Here is the truth about how long cats sleep. There is a lot of incorrect information on the internet about how long cats sleep. Nearly all the articles exaggerate the amount of time a cat sleeps. The exaggerations can be excessive. Even the top ranked sites, as found by Google in a search, overstate the amount of time cats sleep.
The reason why the authors of these articles get it wrong is because (a) there is no comprehensive information on this subject on Google Scholar which is a huge database of scientific studies (b) there are tens of thousands of webpages on the internet written by authors who recycle the misinformation that is on other webpages and (c) there has been no solid research on the duration of cat sleep – until now! – and (d) the cat books also get it wrong or have little to say on the matter, indicating a lack of available information.
For example, the excellent The Cat, Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health has only one reference, which is to newborns, “neonatal kittens should spend the majority of their time sleeping….” That is it. There is nothing in Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook. There is nothing in The Welfare of Cats. Both are first rate reference books.
We are in the dark! Asleep on the job 😉 Ubiquitously, authoritative authors on websites state that the domestic cat sleeps from 12 hours to as much as 20 daily. A Google search for “how long do cats sleep” results in Google presenting at the very top of the first page: “12 – 16 h Cat, Daily sleep”. Google lifts that from Wikipedia (what else?). Wikipedia also states that 13–14 is the average time a cat sleeps. And where does Wikipedia get that figure from? Sadly and incorrectly, there is no reference for that.
According to Google, the top website (other than Wikipedia) on cat sleep is PetMD. They say that cats sleep an average of 15 hours a day and up to 20 hours per day. This is clearly copied from Wikipedia and as I said, Wikipedia do not quote a source for that information. It is incorrect in my opinion.
There is only one solid guide for how long cats sleep: a BBC documentary which I am yet to see as it will be screened next Monday which is about the sleeping habits of animals. Giraffes need a mere 2 hours sleep and cuttlefish and octopuses dream as can be seen by their rapid eye movement during sleep.
Gorillas and lions slept for a similar time to human teenagers at 8 hours or more “…lions grab a full eight”. That flies in the face of many websites. I have read that lions sleep the most of all cats at 19 hours per day. Teenagers need between 8 1/2 to 9 1/4 hours (National Sleep Foundation). Yahoo Answers state that lions sleep for around 20 hours per day. Wrong. Sorry. And Yahoo Answers is right a the top of page one on search so people read this and quote this thereby perpetuating the inaccuracy.
For me the BBC documentary provides us with the first solid guidance as to the sleep requirements of cats in general. We know that domestic cats are a whisker away from the wild cat species so says the world’s more authoritative book on the wild cat species (Wild Cats Of The World ISBN-13:978-0-77999-7). We know that anyway.
This fine book does not tell us how long lions sleep. They say that lions rest for 17-20 hours a day, but that is not sleep. The authors steered clear of lion sleep because they did not know the answer. The book was written in 2002. Now they would know.
I would argue that lions are able to sleep more than the average wild cat species because they a top predator. They are more secure. Therefore we could state with some confidence that other wild cats sleep for shorter periods and one of those cats would be the wild forerunner of the domestic cat, the Near Eastern wildcat.
The truth is that the domestic cat actually sleeps around 8 hours a day and rests in the reclining position, snoozing or simply resting for an additional 8 or more hours depending on the individual cat. This accounts for the fact that cats are alert at these times. If you wake up a cat that is genuinely sleeping the response is not instant. There is a wake up period although it is still short. The period of sound sleep is not continuous but interspersed by rest and snoozing.
The domestic cat should live in a very secure home which will allow for more sleep. I would bet that feral and stray cats sleep less than domestic cats.
Link to photographer’s Flickr page.