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Your Cat and His Crazy Sleep Cycles

2 white tabby cats

Loud sounds in the night can be unnerving and a possible cause for concern, unless you are a cat parent. All of us with cats are familiar with the midnight ‘zoomies’ that can turn our house into an obstacle course for the pleasure of the cat, and for the most part, we’ve come to terms with the craziness.  But why do cats act like this, and what might the reason behind those crazy, late nigh cat follies be?  The Kurious Kat has some answers for you that might help you better understand your feline furbaby..

Cat Sleep Science!

Our feline companions spend two thirds of their lives asleep. While older cats, or those with health issues may sleep a bit more, most healthy cats are snoozing between 12-18 hours each day!  The reason for all this sleep goes back to the cats ancestor, the african wild cat. These wild cats needed to hunt to survive, and that stalking, chasing, killing thing thends to burn up a lot of energy, therefore sleep is important to help them recharge and prepare. While our feline companions today may not need to ‘hunt’ their food, the behavior and characteristics are still there from their ancestors long ago.

Like humans, our cats have a circadian rhythm, meaning their internal clock is on a 24-hour cycle with the day. Humans are diurnal, falling asleep and waking with the sun, but cats are crepuscular, which means they experience two peaks of activity during their day: dawn and dusk.  This sleep cycle allowed their ancestors to prey on early birds at sunrise and rodents at night. This ancestral  behavior is why your furry feline may experience those midnight zoomies! With those peak hunting times being at night and no prey to hunt in your house, kitties have claimed this time as their personal zooming witching hour.  When your cat is awake, they like to enjoy their energy usage by hunting and playing, even if you are sound asleep! A cat sleeps in a polyphasic sleep pattern by taking ‘cat naps’ throughout the day rather than sleeping in one, long duration of time like we do. These naps are usually 1 to 1 ½ hours long and may be interrupted by something peaking their interest.

REM and *NREM Sleep

While your cat is snoozing, you may notice their ears move, tracking sounds around them as if they were awake. Our little hunters stay alert even when they appear to be sleeping, and this alertness occurs while cycling through Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. This way of sleeping allows kitties to recharge while in a light slumber, but ready to spring into action at the drop of a pin if needed!


In humans, dreaming occurs during REM sleep, and our kitties things are no different.  Cats are quite able to dream, and during these dreams, your kitty’s eyes may jolt behind their closed lids as their minds wander. They may move and twitch, make noises and react to their dreams just like we might. About 30-40% of the time, a feline’s slumber is animated with dreams. They may even be dreaming about you!

How much is too much?

As always it is important to keep an eye on your kitty’s habits, including their sleep. Be mindful of your cat’s surroundings to make sure things aren’t affecting their rest time in a negative way, as changes in the environment, house and/or cohabitants may result in sleep changes for your cat. If your cat is sleeping more or less than is normal for him, it can be an indicator of health issues, so if sleep changes persist, a vet visit should be scheduled to address any possible health problems or rule them out. Things that can affect your cats sleep can include hyperthyroidism which can cause lethargy and restlessness; hearing problems, as a reduced ability to hear may have your cat sleeping more since they may not be easily awakened by sounds around them, or sleeping less for the same reason,

man sleeping with ginger cat
sleep ginger cat

which may cause them some anxiety; boredom can also cause restlessness in your cat due to lack of stimulation, and can also cause your cat to sleep more than usual if they’re bored wtih nothing to do.  People and their cats both dream of engaging dreamscapes and need rest, so we do have these things in common, and because cats react to weather like we do, maybe the next time the rain starts to fall, you and your cat can cozy up to watch the rain fall outside and drift off into one of those cat naps!

Sleep is our way, and a cats way, of rest, regeneration, and peace. A happy sleep schedule, for felines and humans alike, is the key to a healthy life.

Article Written by Taelyn Livingston


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