hot summer days, they will look for high shaded sleeping nooks. In the winter, most cats will look for a spot of warm sunshine or a nearby heater. The temperature also affects the cat’s sleeping position. When cold, cats tend to curl and put their faces between their paws to reduce body heat loss.

You can make a nice soft bed especially for your cat, or buy one of the many plush cat beds available in the shops. Still, many felines prefer one specific bed in the house – ours! For the cat, our bed is soaked with comforting and secure scents and is often the ideal sleeping place. Sharing your bed with one or more cats can help strengthen the special human-feline bond, not to mention the cat’s role as a furry, purring hot bottle…

In fact, in our very own first weekly poll, visitors were asked whether they share their beds with a cat. A staggering sixty percent said that they always do! A more recent poll brought the percentage up to 88%!

Sharing a bed with Kitty can be a problem if the cat decides to wake you up at night. Make sure you help your cat adjust to your own sleep schedule by following the advice in this guide: How to stop my cat from waking me up at night.

Why do cats sleep on your head?

Different cats seem to their preferences when it comes to sleeping with their humans. Many prefer to sleep right on top of their owner, often right on top of their chest or even head!

Cats sleep on your head because they love you! They want to get as close as possible to their favorite person – you! You can either accept that as a compliment, or gently remove Kitty. Do that consistently and they should eventually learn how to find a different nook where they can snuggle up to you.

Do cats dream?

Researches agree that our cats seem to dream, just like we do. Studies that measured feline motor activity, as well as brain waves, in sleeping cats, show that cats certainly have dream periods in their sleep cycle. Just like humans, cats go through an REM phase. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and we know that in humans, this is when dreaming occurs.

What do cats dream about? Do cats dream in color? Do they have nightmares? Nobody knows for sure. If you watch your cat as she or he sleeps, you may notice them twitching. They could very well be dreaming of chasing toys, or even prey.

Do cats snore?

Young healthy cats tend to sleep quietly but yes, cats can definitely snore. We’re not talking about purring, either. Older cats, or cats with flatter faces (like Persians and Himalayan cats), can definitely be heard snoring during some phases of their sleep.

There is usually no cause for worry when you hear your cat snoring gently. Especially if the snoring stops once they switch positions. However, as with any other behavioral change, if your otherwise healthy cat suddenly takes to snoring loudly, talk to your vet. They may want to rule out potential health problems.

Cat Sleeping Positions

Just like kids – and some adults! – cats can sleep in a variety of strange positions.

Did you know that a cat’s sleeping position is often an indication of how cold or warm the environment feels? When the room is cold, a cat will tend to curl up in their sleep, to preserve body heat. On the other hand, when it’s too hot, Kitty will probably spread out, to help regulate their body heat.

Read more: What is the right room temperature for a cat.

Over the years, members of TheCatSite.com shared amusing photos of their sleeping cats, showing just how varied feline sleeping positions can be! Let’s take a look at a few of those.

Super cute cat sleeping in very weird position

Cat sleeping in an arched position with leg covering face

Sleeping cat with his head facing up

Sleeping cat on carpet with body faced upward

Brown-spotted cat sleeping in an upward like position

Super cute cat sleeping with a smiling face

Cat sleeping with head on pillow

Cat sleeping with both legs on front of face

Black and white cat sleeping upside down

Orange stripped cat sleeping on very arched position

What makes a cat favorite napping spot?

As with many other things, cats are quite idiosyncratic when it comes to their choice of napping locations. When we asked our forum members about their cats’ favorite napping spots, they came up with some pretty unique choices that their felines made, yet a few themes do come up.

Cat sleeping upside down

The Right Temperature

Some like it hot, and so do most cats. On cold days, cats will act like heat-seeking missiles, looking for the warmest spot in the house, be it next to the stove, on top of an electric blanket, under a strong reading lamp, or simply in a nice spot of sunshine.

Cat sleeping with full flat back

A Sense of Safety

Cats find it necessary to sleep where they feel safe. The parameters of safety may change from one cat to another, but they often include two elements: height and the ability to observe their environment. They will often spend a while watching the area, allowing their eyes to very gradually shut down. Height plays a special role in households where kids, dogs or other cats cause mischievous interruptions on the floor level.

Cat sleeping in weird position

A Hiding Place

Many cats love to feel surrounded or sheltered while they sleep. They need a little “cave” of their own in which they can let their defenses down and nod off. Boxes are a favorite with these felines, as are drawers, deep laundry baskets and anything else they can crawl into. One of our forum members even shared the story of a cat named Archie, who used to retreat inside a kitchen cabinet of all places.

