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The Importance of Sleep for Better Cat Health

Is your cat getting enough sleep? Here’s how you can tell and how improving your pet’s sleep schedule can ensure better cat health.

If you’re a veteran cat parent, you know that cats spend a lot of time sleeping. And if you’re a new cat owner, you might be surprised – or even concerned – about how much time your feline spends snoozing!

A number of factors can influence a cat’s sleep need, but most adult cats spend between 12 and 20 hours a day sleeping. This abundance of sleep is not only normal, it’s crucial to your cat’s overall wellness. A solid sleep routine can result in better cat health outcomes, so it’s important to understand this part of your cat’s life.

Since we already know the reason why cats sleep so much – it’s explained in our blog about the subject – let’s take it a step further and explore how you can know if your cat is getting enough sleep and how you can support your pet’s sleep needs for better cat health.

Is My Cat Getting Enough Sleep?

Since you likely spend many hours away from home or sleeping yourself, it can be hard to know if your cat is getting enough sleep. Here are some tips for assessing your cat’s current sleep habits (which is the first step to improving that sleep for better cat health):

  • Consider using a video camera when you can’t be around your cat
  • Keep a journal or log to share with your veterinarian
  • Note behavior changes that could indicate sleep deprivation
  • Remember the factors that influence your cat’s sleep needs

Video Cameras Can Give You Reliable Data About Your Cat’s Sleep

Pet cams aren’t just for peeking at your precious kitty while you’re away – they can also help you gather important data about your cat’s nighttime habits. While you’re sleeping, it’s very unlikely your cat spends the whole night doing the same thing. Most cat owners who leave their bedroom door open are painfully aware of this, as their cats tend to keep them awake with curious exploration, midnight zoomies, or demands for attention!

We know it’s unlikely your cat sleeps for the full period of your nightly sleep, but you might not know how much of that time they spend awake and active. A simple pet cam, set up around your cat’s favorite sleeping area, can help you get a better idea of how much rejuvenation your cat is getting. This data can help you identify if your cat is sleeping too much or not enough so you can make adjustments for better cat health.

Keep a Journal or Log to Share with Your Veterinarian

We all like to think we can keep all relevant information stored in our memory, but when it comes to retaining important information about your cat’s health, it’s not the time to test your memory.

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Keep a journal or notepad in an easily accessible spot where you can jot down notes about your cat’s sleep habits. A detailed log will not only help you identify patterns, but it will provide valuable information for you to share with your veterinarian if you need to visit them with concerns about your cat’s sleep schedule.

Sleep and Wake Times Aren’t the Only Thing to Notice

While logging the actual amount of sleep or rest your cat gets, including daytime naps and nighttime waking periods, is very important, your data collection should include other information, too. The quality of your cat’s rest is relevant – some naps will clearly be deeper and more restful than other naps. You should also notice how easily disrupted your cat is during sleep: do they jump at small sounds or does it take a loud noise to wake them up? It’s also worth figuring out where your cat’s favorite place to sleep is located, as you can recreate that environment in other parts of the house if you want to encourage more sleep in your cat.

There are also other behaviors to consider in relation to your cat’s sleep. General restlessness, excessive vocalizing, or irritability, and moodiness can all be signs that your cat isn’t getting enough sleep. They can also just be part of your cat’s personality, so only consider behaviors that are out of the ordinary for your cat when thinking about sleep issues. If your cat engages excitedly in play and then suddenly “zones out” and seems dazed or distant, this can definitely be a sign that they are sleep deprived.

Different Factors Will Influence Your Cat’s Need for Sleep

All cats are different, and therefore all cats will have slightly different needs for sleep. There is no magic number of sleep minutes that every feline should achieve in order to have better cat health outcomes. Furthermore, your cat’s hourly sleep need will not be the same every day. There might be times that they need additional sleep to recover from a particularly active day, or even phases where their sleep need temporarily decreases.

Adult cats should be within the range of 12 to 20 sleep hours a day, but senior cats and kittens will have greater sleep needs. Likewise, a cat who is trying to recover from an illness or injury will need additional sleep to do so. Dramatic changes, like moving to a new house or welcoming a baby or additional pet into the home, can also disrupt or change your cat’s sleep patterns temporarily. Often, such changes will sort themselves out within a few months (if that doesn’t happen, consult your veterinarian).

How to Encourage Sleep for Better Cat Health

It’s important that you play an active role in ensuring your cat has plentiful opportunities to get restful, uninterrupted sleep. Here are some tips for improving sleep for better cat health:

  • Establish and stick to a routine
  • Provide a safe, comfortable sleeping space
  • Schedule play before nap times
  • Reduce disruptions to your cat’s sleep

A Solid, Predictable Routine Is Crucial

Keeping your cat’s daily schedule predictable and routine is crucial to better cat health outcomes. When your cat knows what to expect throughout their day, they can fit in their sleep when they have downtime and rest. If meal times change every day, your cat might forgo sleep because they are worried about missing dinner. If they know when to expect their meals and other events, such as your arrival home from work, they will feel more comfortable establishing a consistent sleep schedule each day.

Your Cat Needs a Safe, Comfortable Sleeping Space

While cats have been known to sleep in some very funny places, they should always have the option to sleep in a soft, enclosed space. Especially if you are worried your cat isn’t getting enough sleep, you should ensure their sleeping environment is inviting and meets their needs.

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Cats are denning creatures, which means their ancestors slept and raised young in cave-like spaces. This means your cat will feel safest and most at home if you can recreate this environment. Often, a cat tree with an enclosure raised off the ground is a cat’s favorite place to sleep. Some cats also enjoy cat hammocks or simple pillow-like beds. You might need to try a few different things to figure out what works best for your feline friend.

Your Cat Desires a Hunt, Feed, Sleep Schedule

In the wild, cats spend a lot of energetic time hunting prey. When they catch that prey, they eat it, and only after these activities are over is it time for restful sleep. Trying to model this pattern for your pet may encourage better cat health and a more standardized sleep schedule.

Choose a few select times each day to engage your cat in play that imitates the predator/prey relationship. This can be achieved by using a laser pointer, feather toy, robotic mouse, or any other kind of interactive cat toy. This kind of play will not only encourage healthy sleep, but it’s also an important daily activity to ensure they don’t become depressed or overweight. After play, reward them with a few treats. This should mimic the behavior patterns of their ancestors and result in a primal desire for sleep.

Reduce Disruptions to Your Cat’s Sleep When Possible

When your cat chooses to sleep, that sleep should be respected. While you don’t need to tiptoe around your sleeping feline, especially during those daily cat naps, you should avoid excess noise when possible, and your cat’s sleeping space should always be somewhere quiet and removed from the action so they can achieve peace if they want it.

Teach children and other family members not to disrupt the cat when they are sleeping. (This is an added benefit of having a sleep space that is raised off the ground – your cat is less likely to be disturbed by children and other pets.)

Always Contact Your Veterinarian with Concerns About Your Cat’s Sleep

If you have concerns about anything related to your cat’s daily life and health, you should always consult your veterinarian. Your cat’s doctor will be able to inform you what sleep schedule is healthiest for your pet, taking into consideration their medical history and other information. Furthermore, your veterinarian can provide tips for ways to change your schedule or environment for better cat health outcomes.