It’s no secret cats have a fondness for daytime snoozing, giving rise to the familiar term “cat naps.” But do cats sleep at night?
Indeed, most cats spend a portion of the night sleeping. However, they typically exhibit bursts of energy and activity in the late evening or early morning hours. This nighttime vigor can sometimes interrupt their human companions’ sleep, as the felines prowl around the house and unleash the zoomies.
Why do cats follow this sleeping pattern? And what can pet parents do to help their cats rest more at night? Let’s find out.
Are Cats Nocturnal?
The myth that cats are nocturnal creatures is quite common, but they’re actually crepuscular, which means that they’re most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk.
According to Dr. Jessica Taylor, DVM, vice president of veterinary medicine at PetFolk, this pattern stems from their ancestry. Wild cats find these times optimal for hunting, given that they see best in low-light conditions and their prey (rodents, rabbits, etc.) are active during these times.
“It’s often more advantageous to rest during the hotter parts of the day, conserving energy for the evening hunt,” says Dr. Taylor.
This behavior explains why your kitty might seem to be winding up when you’re winding down for the night, or why you might be woken up by your cat tearing through your house at 4 a.m. like they’re on a caffeine high. It’s all part of their natural rhythm and crepuscular nature.
Do Cats Sleep at Night?
Cats sleep a lot — from 12 to 20 hours a day. This range varies based on their age, lifestyle, boredom level, and even the season.
When it comes to a cat’s sleeping schedule, their crepuscular behavior means they’re likely to take several naps throughout the day and night, interspersed with periods of activity, particularly in the late evening and early morning.
“When they’re awake, they can be very active and expend a lot of energy in a short amount of time,” says Dr. Taylor. This commonly looks like sudden sprints around your house (aka “zoomies”). They also might just poke around and explore.
So, while cats do sleep at night, it’s not in one long stretch like humans. Instead, their sleep is segmented, allowing for times of alertness and activity.
Why a Cat Might Be More Active at Night Than Usual
There are certain factors that might make a cat more active at night than the average cat.
While kittens require more sleep than adult cats, usually up to 20 hours a day, this sleep is often broken up into shorter periods than adult cats. Consequently, kittens may have longer periods of activity during the night.
Certain medical issues can disrupt a cat’s sleep schedule. For example, vision loss, changes in blood pressure, or hyperthyroidism can cause restlessness and confusion, leading to more nighttime disturbances or vocalizations, says Dr. Taylor.
Some breeds are inherently more active than others. For instance, Siamese and Bengal cats are known for their energetic and playful nature and might be more prone to nighttime activity than more sedate breeds like Persian or Ragdoll cats.
How to Get a Cat to Sleep at Night
If you’re finding that your cat is too active during the night, causing you sleep disturbances, there are several strategies you can adopt to encourage your feline friend to sleep more during the night.
Increase Their Daytime Enrichment
Keeping your cat engaged and active during the day can help them sleep better at night. Anything that engages their natural hunting instincts can be particularly beneficial, says Dr. Taylor.
Aim to engage kittens and adult cats in two daily play sessions, each lasting between 10 to 20 minutes. For senior cats, a single play session per day is sufficient.
It can also help to enrich their environment with cat trees, scratching posts, and toys they can play with by themselves.
Play to Their Natural Rhythm
Cats are hardwired to follow a natural rhythm: hunt, feast on their catch, unwind, sleep. You can use this pattern to your advantage by engaging your cat in a play session close to your bedtime and then serving them a small meal or snack. With any luck, your cat will settle down after they finish eating and drift off to sleep.
If your cat tends to wake you up at dawn for food, consider setting a timed feeder to dispense a snack at, say, 4 a.m. to tide them over until breakfast.
Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Ensure your cat has a quiet, comfortable, and safe place to sleep. This could be a dedicated cat bed, access to your bed, or a cozy blanket on your couch.
Consider Over-the-Counter Supplements
Some pet parents have found success with certain over-the-counter supplements, like those containing chamomile or melatonin. When given to your cat before your bedtime, these supplements can help calm your kitty and encourage nighttime sleep. Just be sure to always consult with a veterinarian before giving your cat a new supplement.
When to Seek Additional Support
While small modifications to their daily routine, diet, and environment can help sync your cat’s sleep schedule with yours, there may be instances where these adjustments aren’t effective.
If your efforts to adjust your cat’s sleep pattern don’t seem to bring about a noticeable change, consulting a cat behaviorist may help. They can provide tailored strategies to gently modify your cat’s sleep schedule without causing undue stress or discomfort.
If you notice a sudden change in your cat’s sleep patterns, visit your veterinarian. Certain medical conditions can significantly impact a cat’s sleep, and these can often go unnoticed without professional input.
Remember, seeking additional support doesn’t mean you’ve failed your feline companion. On the contrary, it demonstrates a deep level of care and commitment to their well-being, ensuring that they have the happiest and healthiest life by your side.