How much sleep do cats need? Experts say a lot

The tabby cat sleeps in a woman’s arms

Vladans / Getty

You want to spend every waking minute with your cat. But it looks like your cat has other plans for her day. This includes sleeping here, sleeping there, and napping in the chair. With so few waking moments, it’s not uncommon to wonder exactly how much sleep cats really need each day.

Maybe, though, you’ve been treated to late-night zooms and early-morning breakfasts, leaving you wondering if your cat ever slows down. Cats can sleep anywhere from 12 to 20 hours per day, and the range varies a lot based on their lifestyle. Samantha Bell, a cat expert at Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles, is here to help put these cat nap questions to rest.

How much sleep do cats need each day?

According to Bell, indoor and outdoor cats have different sleep requirements. Which makes sense, given that kitty’s ancestors adapted to a basic, crepuscular hunting cycle. “Outdoor cats need to be awake at times that are best for hunting, which is just before dawn and around sunset,” Bell explains. Their prey is small, so they need several naps a day to get the energy to chase down an afternoon snack—or three.

Since house cats aren’t foraging for their meals or on high alert to passing predators, “they can nap whenever and wherever they like,” says Bell. And if we’re lucky, they’ll choose to snooze all night with us.

Here is how much sleep cats need per day, according to their age:

the cats

Cats aren’t just good at being smelly cute – they’re also adept at putting together ZZZs. Newborn kittens sleep almost all day, says Bell. As they develop, their naps will decrease to around 22 hours and then settle down to around 20 hours a day.

adult cats

“Teenage cats’ bodies change so much that their sleep patterns are as wild as they get,” says Bell. As they settle into their adult years, cats typically sleep for 12 to 20 hours a day. She points out that this number can vary greatly based on their lifestyle. And just like many of us, cats tend to sleep more when bored and in the dark winter months.

Big cats

Bill says he goes back to those antics. Well, at least when it comes to frequent naps. “Big cats sleep as much as they did when they were young, about 20 hours a day,” she says. Bell adds that no matter your cat’s age, they probably won’t sleep all those hours at once, but instead take small cat naps lasting about an hour each.

As for what’s going on in their kitty brain when they’re sleeping — maybe they’re dreaming, says Bell. Unless they are pretending to be asleep. “Cats sometimes pretend to be asleep. We see that in cats who are closed off and don’t want to interact with their environment,” Bell explains. I notice this differs from a happy cat hopping in and out of light and deep sleep.

Incidentally, you may notice your cat entering a deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycle by her twitching, which is thought to be caused by dreaming.

Related: Why does my cat sleep on my head and face?

What to do if your cat’s sleeping habits change

If your cat is sleeping less or more than usual, the first thing you need to do is take her to the vet. “They could be sleeping more because of pain, dental problems, arthritis, diabetes, or depression,” says Bell. If you have an older cat, a change in sleeping habits may indicate feline cognitive dysfunction, which is like Alzheimer’s disease in pets. Don’t forget to share any details about other unusual behaviors in your cat, even if they seem insignificant.

If your cat has a clean bill of health, it’s time to assess her lifestyle and environment. Lack of sleep could mean that something in your cat’s environment is keeping her awake – like having her favorite bed in a crowded place or feeling anxious about a new family member.

Bell says she may also be too nervous to sleep or too bored to keep her eyes open. The cure is enrichment, enrichment, and enrichment.

  • Play with your cat twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes per session.

  • Enrich their environment with cat shelves, trees, scratching posts, and toys they can play with on their own.

  • Feed high-protein meals at least twice a day or as directed by your veterinarian.

  • Play with your cat right before bed, after the play session with a small meal or snack.

“Just remember that it’s normal and okay for your cat to sleep 20 hours a day,” says Bell. Just make sure you fill those four waking hours with love and enrichment. “Wand toys, puzzle feeders, training—whatever makes your cat happy will encourage her to want to get up more,” she says.

Related: Can cats see in the dark? How does a cat’s night vision differ from that of humans?

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