Cats don’t sleep 16 hours per day

Cats sleeping

Cats don’t sleep anymore than us. “Cats sleep their life away” – this is a complete myth peddled by millions of websites that are proliferating as fast as fruit flies ;). Cats may sleep less than us. They may need more sleep!

Yes, cats lie down, curl up and close their eyes, but they ain’t sleeping. A cat will go from “sleep mode” to fully “alert mode” faster than your high tech computer and be ready for action immediately thereafter; and it doesn’t take much to activate the alert mode. If I am asleep it would take a bomb to get me to do that.

What I am stating is that cats don’t sleep for 16 hours a day. They rest and within that extended rest period there are periods of genuine sleep. During this times a cat will snore, make gurgling sounds, twitch and show rapid eye movement indicating real sleep.

What I am stating is supported by the recent research on the purpose of sleep. Scientists believe that sleep is a time when toxins are removed from the brain. The brain cells shrink allowing the cerebral spinal fluid to flush out the toxic proteins.

It is also believed that these toxic proteins cause dementia. If this is true the flushing out process is not 100% effective. There is a gradual build up. Sleep deprivation leads to death ultimately.

The prevalence of dementia in cats and humans is similar. That is a massive statement and it is unsupported by statistics because we don’t have reliable statistics on dementia in cats. We have statistics for dementia in people. I can’t make a comparison.

However, my gut feeling based on general reading is that dementia in cats is at least as prevalent as it is for humans.

On the basis that I am correct, the cat and the human have similar amounts of brain flush-out time! Therefore they sleep for similar lengths of time.

In fact, cats may sleep less than humans. Cats are designed to hunt at dusk, dawn and at night and sleep more during the day. This is out of sync with the human lifestyle, which probably means the cat will be disturbed during the day when trying to get some genuine sleep.

Perhaps dementia in cats is higher than for people. One website ( states that half of all domestic cats aged 15 have dementia and 28% of cats between 11-14 show signs of senility. Aged 15 for cat equates to aged 77 for people. If that statistic is correct dementia is far worse in cats than humans (the Alzheimer’s Society states that 800,000 people have dementia in Britain – pop: 63.23m).

Drawing on the research referred to above, the indicators are that cats are not getting enough sleep! They have to sleep more.

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Cats don’t sleep 16 hours per day — 8 Comments

  1. Monty sleeps about the same amount of time we do or a little less. He sleeps when we do at night, a genuine deep sleep, and a little during the day. I will take a nap during the day when I can get one. We get up very early. If I’m home and Monty plays outside all day he will sleep later the following morning. A very busy day tuckers him out, but if he’s here alone a lot he rests more and isn’t as active. He certainly is not sleeping 16 hours per day. If he sleeps more during the day he is up more at night. We trained him to be less nocturnal by putting him by himself in his room every night for the first year or so of his life. With no stimulation and nothing to do he learned to go to sleep when we do and get up in the morning. One difference though– unless he was very active during the previous day he gets up at three. He seldom spends the night in his room now although sometimes he will ask to be put to bed in his room. My husband goes in and pets him and plays with him before closing the door, so maybe Monty misses that ritual. Or maybe our snoring keeps him up. He sleeps under our bed usually, but recently he slept on the bed most of the night, a first for him. Initially he would only sleep in his little tent bed, under our bed, under the desk, under the futon– he sought cover before going to sleep. He is getting more like a normal house cat and less like the feral cat he was. But he has never slept more than six to eight hours a day unless he gets very tired from playing outside or helping me around the house all day long. Then, just like us after a very busy dsy, he requires a little more sleep.

  2. I think a lot of cats curl up and try to sleep because of boredom! The ones who belong to people who don’t give them much attention and say ‘Cats like to sleep a lot’ that is.
    Walter and Jozef do catnap through the day, especially if it’s bad weather outside, but they are quietly watching to see if we are busy and wondering if they can persuade us to have some fun and games. They only have to ask lol and their wish is our command.
    They both come to bed with us around 10pm and settle down for a few hours but neither of them sleep all night, they wander around and look out of the windows and have a snack, they know whoevers turn it is won’t get up before around 5.30am.
    I often say to them what a pity it is that cats can’t read, a good book can make hours fly by.

    • I wrote as a serious article but tongue in cheek. It is based on my observations. You seem to be agreeing with me.

      As you say, cats do curl up because they are fed (no need to hunt) and warm etc. Their ears prick up at the slightest sound. They can’t be asleep. They just have their eyes shut, resting.

  3. I believe this to be true…though they do take lounging around seriously. As an interesting observation, Marvin who has lived outside most of his life has rapid moving ears constantly when he is napping. He finds it uncomfortable to nap in the house when there is activity. He just cannot settle down unless you sit quietly with him. He prefers the gentle sounds of birds and familiar hum of activity in the neighborhood. Bigfoot on the other hand. Who is comfy in his bed can be startled from a deep sleep, never hearing the sound of you approaching. I’d say that conditions dictate the amount of rest they get.


    cat snoozing

    • Marvin….rapid moving ears constantly when he is napping

      Perhaps Marvin is more alert because of his background. When a cat is asleep he is vulnerable. You wonder how much sleep stray cats get. Maybe not enough and perhaps this has an impact on their lifespan.

      Nice picture of Bigfoot. I turned it the right way up 😉

      • Michael I’ve often thought this about Strays and Ferals Can they ever really feel safe enough to sleep properly? Its so sad to think that they probably just ‘cat nap’ and if so what long term effect does this have on them?
        When I see my own cats in a deep sleep I feel thankful that they feel safe enough to be able to do that. I love to see them asleep I know I shoudn’t but sometimes I can’t resist kissing the top of a furry head and the subsequent response is usually something like a chirrup or in Ozzies case a deep’mmmm’.

        • Yes, feral cats are very vulnerable when asleep. They’ve got the radar on the go all the time. They have to remain alert. The idea that cats sleep for very long periods is another misconception in my opinion like the the idea that cats are aloof, when they are not.

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