Do Dogs and Cats Sleep More in the Winter?
They take up the most storage space in our phone, bring us the most joy—and sometimes, lots of worries. We love our animals, and we keep a watchful eye on them 24/7. So when you notice something new, you may stress something is wrong. Like, do dogs and cats sleep more in the winter? And do they feel seasonal depression, like humans? What should you do if they are catching one too many Z's? Luckily, we spoke to veterinarians to understand feline and canine winter sleep habits to give you peace of mind.
How Much Sleep Do Dogs and Cats Need?
According to Dr. Jeff Werber, DVM, an Emmy award-winning veterinarian and consultant for Fi, most adult dogs sleep anywhere from eight to 14 hours a day. "While humans only need seven to nine hours, the average is 11 hours of sleep for adult dogs," he explains. "Meanwhile, puppies and senior dogs will spend anywhere from 18 to 20 hours a day sleeping."
Cat sleep patterns are slightly different than doggos. As Werber explains, felines spend approximately 70 percent of their lives asleep, and much of this is through various cat naps. In daily numbers, this equates to 18 hours of sleeping per day for more than 40 percent of cats.
Though pups will tend to sleep in longer stretches, Werber says cats will go through multiple times a day where they will be asleep in shorter spurts. "These cat naps average an hour and a quarter in length ranging anywhere from 15 to 100 minutes," he explains. Though humans have a circadian rhythm where we sleep at night and stay awake during the day, dogs often match this pattern; cats are the opposite.
Werber says kitties are crepuscular, meaning they have two peaks of activity: One in the early morning before sunrise and one in the evening before sunset, which means they're often up at night. "This is due to their predatory nature—cats would do a lot of hunting in the day and night, and early morning and early evening is when they had a chance to sleep," he adds.
Do Dogs and Cats Sleep More in the Wintertime?
Werber says dogs and cats are likely to sleep a little more in the wintertime. And most of this is due to the same sorts of reasons humans are less active: they're cold! "They'll look for a cozy blanket to cuddle up with and a warmer place to sleep. If they can't find an external source of warmth, they might need to move around to warm up," he explains.
You may wonder if your pup is designed for freezing temperatures—like a husky, a malamute or a Samoyed—do they still need more sleep? Sort of. As Werber puts it, a dog's coat acts as a kind of thermos, but they can still get cold, and some of it will come to their feet. "At the end of the day, this makes them want to sleep more," he adds.
Felines will also catch more Zzz's for the same reason, but also, historically, the cold season meant less hunting, so they start to conserve their energy a little bit, he notes.
Can Dogs and Cats Get Seasonal Depression or Cabin Fever?
In short, definitely. Animals can grow restless when they're inside more often than other months. After all, during the summer, you may leave the backdoor open for them to explore your fenced-in yard freely. Or the warmer temperatures make it more comfortable for them to do zoomies indoors. Less time chasing balls (or let's be real: squirrels) and going on adventures can make them feel some sort of seasonal depression.
However, what's more important than taking stock of the time of year is keeping a pulse on routine transformations. Keep in mind, sometimes, your pet just feels less energized, and that's okay. "Even though dogs might sleep half of their life, the remaining 50 percent of the day isn't all active. Dogs typically chill 20 to 30 percent of the day when they're awake," Werber says.
The issue comes when dogs can't be motivated to move at all, that's a signal that there may be a problem. As Werber says, when you note that those patterns have changed, it might warrant a thorough exam by your vet.
Generally speaking, dogs' daily schedule will be getting up in the morning and later taking a nap of three to four hours. If you note a consistent increase to five to six hours for the nap, he recommends consulting your dog's veterinarian. "Irregular sleep patterns may be signs of diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or heart disease in which they are not pumping enough oxygen supply to the brain," he continues. "Arthritis could also increase sleep as it makes it painful for pets to move."
For cats, hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid doesn't create and release enough thyroid hormone into the bloodstream, may cause lethargy and increased sleep, Werber warns. Hyperthyroidism is very common in older cats, and they might become excessively excitable. You may notice them eating more but still losing weight.
How to Make Sure Your Dog or Cat Isn't Sleeping Too Much
It's important to remember that as a pet parent, you know your pet the best, so if you notice that their normal activity is being replaced by more sleep, or that they seem less energetic than average, it may be a sign that something is wrong, says Michelle Lugones, DVM, a veterinarian for Best Friends Animal Society. However, this does come with an important caveat: consider the context of the situation.
"If a pet is on a medication that can cause drowsiness, you may see them sleeping more. If your pet has been through a stressful experience such as just returning home from being hospitalized for an illness, your pet likely needs time to recover and gain their strength," she continues. Or, on a less serious note, if your pet had an extensive play or exercise session, they might sleep a little longer than usual after that.
With dogs and cats, restless and decreased sleep can happen when they aren't getting enough stimulation. If you're indulging in Netflix binges rather than taking yourself for a walk (and thus, bringing your dog for the journey), they aren't receiving as much attention as they do when the weather is warmer.
With cats particularly, Werber says they could keep you up at night because you didn't take time to play with them during the day. As much as you can, try to reserve a solid 20 to 30 minutes of active play with your pets indoors during the coldest months of the year. This will help to warm up their muscles and keep them moving.
Vitamin D can also be important. And while vets say a supplement isn't necessary, bundling up to brace the temperatures when the sunshine is out could be helpful to you and your pet. Getting your kitty to lay in the window may take some convincing, but some carefully placed treats can help tremendously.
The biggest test to know if your pet's winter sleeping habits are something to stress about or not is tied to essential functions. Lugones says your pup or kitty should be easily woken up from their sleep, and they should eat their food as usual. If it takes you a long time to encourage them to get out of their slumber or to have an interest in their kibble, seek the advice of your local vet. Otherwise? Let them enjoy a long winter's nap—and maybe, have one yourself, too!