Why your cat needs her naps

Cats are probably some of the laziest animals around. After all, they sleep all day, and expect their human slaves to bring them food day after day. Right? Wrong. Actually, the cat’s sleeping pattern makes perfect sense.

All in the genes

Generally cats are most active at dusk and dawn, and then for up to 16 hours a day they will sleep. As your cat gets older she will need even more sleep – as much as 20 hours a day! The explanation for this takes us back to the days before cats were domesticated, and had to fend for themselves in the wild. They had to hunt if they wanted regular meals, and for a cat hunting involves stalking, chasing and killing her prey – a process that burns a lot of energy. Therefore, the purpose of sleeping so much is to conserve as much energy as possible for the hunt – helping to ensure the cat’s survival. Our cats today are thus ‘programmed’ to sleep a lot, despite the fact that they get delicious meals served to them!

Sleep with one eye open …

Yes, they seem to sleep all the time, but it’s not always the same level of sleep. About three quarters of your cat’s naptime is spent in a ‘lighter’ sleep. In this state she still gets proper rest, but is alert enough to wake up instantly. When your cat is in light sleep her ears are still awake, twitching and rotating towards sounds, and her eyes might be slightly open.

In deep sleep your cat’s eyes will be tightly closed and she will usually be curled up, while the body works at renewing its energy.

Crazy at night

Have you ever been woken up at night by a cat who seems to have gone mad? According to behaviourist Louise Thompson this is quite normal! “It has been given lots of names – from ‘midnight madness’ to the ‘funny half-hour’, with many nicknames in between,” she says.

“A great deal of this kind of behaviour is linked to stalking and hunting. All play behaviour is a prelude to the real thing. Indoor cats can often be seen to do things that outdoor cats do, but without the lawns, leaves and great outdoors. They seem to adapt and use what they have on hand and what is available. Crashing through newspapers and paper bags could be seen as rushing through brush and garden leaves. Hiding behind curtains – stalking and pouncing on whatever passes – is also basic kitty ambush tactics. They often wriggle their back legs and prepare to pounce on imaginary prey.”

Why does she do this when you want to sleep? As a crepuscular predator your cat is most active at the times when her prey is active – so once again, it’s all in the genes.

Not so sweet dreams

For the sake of your kitty’s health it is important that you carefully observe her sleeping patterns. More sleep than what is normal for her as well as abnormal wakefulness could be an indication that something is wrong, and a visit to the vet might just be in order.


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