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Catnapping – The A to Zzz of How Your Cat Sleeps

Catnapping – The A to Zzz of How Your Cat Sleeps
by Dr Caity Venniker

Read time: 4 min

When it comes to sleep, cats are experts. Clocking approximately 12- 16 hours of snooze per day, they sleep roughly twice as much as the average human. They’re such professionals, they even inspired the term ‘catnap’ – which is slightly unfair as technically they’re out-dozed by a few other species in the animal kingdom. Pythons and koalas sleep roughly 18 hours per day, and the Brown Bat takes the cake with an awesome 19,9 hours per day. Somehow ‘batnap’ and ‘koalakip’ don't have the same ring to them, perhaps because cats simply make sleep look so damn good.

The reason cats sleep so much is because they evolved needing to conserve their energy for hunting. While most house cats no longer hunt anything more than the odd wayward moth or a laser on the wall, the instinct has prevailed, making them the super-sleepers that we know today. Cats are not strictly speaking nocturnal, but rather crepuscular. What this means is that they tend to sleep during the day and night and reserve most of their energy for the twilight hours of dawn and dusk – this explains the early morning and evening zoomies! While they are designed to be more active at night than we are, their bond with us can overpower their natural sleep schedule, which is why some cats follow human habits instead.

Cats, like people, experience both REM sleep and non-REM deep sleep. From monitoring brain activity during sleep, in conjunction with twitching eye movements, it seems likely that cats dream during REM sleep just like we do, but presumably about quite different things!

How much time your cat spends sleeping is affected by a few factors. These include:

  • Age - Kittens and senior cats require more sleep.

  • Health – Cats that are sick or in pain tend to sleep more. However, cats with hyperthyroidism will sleep less and often show signs of hyperactivity.

  • Breed – Some breeds are less active than others. For example, Persians are generally quiet and tranquil; while Abyssinians, known as the clowns of the cat kingdom, tend to be extremely busy.

  • Season – Cats love a duvet day in winter as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter. This is very unhelpful for their humans who have to get out of bed!

Where your cat sleeps is influenced largely by temperature and of course comfort; but it can also tell you a little about their mood and psyche. For starters, cats that sleep hidden away in cupboards or high places may be craving the security and protection that these spots afford. If you have a timid cat in your home, it’s a good idea to create a special little nook for him to escape to. This is especially important in homes with multiple cats or young children.

In contrast to the more reticent resters; lounging and sleeping in a central space, particularly at ground level, suggests confidence and dominance within the environment. A chunky ginger tabby in our area likes to nap in a sunny spot right in the middle of a small park overlooked by the surrounding houses, where the neighbouring cats can peer out at him through their curtains. He doesn’t even have the humility to do it from the shelter of a tree but rather right on a pathway, thus asserting that he is the Mafia lord of the community and feels sooooo unthreatened that he couldn’t be bothered to stay awake. Most cats (who are much less macho) choose to retire more privately, and if that happens to be on your lap or your bed, it means that you are a trusted friend and a place of safety.

If we assume that sleeping positions also tell a story then cats, with their pretzel poses and contortionist displays, tell some wild tales. We’ve taken pics of a few of the KatKin club cats to illustrate different sleeping positions and what they may mean.

The Classic Croissant

Siamese cat sleeping curled up in bed

Curling up on the side is a common position as it helps with keeping warm as well as, from an evolutionary perspective, protecting vital organs. Seen here on the bed of our co-founder Nikki, Kiki illustrates the classic croissant perfectly. Who doesn’t love a little croissant in bed?

The Loaf

Close up of a Siamese sleeping on a bed

Kiki again (a blackbelt napper) showing us The Loaf, with her feet tucked neatly underneath her upright body. This is an on-the-go position. Kiki probably has better things to do which she will get to presently, but the comfort of the bed took her by surprise, and she has to make up her sixteen hours somehow.

The Open Sandwich

Shot from above of a long-haired tabby cat sleeping on his back
Ginger kitten sleeping on its owner's lap

Here we have Columbus, Dimsum and Gorbi showcasing some excellent Open Sandwiches. Bellies and drama turned up, this theatrical pose shows complete relaxation and trust. Exposing the stomach makes your cat vulnerable so you should feel honoured if he does this in your presence – just don’t mistake it for an invitation for a belly rub!

Open sandwiches can come with side twist variations; and get extra points for toe bean exposure (this is a universal rule for any position or indeed just life in general).

The Pretzel

Shot from above of a white and grey cat sleeping on a brown blanket
Shot from above of a black and white cat sleeping on a black leather sofa
Shot from above of a black and white cat sleeping on a black leather sofa

This is Derek - champion of the whole bakery and pretzel sleeper extraordinaire. If sleeping was an Olympic sport Derek would definitely get a gold medal. I’d love to ask him why, or even how, he sleeps like this. Maybe just because he can!

We want to see which baked good your cat resembles! KatKin clubbers can take a look at the forum post on sleeping positions on the Chatter site and add theirs to the mix. Til then, happy napping!

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