A sleeping cat is the epitome of peace of mind and coziness. Many cat owners would love to know what governs their cat’s sleep. We clarify all questions about snooze mode, dreams, and the perfect place to sleep for your cat.
Cats sleep through most of their lives, but no detail escapes their alert senses. Their resting behavior is that of a predator that in the wild can all too quickly become its own prey. Awaking and a dreaming eye, from deep sleep to operating temperature in a matter of seconds: That’s a typical cat!
When and How Often Do Cats Sleep?
The timing and length of sleep vary from cat to cat. The sleeping rhythm also depends on the age and temperament of the cat, on satiety, the time of year, and sexual interests:
- On average, two-thirds of the day is overslept, and significantly more in young and old cats.
- In winter or when it rains, most animals spend an above-average amount of time sleeping.
- Wild cats, which must hunt themselves, sleep less than domestic cats.
Cats are naturally crepuscular: Most cats are awake in the morning and evening exploring their territory. However, they adapt their sleeping times to their human habits. Especially cats whose owners go to work sleep a lot during the day and demand attention and activity as soon as the family returns. Outdoor cats often retain a natural habit of being out and about at night. However, if you only let your pet out of the house during the day, this rhythm can also change and adapt to your own.
How Do Cats Sleep?
In cats, light sleep phases alternate with deep sleep phases. This allows the brain to recover.
- Cats’ light sleep phases last about 30 minutes each. Actually, these sections are more of a snooze. They can be interrupted by a sudden startle, as much of the environment continues to be perceived.
- A subsequent deep sleep phase lasts about seven minutes and takes up about four hours spread over the day. If a cat is awakened by a possible danger, for example, a loud noise, it is immediately wide awake. Otherwise, waking up is a lengthy process of stretching and yawning. The length of sleep varies from cat to cat and is not the same every day.
However, our cats spend most of their time in a kind of half-sleep. Rubin Naiman, asleep and dream researcher at the University of Arizona, sums it up like this: “It is said that it is impossible to be awake and asleep at the same time, but cats prove us otherwise. Not only can they sleep sitting up, but also their olfactory and hearing are active during this time.”
What Do Cats Dream Of?
During the deep sleep phase, so-called REM sleep occurs, in which cats dream, just like humans. REM is the abbreviation for “rapid eye movement”, i.e. moving the eyes back and forth quickly with the lids closed. Tails, whiskers, and paws may also twitch during these dream sleep stages.
In dreams, we process the events of the day, albeit less in a logical order and more through visual images. Various research provides evidence that all mammals dream, reliving the impressions of the day. So it stands to reason that cats dream too.
As early as the 1960s, neuroscientist Michel Jouvet researched REM sleep in cats and deactivated an area of the brain in sleeping animals that prevents movement during deep sleep. Meanwhile, although asleep, the cats began to hiss, prowl around and display typical hunting behavior.
From this one can conclude that cats also process experiences of the waking state in their dreams and, for example, go hunting, playing, or grooming themselves in their dreams. Various studies, such as that of the veterinary neurologist Adrian Morrison, support this thesis: he also observed how cats in REM sleep performed the same movements as when hunting mice without paralysis.
Violent movements while sleeping often gives the impression that the cat is going through a nightmare. However, you should never wake up a cat that is deep asleep and dreaming, as they can react very frightened or aggressively, depending on the dream they are experiencing. The following applies: Always allow your cat to sleep and give her happy cat moments when she is awake – this is the best protection against bad dreams.
The Perfect Sleeping Place for Your Cat
As different as cats are, they also choose their sleeping place. Some prefer it quiet, almost cavernous, others like the windowsill. It can be a warm place and often a little higher. You should consider the following if you want to set up a permanent sleeping place for your cat:
All-Round View: The roost should be in a quiet spot where the cat is undisturbed but still has a good view of what is happening in its territory.
Safety: Drafts, direct sunlight, air conditioning, and humidity should be taken into account when choosing a place and avoided if possible.
Discretion: cats love hiding places! A cuddly cave or a blanket offers safety and security.
Hygiene: The cat bed should be easy to clean. Do not use strongly scented textile sprays, fabric softeners, or similar when cleaning.
Fluffy factor: Cats like it warm and fluffy, especially in winter. A heating pad provides additional comfort.