How Do Cats Sleep?

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May is National Pet Month — a time to celebrate all that our pets bring to our lives. In honor of this fun month-long holiday, we’ve asked some experts how our best friends manage sleep.

If you share your home with one or more cats, there’s a good chance they’re sleeping right now.

Cats can spend as much as 50 percent of the day asleep, and even more as they get older, cat behaviorist Jennifer Van de Kieft tells Sleepopolis.

But cats don’t just sleep more than us; they’re on a completely different schedule, a holdover from the time before they were domesticated.

Call of the Wild

As PetMD explains, humans are diurnal (awake during the day, asleep at night), while cats are crepuscular. Crepuscular animals are most active in the late evening and early morning—primetime for catching prey in the wild—and tend to sleep during the day and early evening.

This explains why some cats decide it’s playtime just as the humans are trying to go to bed.

It looks like cats can sleep just about anywhere, any time, but there are steps you can take to help your feline friends make the most of their sleep.

Creature Comforts

Cats like privacy, says Van de Kieft, who operates Cat Advocate in New York. Spots like closets, perches, and shelves let them sleep without being bothered. She recommends figuring out where your cat likes to sleep (probably multiple spots) and enhancing the areas with soft bedding.

Feeding schedule and activity are big factors, too. In the wild, a typical cat would catch around 10 mice a day, with rest periods between hunts. Feeding your cat smaller, more frequent meals recreates this natural schedule, Van de Kieft says.

It’s important for cats to stay active through play. Toys that mimic hunting, like wands and fishing poles, offer cats the best exercise, according to Van de Kieft. For kittens and high-energy cats, she recommends electronic toys to really tire them out.

Once they’re asleep, back off. “Do not disturb your cat when he’s sleeping, no matter how irresistibly cute they look,” Van de Kieft says. “You don’t like to be awakened from sleep, neither does your cat.”

Restful Coexistence

All cats are routine-oriented, and some are more sensitive to disruptions than others. Change may affect your cat’s sleep patterns until they get used to it.

If your schedule changes often, Van de Kieft suggests keeping your cat on a regular feeding and playtime schedule as much as possible.

Warning Signs

If your cat is sleeping more than normal, it might be boredom or lack or activity, but could also indicate pain or a medical issue. Van de Kieft recommends a visit to the veterinarian for an evaluation.

Anthony Bartkewicz

Anthony Bartkewicz

Anthony Bartkewicz is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in SPIN, Vice, Entertainment Weekly, and more. He lives in the Bronx, but sleep is where he's a viking.

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