I have 4 cats that love to run amuck starting around 3:30 or 4:00 am and wondered why they do this throughout the day and not night. Instead of going crazy batty I needed to dig deeper into how, when, and why cats sleep for long periods of time.
So, why do cats sleep so much? Cats sleep so much during the day, roughly 12 – 16 hours because they’re said to be crepuscular. So, they tend to hide more in the darker times of the day and they’re most active during the hours from 3:30 am to 6:00 am (from dawn to dusk).
Let’s really take a look at why cats have the sleeping patterns they do. This will help to change our perspective, respect how their body works and teach us, humans, to train them more effectively.
If you didn’t know, the ancestor of the cat, African wildcat, was mainly nocturnal.
Now that we domesticated them, depending on our lifestyles, their patterns and behaviors seemed to lean toward being diurnal or crepuscular.
Are Cats Nocturnal?
We can train our cats to sleep at night. Some might say that cats are most active at night and are nocturnal.
While others say that cats are most active right at dawn or dusk, being crepuscular.
That’s when my cats are most active. They promptly wake us up at 3:30 am.
Now that I know more about their sleeping patterns, I’ve learned that the key here is to ignore with zero attention. But more on that later.
But in case most indoor cats seem to be awake when us humans aren’t, which leads to frustration.
Why do cats need to sleep so much? Energy conservation.
Whether they are indoor, outdoor, or wild cats, they sleep because instinctively they need to conserve energy.
Like these energy conserving cats do below: Totally distracting but I’m sure you’ll watch anyway.
In the wild, cats have needed energy for stalking, to chase and to pounce on their prey.
Then, that’s it.
Their energy is expended.
They eat, groom then sleep.
Diet can also affect their sleep patterns.
Your cat’s protein diet requires a lot of sleep to digest it.
Cats sleep lightly and are alert so they can wake up at a moments notice.
How long do cats sleep at night? Cats sleep from 12 – 16 hours a day.
When do cats sleep? Cats will sleep during the day or during the early morning. Depending on your human behavior and lifestyle.
Is your cat going crazy at night? For many of us cat veterans, their sleep patterns, and cycles don’t make sense.
For the majority of us, our cats sleep all day and go crazy at night knocking over things, pawing on doors, or yelling at you to wake up at 4 am.
Again, it seems to me that our cats are domesticated, hardwired crepuscular ambush ready predators.
So during those twilight hours is when they hunted their prey.
Hunted in the semi-darkness to not be seen by other predators but early enough to catch their own prey awake.
Their internal clock is instinctively set to rest during the day (sleep) and spring for action in the wee early morning hours.
How Much Do Cats Sleep
As I alluded to before, cats need energy when they’re hunting. In the wild, they had to put in work for their food.
They’re looking to ambush their prey, so they need to be stealthy enough to position themselves to pounce on fresh prey.
They need those intensive short bursts of energy to do this.
The amount of time a cat needs to sleep is roughly about 16 hours. Or more if they are older cats.
This is the main reason cats sleep, they need to “recharge” for the next hunt. as much as they do.
They basically needed to be well prepared for the hunt and any more hunting attempts they’d need to get food.
What we see as domesticated indoor cat owners are “light sleep”.
They are light sleepers in case they need to instantly “engage” or immediately react for protection or larger predators.
When they do sleep, it can be deep but in short cycles of 10 – 15 minutes.
Cats Sleeping Positions
They seem so peaceful when they’re sleeping.
Your cat’s “cat napping” (that’s a mouthful) style is about more than just getting rest.
As long as they feel secure, and comfortable your cat will sleep just about anywhere.
Especially when in their favorite cat positions like:
- The curled up cat – cuddle ball and incognito
- Sleeping in a box – or laundry basket
- On their backs – spread eagle
- Like bread loaf – all paws tucked in
- Standing up – they can sort of rest at attention
- One eye closed – in and out of sleep with one eye half closed
- Sleeping on their side
Here is a Fun list of 12 cute sleeping positions for cats: Awkward Cat Sleeping Positions
Why do cats sleep on their backs? Cats will sleep on their backs with their belly showing when they’re most happy, comfortable and feel most safe. It’s safe to say they’re feeling most content.
I have 2 girls that do this all the time right in the middle of the living room. They only do this when we’re there watching TV though.
How To Stop A Cat From Meowing All Night?
This is my dilemma. I have a very vocal diva boy named Foo Foo. (hence the name)
What he wants, he wants now and will whine for 30 minutes straight until he gets it. I’m guessing longer but I normally give in at 3:30 am because he’ll wake my toddlers.
So, what’s worse here?
What to do if your cat keeps you awake at night?
To prevent your cat from disturbing you while you sleep, try the following suggestions:
- Playtime before your bedtime – make your cats happy and use cat toys that mimic flying birds or mice and get them pooped.
- Feed the last main meal at a later hour, preferably around 10 pm. – they’ll tend to groom then sleep after (I guess you could use a feeder also. Maybe he’ll learn to wait by that feeder and not bug you at night.
- Keep your cat awake during the day (unless you work but an idea) – They’ll likely sleep more at night this way.
- Adding another cat to the family – if you have only one cat, you can get them a new brother or sister. Well, yes they’ll plat together but they could also cause double the ruckus!
- Keep out of the bedroom – add a “Stop Cats From Scratching Carpet at Doorway” pad.
- Set a “booby trap” outside your door – you can use those motion detector sprays near a hallway entrance, the start of your stairs or your bedroom door.
Jackson Galaxy’s training to help get your cat to sleep with your hours:
Do cats dream? Cat do dream while they are sleeping and research has shown that they experience this during REM sleep. When you notice your cat chattering, twitching their paws or moving while sleeping, then they’re dreaming.
Why do cats sleep on your head? Cats most likely will sleep on our heads at night because that’s where the majority of our human body is released. So, cat’s will gravitate towards our head for warmth.
Why does my cat sleep on my chest? You cat will sleep on your chest to show you they’re the boss, maintain a bond and to seek warmth or comfort. Sleeping on us humans helps regulate their own body temperature too. My cat bubs, a bog heavy boy, will paw his way onto my chest, close to my neck, and plop down for his naps.
Is my cat sleeping too much? Some people may be worried thinking their cats are sleeping too much.
In most cases, cat’s sleep around 16 or up to 18 hours a day, with seniors or kittens sleeping longer. Cat’s sleep twice as long as us humans do so it seems that it’s happening too much.
But if you feel your cat is sleeping past the number of normal hours then it’s time to learn their patterns.
This could be cause for concern if you see some abnormal type lethargy versus their normal “cat napping”.
If your cat reacts to waking up when you walk into a room or a loud noise happens, chances are he’s ok.
But if they ignore it, or aren’t stimulated easily then its time for a vet visit to see what’s going on. A cat being lethargic could be a sign of an underlying issue.