How can you tell if your cat is sleeping for all the wrong reasons? Here’s what you need to know about why cats sleep so much.

By Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB
August 24, 2020
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On the couch, the kitchen counter, the bed, behind the curtain, your computer, your printer, your head… What do all of these places have in common? If you’re a cat parent, you know the answer: Your cat has slept there. Those places and many more are favorite resting spaces for cats.

Have you ever wondered if all of this sleeping is normal? Cats spend 15–20 hours a day resting or sleeping. So it’s likely the way your cat is catching his ZZZs isn’t cause for concern. Here are seven reasons your cat might be sleeping and how to tell if your cat has a normal sleeping pattern. 

1. Your Cat May Be Nocturnal

One of the reasons your cat sleeps a lot during the day might be because he’s up at night hunting imaginary mice. Ancient cats were nocturnal or crepuscular (active in the morning and the evening). Most domesticated cats have schedules like ours, sleeping for most of the night and hanging with us during the day. But your cat might be keeping to his ancient roots, acting as a predator at night, and sleeping it off during the day.

2. Your Cat Might Be Conserving Energy 

Cats are predators (and also prey). Like many predators, they conserve energy by resting or sleeping, saving up for the bursts of time when they will do the most hunting. This sleep/hunt cycle isn’t a cause for concern. 

3. Maybe He Isn’t Sleeping When You Think He Is

Not all sleep is deep sleep. Sometimes cats just hit the pause button and take a short breather—a “cat nap,” if you will. Your cat may have his eyes partially closed or even completely closed, but his ears or tail may still be moving occasionally. Most likely he is listening to the environment, ready to spring into action—not deeply sleeping at all. 

4. Your Cat Might Be Bored

When there’s nothing to do, sometimes animals sleep more. There are lots of ways you can enrich your cat’s life to cut down on boredom. For instance, you could build your cat a catio (a safe outdoor space for your cat). If your construction skills aren’t up to that task, providing food toys and predatory toys is a simpler way to keep your cat busy. Offer your new kitten or adult cat three different types of toys a day. Watch what he plays with and then purchase those types of toys in different styles or colors. By finding his preference and then purchasing that type of toy, you’ll help head off boredom. 

5. Your Cat Might Be Stressed

Hiding and being less active are coping tools cats use when they’re scared or stressed. If your cat hides from the family, only engages with one family member, hides during storms or when you are gone, he may be very stressed. Sleeping more may be his coping tool. Ask your primary care veterinarian about how stress affects your cat. She may refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. You can also learn more about cat stress and what you can do to reduce it in the book Decoding your Cat.

6. Your Cat Might be Sick or Uncomfortable

Cats hide and are less active when they are sick or not feeling well. If your cat is spending most of this time under the bed or high up in the cat tree, he may be in pain or uncomfortable. 

If your cat is overweight, he may not be able to move around very much and may rest because it’s painful to move. Obesity in cats is a serious problem that can lead to pain when moving or endocrine diseases that require lifelong treatment. If you can’t easily feel your cat’s ribs, make an appointment with your primary care veterinarian to have his overall health assessed. 

7. Maybe You Need to Sleep More and Your Cat’s Sleep Patterns are Normal

Sleeping helps cats (and you!) recharge. Proper sleep is important for the immune system and overall health. Cats, unlike us, seem to know that sleep is inherently valuable and invest the time to recharge. Your cat might not be sleeping too much; you might be sleeping too little!

Sleeping and resting up to 20 hours a day is normal for your cat. If he is feeling well, his life is enriched, and he is healthy, just go with it. Maybe you could use a nap too!