Cat sleeping with head on pillow

Safety in Numbers

Watch a bunch of kittens in action and you know it’s bound to end in one way: a pile of sleeping kittens, all cuddled together. As kittens, littermates almost always sleep together. As they grow up, some cats maintain the bond or form similar bonds with other cats. Whether it’s for warmth, a sense of security or both, these cats seek out each other when they get tired. In many instances, the “other cat” may not be a cat at all… and you will end up with an endearing sight of a sleepy canine-feline couple.
Cat sleeping upside down

The Human in Their Life

Just like they would curl up alongside their Mama Cat, most cats love sleeping next to their humans. Or preferably, on top of their human. Given half the chance, your cat is likely to hog the best spot in the bed, claiming it for its own. Things can get complicated in a multi-cat household, as each cat seems to find their own spot, while their human has to settle for territorial leftovers. As author Stephen Baker once said, “Most beds sleep up to six cats. Ten cats without the owner.”

Check out Stephen Baker’s book here on Amazon.

Cat sleeping in owners bed

It’s not just the bed that our cats love to share with us. Whether it’s by the TV or in front of the computer, many felines love sleeping on or at least close by to their favorite human. One forum member told us that her cat loves to fall asleep curled on her shoulder, even while she – the human – gets up to walk about the house!

Cats’ Napping Spots: The Strangeness Factor

The world is their bed, and some cats find the oddest corners of their world to be as comfortable as any fancy store-bought bed. Sometimes it seems that they do it just to make us laugh, as some of these strange yet very real, napping spots show: on bookshelves, on or inside pizza boxes, in the pot with the cactus garden, on top of the firewood kindling, inside the sink, and of course, the white cats’ favorite: on top of black shirts and jackets!

Cat sleeping upside down covered in blanket


Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

Good night everyone and sweet dreams! 

2 comments on “Cat Sleep: What Owners Need to Know

maiaelizabeth May 11, 2014
Maia spends most of the day sleeping in a soft chair while Foley also sleeps most of the day with the exception that he comes and lays on my tummy when he's feeling lonely. After I pet him he goes back to his bed. That's when I'm home. When I go to work and come back and find them both in my bed being all cute. I love them so much and I don't like to bother them or Anything.
blackcat416 February 15, 2014
I never knew cats could sleep and long and as hard as my cats do.  They usually sleep through the night with us.  As a present a year and a half ago I got my own bedroom.  Jim said when I came to bed every night it was like the carnival came to town. First the TV went on, then the light on my side of the bed, then the parade of cats. At that time we only had 6 cats, we are now up to 7. Well really 6.6, 6 adults and 1 - 6 month old kitten.  So everyone had to come visit me before I settled in for the night, every night. Usually 3 or 4 would stay behind to also sleep the night away, in a nice, soft, king size bed.  The air was filled with the sound of purring, kneading and an occasional hiss, along with the crashing, screaming and light flickering from the TV.  So after 27 years, Jim booted us all out of the bedroom.  I couldn't possibly sleep without my cats, light and TV each night, so on the sofa I went with everyone in tow.  Eventually after a couple of months, we renovated the entire second floor of our home.  Jim stayed in the back master bedroom, the first master bedroom became the human living room, one of the other rooms became my new bedroom, the old computer room became a library and our living room on the first floor became the cats living room. Well every room on the first level, except for the kitchen and bathroom, became the cat's rooms.   Once I got my own bedroom, with all my own new furniture, along with a brand new super high mattress and box spring and my own new flat screen TV and light, things became even more wonderful. I found that my cats also wanted a room for just us as well.  And this is when I found out exactly how long cats can really sleep and how deep of a sleep they can fall into.  First we had to get into the new super high bed, so a strong 2 step stool was set up on my side of the bed, strategically placed right in front of the night table, with my light, 1 inch from my mattress.  So now I was able to get into my bed, and one go round with each cat, teaching them the stool, night table, mattress route, everything fell into order.  So Momma Pooch sleeps next to my pillow on her blanket and snores like a moose when she is totally out.  Sally sleeps at the opposite side of the bed as my head, also a snorer, Ryan sleeps right next to me in the wedge of my body, Matthew sleeps against my legs, everybody comes visit before lights out, yes I now shut my light out because Ryan likes it better, but I still have my TV on, then we all drift away into a nice peaceful nights sleep until morning comes.  Now I am sure during the night they are probably getting up for a drink of water or a trip down to the basement to use their liter box, or maybe even a few kibbles, but when I get up to use the human facilities, no matter who I am disturbing, everybody stays put, I crawl back into bed, with two of them not even breaking the beat of their snoring and off to sleep I go again until that awful alarm.  There are actually...

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