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How Come Cats Spend So Much Time Asleep?

One trait that even people that don’t really know cats well tend to be aware of is that cats spend large portions of their time asleep, and most of us who know cats have been shocked and somewhat impressed at times by just how long our cats can sleep for at a stretch.

Your cat probably sleeps for far longer in total each day than you might think too – around 16 hours a day in fact, and potentially even longer for kittens and elderly cats. Whilst cats might well sleep for many hours at a time when they have nothing better to do or if the weather is very cold, most of this sleep is taken a different times throughout the day, interspersed with periods of activity.

However, it can’t be denied that whenever and however your cat chooses to catch their zzz’s, your cat probably spends more of their time asleep than awake – but have you ever wondered why this is?

In this article we will explain all of the various factors that dictate how much cats sleep, and why they sleep as much as they do. Read on to learn more.

Evolution and survival

The sleep patterns of cats and how much and when they sleep comes down to how cats have evolved over the course of millennia, in order to adapt and thrive within their environments. Cats are obligate carnivores that in the wild, get most of their food from hunting, and scavenging too to a lesser extent.

This means that finding and catching food takes up a lot of the time of a wild or feral cat, and this is a very energy-intensive process. Cats have evolved to find food and eat what they need to, and then to conserve energy until they are hungry again or otherwise need to respond to a physical or environmental need.

Cats are opportunistic about when they sleep – they will sleep when they are tired of course, but they also know the value of taking their rest where they can get it, in case they don’t have the opportunity later.

Cats and their circadian rhythms

Many cat lovers hold the mistaken believe that cats are nocturnal, but this is not the case. Cats can see well at night and may well be active during part of the night, but their peak times for being awake and active are at dawn and dusk, which makes them crepuscular rather than nocturnal.

Cats originally evolved within hot, dry climates when the peak of the heat would occur during the day, and this means that cats are just a likely to be snoozing in daylight hours as they are to be awake. You might well notice that your cat is the most alert and wakeful at dawn and dusk, and that they will spend large parts of the rest of the day and night asleep.

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Conserving warmth and resources

Cats also tend to sleep more when the weather is cold or when resources are in short supply, as this allows them to conserve energy and resources when hunting will be challenging, food scarce, and conditions inhospitable.

Winter weather will generally see your warm-blooded cat spending more time in the house and catching up on their sleep than summer does, and they will also tend to be keener to stay close to sources of warmth and food.


Cats are very responsive and adaptive to their wider environment, and their behaviour and activity levels will vary depending on what the situation at hand requires. If your cat is well fed and safe from predators, they will sleep more; whereas if they are in a new place, know that threats are nearby or that food is scarce, they will spend more time awake and alert accordingly.

When the situation changes, your cat will catch up on the sleep that they might have missed out on before, all ready to face the next challenge.

How deeply do cats sleep?

Cats might spend around 16 hours a day asleep, but this is not the same deep type of sleep that we humans usually enjoy. Because cats are both predators and also, potential prey for larger animals themselves, they can awaken quickly, and their bodies and minds remain ready to respond and spring into action when needed. It is quite easy to wake a cat sufficiently that they will assess their surroundings and see if the cause for waking up warrants attention or not, and a lot of the napping that cats do is not as immersive and deep as human sleep.

Cats will also get to know when they can expect to be fed, have their owner come home, or when they will get some fuss or attention, and our pet cats also tend to somewhat alter their own natural sleeping patterns to better fit in with our own lifestyles.

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