Why do we often refer to our furry felines in the form of “catnap” when we’re ready for a little shut-eye?
And just why do cats sleep so much?
Well, I suppose it’s no mystery where the phrase “cat nap” comes from considering that on average, cats sleep about 10-15 hours a day!
That’s a lot of downtime for sure.
But just what is it that has them so tired?
Well, it may seem they’re just plain old lazy, but let’s look at it from Fluffy’s point of view…
There are a number of theories that may explain your kitty’s seemingly excessive need for sleep.
To begin with, cats are crepuscular. It’s an interesting word that basically means our cats are most active at dawn and at dusk or — the twilight hours.
Now with that said, some crepuscular animals will adapt to their surroundings and actually alter the times of day that their most active. This ability, or maybe it’s even desire, to adapt holds true for some cats — but certainly not all.
If you’re one of the millions of cat owners who wonders why your furry little family member insists on waking you at 4, 5, 6 am – there’s your answer – he’s being “crepuscular” and there’s not too much you can do about it.
Along with being crepuscular by nature, and even though we’ve domesticated the small version of cats, in the wild, the big ones are predators. The lion, cheetah and jaguar for instance, sleep during the day and do most of their hunting at night. It takes an astounding amount of energy to stalk, chase, catch and kill prey. To conserve energy, wildcats must rest as much as possible during their non-hunting hours.
I know you’re probably thinking, “But Fluffy isn’t out hunting all night!” Well, believe it or not, the common housecat, or even your very-special-not-so-common-housecat, although fed by his humans, still remains hardwired to hunt and chase and therefore, he’s also wired for the rest and recharge parts as well.
Chances are you’ve actually witness this predator behavior with your own cat and his catnip scented toys, or with a crawling or flying insect or other unsuspecting “prey.” There he is, creeping, eyes steady, staying low and in the shadows (at least in his mind he’s in the shadows, he may just be under the desk!) and suddenly – WHAM! He’s midair and mid-pounce on that stuffed mouse you bought him for Christmas.
Another theory that may help explain why your cat needs all that slumber time, or that plays a part in his need for additional rest, is for digestion. His protein-rich diet requires more rest time to aid in proper digestion.
A third thought on the crazy-cat-nap-patterns of cats is what exactly occurs during those naps. Like humans, cats experience two patterns of brain activity while sleeping. While awake, his brain is broadcasting in clusters of sporadic peaks. When beginning his nap, those peaks become long, irregular waves. This period of sleep is referred to as “slow-wave sleep” and commonly lasts approximately 15-30 minutes.
Perhaps during slow-wave sleep, you’ve seen Fluffy sitting up – yet sleeping, or surely you’ve seen him sleeping with his paws tucked under him and head still raised? Well that takes us back to the predator in him. He’s ready to pounce at the drop of a hat (or bug or other possible prey or threat ) — just in case!
As his sleep becomes deeper, he’ll stretch out, cuddle up, roll to one side and at this point, his brain patterns are smaller and they’re closer together, much like his awake patterns. One would think this would mean he’s not fully asleep but to the contrary, he’s in a very deep state of sleep referred to as “rapid sleep” (hence the quicker brain movement.) As a matter of fact, when in this rapid sleep state (which usually lasts about five minutes,) Fluffy is pretty hard to wake up. Once the rapid sleep passes, he’ll return to his slow-wave pattern and from there, alternate back and forth until he’s finally awake.
1. Kittens under 6 weeks of age don’t experience slow wave sleep and instead fall straight into rapid sleep.
While we cat owners tend to sleep in long stretches (about 6-8 hours) cats commonly sleep in shorter stretches or, catnaps (now you see where the term originates!) Additionally during about 70% of sleeping time, cat’s senses will continue to take in and record smells and sounds.
Again, many cats will adapt to their owners sleep patterns – to a point. Chances are, to hang out with the family he loves, Fluffy will put off a nap or two during the day or evening, but he certainly won’t put them all off! After all, with all eating, dreaming, pouncing and recharging that’s happening during your cat’s very busy day, it’s no wonder he needs a little shut-eye every now and again…and again…and again…