Why Do Cats Sleep All the Time?

Undoubtedly, cats will spend at least half of their lives sleeping – from 12 to 16 hours a day. What makes their slumber seem like an eternity to us is the fact that they are asleep during our waking hours. Like many predators, cats are crepuscular animals which means they are most active from dusk to dawn. Their twilight activities, once the reason why people associated them with witchcraft and sorcery, only add to their mystery and allure.

Cat Physiology

The common housecat has many of the same hereditary traits and instincts of their bigger relatives including the need to hunt. Twilight hunting allows wild animals the cloak of semi-darkness which gives them the most opportunity for finding prey while also giving them safety from other predators.

Cats don’t have a need to hunt but this instinct is hardwired into most of them. You may have been woken up to your cat jumping on you or wreaking havoc around the house. Have you been jarred awake by a vase crashing to the floor at 2 a.m.? This is your cat prowling around, finding shadows or flies to chase at the crack of dawn. Because your cat has nothing to do except sleep while you are at work they are wide awake in the early hours of the morning. Their frantic activity and extreme bursts of energy will put them in a deep sleep by mid-morning, after they’ve eaten.

Acute nighttime vision, hearing, and smelling also give cats an advantage in the darkness, thus making them perfect hunting machines. Their eyes have more rods than humans allowing them to see with just a tiny bit of light. Enhanced hearing and smelling also aid them in focusing on their prey.

How to Train Your Cat

First, make sure your cat’s nocturnal wandering isn’t a symptom of illness. If you’re in doubt, consult your veterinarian. Usually, these symptoms will present as restlessness, crying, or unusual meowing – although it is important to note that cats do this when they sense another cat or potential mate outside.

It is possible to change your cat’s “hunting” schedule to not interfere with your sleep. With consistency and persistence, your cat will be sleeping through the morning. First, try not to react when your cat is trying to wake you up at 4 a.m. Just like kids and dogs, any attention or reaction is a positive even if you’re not happy with them. If they insist on meowing at you, don’t get up to feed them. This is most assuredly a way of reinforcing the unwanted behavior.

Try keeping your cat busy during the day. If you work during the day, at least keep your cat active for a few hours before you go to sleep. Fortunately, there are a variety of toys, from the ball of yarn to the highly interactive tech gadgets, to keep your little feline busy.

Give them a small amount during the day along with a few treats. Feed your cat most of his daily calories just before your bedtime. Just like their human parents, cats find it hard to sleep on an empty stomach.

If none of these tricks work, close your bedroom door. Spread many toys out for your cat to play with. Leave some food out for him before you go to bed, so that he doesn’t have another reason to come scratching at your door. Or, just let your cat resume his biologically inherited daily schedule—having freedom over your entire domain. Being gently woken by kitty kisses and massages isn’t the worst thing in the world!

By Gabrielle Allemeier


PetMD.com: Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
CatBehaviorAssociates.com: Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
Pets.WebMD.com: Nighttime Activity in Cats

About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.