My red tabby cat, Jack, frequently snoozes with his front legs raised over his head while turned over on his back. He appears to be making the “touchdown” sign while standing on his head. I don’t think it’s very comfortable, but I frequently find him in that position, so I guess I do. How much sleep do cats get? Well, 6-year-old Jack sleeps anywhere between 15 and 20 hours every day, much like most cats his age. On some days, I want to follow him.
Doesn’t that seem like a lot? Jack and Phillip, my 2-year-old cat, sometimes seem to spend the entire night batting their catnip mice up and down the hallway, just to stand on my chest at 5:30 a.m. asking to be fed. So, I was a little startled to learn this as well. It turns out that cats only get a small portion of those more than 15 hours. Dozing and deep sleep are the two sleep states that cats rotate between. The phases of drowsiness typically last 15 to 30 minutes, with 5-minute deep sleep between. A cat is always prepared to spring up and start moving when he is dozing. Coincidentally, the term “catnap” is thought to have originated from these bouts of sleep.
Cats of all ages follow these basic sleep patterns, but in terms of cat health, the amount of sleep a cat needs may vary a bit with the cat’s age. And, much like humans, every cat has his own sleeping needs.
Kittens (0-6 months)
Kittens sleep more than the average adult cat. In fact, newborn kittens sleep almost 24 hours every day, waking only to nurse for short periods and then going right back to sleep. If you’ve recently added a new kitten to your household, don’t worry if he seems to sleep all the time. A kitten’s body releases growth hormones when he sleeps, so he’s just working on getting bigger.
Don’t worry: If your kitten seems to suddenly fall asleep in the strangest places, there’s no need to worry. Phillip would fall asleep on my daughter’s chest almost as soon as she picked him up. I also would find him curled up in my laundry basket, and it remains one of his favorite places to sleep.
Be concerned: Kittens sleep deeply, but if it seems particularly difficult to rouse your kitten from sleep, take him to your vet to make sure nothing’s amiss.
Adolescents (7 months-2 years)
Adolescent (or junior) cats don’t need as much sleep as kittens, but you’ll still find these young adults stretched out in the sun whenever they get a chance. You may also notice that your young cat seems most active in the evening; Phillip in particular gets what I call the “cat crazies” and races around the house right around the time I get home from work. At first I thought he was just happy to see me, but now I know it’s because cats are what’s called crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn. They’re not nocturnal, though some cats seem to have active spurts in the middle of the night.
Don’t worry: When your cat wakes up at dawn every morning, it’s because that’s when his natural prey is awake, too. He’s wired to be awake with the sunrise.
Be concerned: If your cat wanders the hallways howling at all hours of the night, he may have a medical issue, so take him to the vet at your first chance.
Adult cats fall roughly into the same category as adolescent cats when it comes to sleep. What I have noticed with my two cats — Jack being right in the middle of his adult phase of life, with Phillip nearing the end of his adolescent stage — is that Jack is more set in his napping habits. He has well-established favorite sleeping spots — the little “cave” of his cat tree, a sunny spot on my bedroom floor, the nest of blankets in my son’s room — and seems to visit them at the same times every day.
Phillip is more unpredictable, choosing to nap wherever is most convenient, like on clean laundry stacked in a basket, or where it is quietest, like the back corner of my walk-in closet.
Don’t worry: Your cat may vary his sleeping spots and sleep in a strange assortment of positions, but that’s perfectly normal.
Be concerned: If your cat seems reluctant to move from a certain position or can’t seem to get comfortable, he may be in pain. Have your vet examine him as soon as possible.
Older cats typically sleep a bit more than their adolescent and adult cousins. This is a normal part of the aging process, so don’t worry if it seems like your senior cat spends more time sleeping. “Cats sleep more as they get into their senior years,” said Gary d. Norsworthy, d.V.M., owner of Alamo Feline Health Center in San Antonio. “Like us, tis- sue repair is slower, so more sleep is required to rejuvenate the body.”