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PET TALK: The science behind snoozing cats

Wednesday 23 June 2021 | Written by Dr. Ellen McBryde | Published in Editorials, Opinion


PET TALK: The science behind snoozing cats
Cats have a tendency to sleep for the majority of the day and the reasons why can be found in their genetics. (PHOTO: Yan Cong/The New York Times). 21062205

I often feel jealous when I see a cat sleeping – why can’t I nap that often? Cats really are living their best lives, but why do they sleep so much? Dr Ellen McBryde explains.

House cats sleep for an average of 15 hours per day. Some of the best cat-nappers can even stretch that to 20 hours. This all comes down to genetics.

Cats are excellent hunters – which is lucky, given that cats have traditionally needed to hunt for their food. And hunting requires a lot of energy.

This means that cats need lots of time to rest, relax, and recharge – all so they can enjoy another meal.

I told you they were living their best lives.

Now obviously, with a little human interference, house cats these days don’t need to use so much energy looking for their next meal. They still haven’t lost their built-in need for sleep though. Can you blame them?

Cats actually have two different sleeping ‘modes’. Most of the time they’re just ‘dozing’.

This means their senses are still active – you might see their ears twitch which shows they’re listening – and they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. Just another hang-up from their wild cat ancestors. While ‘dozing’, cats will intermittently enter a proper, deep sleep, and they might even start dreaming.

But why are cats so energetic when we’re getting ready for bed, or barely woken up?

Cats are known as ‘crepuscular’ predators, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Conveniently, this is also when their prey is most active.

And when there’s no prey? Us humans seem to become the hunted!

Did you know lions have white markings under their eyes? This helps to reflect light into their eyes, improving their night vision for hunting in the dark.

Look at a cheetah (that hunts during the day) and you’ll see the opposite – black markings to absorb light and reduce glare.

So there you have it. Your cat has a great excuse for its leisurely lifestyle, not that it needed one.

I think it’s time for cat-nap.