Cat naps have been a part of human life since the ancient Egyptians decided to emulate their revered pets’ behavior and grab a quick snooze. They were on to something, too.. Cat naps, which NASA says ideally should be between 10 to 20 minutes, can increase alertness, lower stress and improve memory, and give you a better boost than a cup of coffee at least for humans.
For cats, laziness is a way of life. When cats aren’t eating, scratching, or asking to be scratched, they are usually catching 40 winks—or 60 winks or maybe 80 winks. Cats are very good at staying well rested. In fact, according to Animal Planet’s website, “Cats are among the top sleepers in the animal kingdom.” Cats average around 16 to 20 hours of sleep a day, with older cats and newborns sleeping significantly more. Indoor cats tend to sleep more than outdoor cats, too, because there is less to do and less to worry about.
The reason that cats can take it so easy is that in the wild they are at the top of the food chain. That means they do not need to worry about being eaten while snoozing, which makes it easy to relax. It also means that when cats are ready to eat they will need to catch their dinner and that uses a lot of energy, energy that they have cleverly been saving up by sleeping all day. In the wild after cats chase down their prey, they eat a protein-packed meal and settle in for another nap. They don’t need to spend hours grazing like cows or fishing salmon out of a stream like bears. For cats, life is mostly a cycle of eat, sleep, and repeat.
House cats of course don’t have to hunt for their food. That doesn’t mean their instincts have changed, though. “Domesticated felines, like their wild counterparts, sleep about 16 hours a day, on a pretty regular schedule, saving up their energy for the hunt,” writes Animal Planet. “You never do know when the gourmet food's going to run out.” This genetic makeup is also why cats tend to be most active in early morning and during the twilight hours when they are instinctively more on their guard waiting for predator and prey, even if they live in style in a 12th floor condo.
While cats are snoozing, they are not always in deep sleep. As cat owners know, while a cat may be sleeping, if something interesting starts happening, the little furball springs to full attention. Cats sleep with one eye open, explains PetMD.com, “Deep sleep tends to last about five minutes, after which the cat goes back to dozing. This dozing-deep sleep pattern goes on until the cat wakes up.” When they are in their deep sleeps, cats can dream, reports Catster.” If you’ve seen your cat’s whiskers or paws twitching while she’s asleep, there’s a good chance she’s dreaming.”
So how much sleep is too much? It depends on the cat. As the kitty’s trusted human, you are the best judge of normal sleep and behavior. Cats are quite literally creatures of habit who live by their schedules. If your cat usually wakes at 7 a.m. and demands breakfast and he suddenly starts showing up at 9 or not really being interested in waking up at all, it may be time to talk to your vet. “If the behavior changes for only a few days, your cat may have just been sleeping off a mild bug,” according to VetInfo.com, “Usually, serious health problems will have other symptoms such as behavior changes and changes in eating and drinking patterns. If there are other symptoms, visit your veterinarian.” The site also indicates that cats may sleep longer than usual if they are stressed, anxious, or bored which are much easier to remedy and much less frightening than medical issues.