Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

No, it's not because they're lazy!

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know that the phrase “cat nap” is just about the understatement of the century. Cats don’t just take a quick nap—they sleep for hours and hours. But how much do cats sleep, exactly, and why do cats sleep so much?

How much do cats sleep?

There’s no precise answer to the question “how many hours do cats sleep.” On average, cats sleep about 12 to 15 hours every day, but the exact amount depends on other factors. PetMD claims that young kittens and older cats sleep more, on average, than adult cats. How active your cat is also makes a difference: “The more active the cat is, the more sleep it will need,” explains Daniel Rotman, CEO of PrettyLitter.

Though you might see some cats sleep for up to 20 hours a day, Jodi Ziskin, healthy pet coach and Director of Communications for Treatibles, warns that “cats that sleep more than 15 hours a day may be doing so out of boredom” and might need a bit more playtime. You should also be on the lookout for these subtle signs your cat could be depressed.

Are cats nocturnal?

Despite what you may have heard, cats are actually not nocturnal—cats are crepuscular. Unlike nocturnal animals, which are active at night, crepuscular animals are active at dusk and dawn. “Cats tend to exert a whole lot of energy during these hours,” Ziskin says. When they sleep, they’re “recharging” to enable them to be active during the dusk and dawn hours. So, if you used to think cats sleep so much because they’re lazy, well, now you know the truth! “We’re not lazy” is definitely one of the things your cat would love to tell you.

Why these hours? Well, cats’ sleeping habits have to do with their evolution and their history as hunters. The cats of old would hunt during the early morning and twilight hours and then sleep during the main daytime and nighttime hours when their natural predators would be on the prowl. This is part of the reason cats often like to sleep “tucked away” somewhere.

Why do cats sleep so much?

Now that you know cats are crepuscular, the question isn’t so much “why do cats sleep so much” as much as it’s “why they sleep at the times they do.” They’re instinctually wired to hunt at dusk and dawn and hunker down from predators in the middle of the day and night. But part of the reason cats sleep so much might also have to do with how they sleep. Cats have a reputation for sleeping a lot, but you might be surprised to learn how much dogs sleep, too!

“Cats are known to be able to doze in a simple cat nap or to fall into a very deep sleep,” Rotman told RD.com. During the cat nap phase, “Even though it may appear that cats are in a deep sleep, they are still very alert to their surroundings,” Ziskin explains. “They can spring into action if they hear or smell something of interest.” This also has to do with their instinct for avoiding predators hunting at night. They do sleep deeply too, but, per PetMD, “Deep sleep tends to last about five minutes, after which the cat goes back to dozing.” This back-and-forth sleep pattern may also help to explain why cats need to sleep for so many hours. Now that you know why your kitty seems so sleepy, find out the explanations behind other things you never knew about your cat.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.