Cats are complex and curious creatures that often baffle their owners. To many, cats are mysterious and their behaviours appear unpredictable at times. If you often find yourself wondering just how exactly cats manage their seemingly superhuman levels of energy and activity, you may be surprised to learn the secret lies in part within their sleeping patterns.
Cats are known to have sleeping patterns that are very different from our own. They do not have the same need for 8 hours of consecutive sleep as humans. Rather, cats may sleep for anywhere from one to twenty hours, or even more, or as little as four hours a day. Cats are polyphasic sleepers, which means they like to take multiple naps. So, it’s not uncommon for your kitty to be dozing off for an hour or two at a time and wake up to play or explore.
Cats have an extremely effective system for getting their daily quota of rest without fail. They usually stick to the same routine, always taking breaks to relax in between more intense activity. Cats may sleep soundly while tucked away in a small space, such as under a sofa cushion or in a sunbeam. Their sleep is often so deep that they cannot be roused until they are ready.
But what about nighttime? We all know cats that stay awake long after their owners have gone to sleep. That’s because cats are nocturnal hunters – their alertness peaks at night and is highest between dusk and dawn. So, until it’s time to settle down, cats mainly remain alert and ‘on watch’.
Cat owners now understand that years of pet food marketing made us believe cats should take in a full day’s nutrients in one feeding. However, the truth of the matter is that cats prefer to munch a bit all day long. Equally as important, cats also like to ‘graze’ on short power naps throughout their day. To a cat, eating and sleeping are natural activities – and often go hand in hand.
Like humans, cats have hormone cycles that are affected by the amount of light they experience in a day. When the lights go out and their signal for change, cats experience their ‘second wind’. That’s the time of day when cats are primed for hunting – and staying up late. Hormones like melatonin and serotonin kick in, signaling a time of hunting and playing, and resulting in a boost of energy that cat owners often miss out on.
But, for cats, sleep still matters. Even when cats are highly active and full of energy, their bodies are still flush with melatonin. The hormone helps keep cats calm and watches over the cat’s wellbeing during the night, ensuring they get the necessary rest they need – a short power nap here and there – to stay healthy and fit.
The Silver Lining of Sleepy Cats
Some cats appear to sleep more than others – but cats getting enough sleep also means they are active and alert when they need to be. Cats that are well-rested in between their nocturnal activities are more likely to be faster, smarter hunters. If a cat sleeps too little, and lacks the energy to hunt, it can be a problem for their health.
Excessive sleep, however, may not just be related to the animal’s level of activity or hunting skills. Cats who receive ample love, care and attention from their guardians may also find themselves needing additional sleep time – perhaps as a way of calming and feeling safe. This could suggest cats are in a more secure and content state of mind, and is a silver lining for those cats who indulge in multiple sleeping sessions.
In their sleeping patterns, cats show us just how capable they are of sleeping like a cat – taking in enough rest, in multiple doses and bouts of energy, to keep their minds, bodies and relationships as healthy as possible.
Ceiling Cats Who Playfully Nap
These ceiling cat naps, as some call them, are one of the most adorable poses cats take – all four feet tucked in and head up, the cat looks like an attentive soldier ready for the call of duty. This position is often used to stay alert and conserve body heat, making it an ideal position for cold weather.
It also implies that cats may be partially aware of their natural tendency to be nocturnal – although they don’t quite understand why they still may feel more awake at night. This ceiling cat position is often used right before cats take their own nap and settle into a deeper sleep.
Watching your cat sleep can be a very rewarding experience; it’s an opportunity to observe your pet in its most natural state, snuggling up and taking a break – and it is also a great chance to learn more about your cat’s behavior.