How Many Cat Naps is Too Many?
Cat behaviorist Jennifer Van de Kieft on if there is such a thing as too much sleep.
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Cats be sleepin’, amiright? But is it possible for them to sleep too much? Also, why do they always have to wake you up so damn early — howling at the crack of dawn like the house is on fire? Rude! You’d lock them out of the bedroom if it weren’t for the fact that closed doors only seem to make them crazier. So, instead, you drag your begrudgingly awake butt out of bed to feed and water them. And as soon as their done eating, before you’ve even finished your first cup of coffee, you see them laying down for their first nap of the day. “Good lord,” you think you yourself, “this has got to be the laziest cat that has ever lived.”
But no, that’s just how cats are, says feline behavior consultant Jennifer Van de Kieft. “Cats spend 40 to 50% of their day sleeping, usually spaced out in short intervals throughout the day, rather than all at once, like we do. “It probably has to do with their instinct to hunt and their need to eat often. A cat is designed to hunt an average of 10 mice per day, and they need rest in between hunts.” Although most domesticated cats do little to no hunting, the behavior is still hard-wired into them and their sleeping (and eating) habits are impacted accordingly.
So, is there such a thing as too much sleep?
Yes, says Van de Kieft, although exactly what constitutes “too much” depends on the age and temperament of each individual cat. “An adult cat will sleep roughly nine to 12 hours, but a senior cat may sleep more, and a kitten will usually sleep in proportion to the amount of activity they are engaged in.” So if you’ve got a new kitten and you need a little peace and quite, make sure you wear that little fur ball out with lots of play, first.
Play with your cat to avoid oversleep
Playtime, it’s worth noting, is essential for cats at all stages of life. It keeps them happy and healthy, and gives them an outlet for their natural hunting instincts. “Often, cats will oversleep because they are bored,” says Van de Kieft, so it’s important that you keep them stimulated with cat toys, games, and even another cat or two to keep them company (if they’re into that sort of thing).
Too much sleep can sometimes be a sign of medical distress...
So make sure you know what’s normal for your cat. That way you’ll realize when something is off and can respond quickly and effectively. For example, if you notice that your cat is breathing a lot faster in deep sleep than they normally do, that could indicate a worsening heart murmur, in which case you should consult your vet right away.
Can you adjust your cat’s sleep schedule?
What you can’t do is train your cat to sleep on the same schedule you do, no matter how much you might want to. Cats are crepuscular creatures, which means they are most active at the beginning and end of the day, and tend to lay low the rest of the time. So if you want to sleep in a bit more in the mornings, make sure you give your cat plenty of attention and exercise right before bed, and try moving their end-of-day meal to later in the evening. You also might want to consider an automatic feeder, at least for their first meal of the day.
It’s also quite difficult to train cats to sleep in a particular spot. “Cats like to change spots,” says Van de Kieft, “so the best thing to do is provide options and choices for rest spots and let your cat decide what’s best for themselves. They generally like warmth, so a heated bed might do the trick. They also tend to like sleeping high-up, so if you’re trying to encourage one into a new bed you’ve bought, place it somewhere off the ground to make it more appealing.” Alternately, if your cat is more of the low-down, hiding-under-the-furniture kind of sleeper, you may want to find them a cave-like bed or blanket that fits the spot they’ve already chosen for themselves and just make it a little bit cozier.
Or, you know, just leave them to sort themselves out. If there’s one thing cats are great at, it’s turning just about any surface into a bed. As long as your cat is getting at least 10 naps a day, they’re probably doing just fine.
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Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.