Catnap Like a Pro: Why Felines are the Masters of Power Napping

Cat sleeping
Cat sleeping

From Crepuscular to Comatose: Decoding a Cat’s Bizarre Sleep Cycles

To the casual observer, a cat’s sleep patterns can seem downright bizarre – almost supernatural. One moment they’re alert and prowling at dawn’s first light, embracing their crepuscular nature as a hunter. The next, they’ve seamlessly transitioned into a near-comatose state, sleeping for hours on end in what appears to be a deep, motionless slumber. This Jekyll and Hyde sleep cycle is baffling yet perfectly normal for our feline friends. The secret lies in their unique biological rhythms and polyphasic sleep habits.

Cats are known for sleeping excessively compared to humans. On average, cats sleep between 12-16 hours per day, with some sleeping up to 20 hours. There are several reasons why cats require so much sleep:

Energy Conservation

As natural hunters, cats need to conserve energy for bursts of activity like chasing prey. Sleeping for long periods allows them to rest and recharge for these intense spurts. Even domesticated cats retain this instinct to sleep and regain energy efficiently.

Crepuscular Nature

Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. They tend to sleep more during the day and night to conserve energy for their peak activity periods. This sleep pattern aligns with their ancestral behaviours as predators.

Light Sleep Cycles

Unlike humans who typically sleep for one long period, cats sleep intermittently with multiple shorter nap cycles throughout the day. They experience lighter stages of sleep that allow them to wake up easily if a threat arises. This promotes survival by maintaining alertness.

Unlike humans who typically experience one long stretch of sleep, cats cycle through multiple shorter periods of light and deep sleep over 24 hours. They’ll catnap for an average of 78 minutes at a time, adding up to 12-20 hours of total sleep per day. This allows them to remain semi-alert, able to wake at the slightest disturbance as a survival mechanism harkening back to their predatory origins. Yet they still manage to achieve a level of deep restorative sleep required to recharge their bodies through these fractured sleep phases. It’s a dizzying dance from wakefulness to REM sleep and back again in a seemingly comatose loop – all part of a cat’s finely tuned and utterly bizarre sleep rhythms.

Polyphasic Sleeping

Cats are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they divide their sleep into multiple phases rather than one continuous period. They take many naps averaging 78 minutes each, adding up to their total daily sleep requirement.

Age and Health Factors

Kittens and senior cats tend to sleep more than prime adult cats due to their high energy needs for growth and development or lower energy levels with age. Illness or lack of stimulation can also increase sleep duration.

So in essence, the extraordinary amount of sleep exhibited by cats is an evolutionary adaptation that maximises their ability to rest efficiently while staying alert to environmental changes as predators. Their sleep patterns are quite different from humans.


  1. https://www.pawlyclinic.com/blog/why-do-cats-sleep-so-much-understanding-their-sleep-patterns 
  1. https://tractive.com/blog/en/good-to-know/why-do-cats-sleep-so-much 
  1. https://www.petmd.com/cat/behavior/why-do-cats-sleep-so-much 
  1. https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/cat-behaviour/cats-and-sleep 
  1. https://sleepdoctor.com/animal-sleep-habits/how-much-do-cats-sleep/ 

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