Have you ever noticed that your cat seems to be gearing up for a big hunt while you’re getting ready to go to sleep? Why do cats seem to sleep all day, then go crazy in the evening or very early morning? For that matter, why do they sleep so darn much in the first place? All in all, why do cats have such strange sleeping habits?
For starters, cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk, when there is less risk from predators larger than themselves who prefer to hunt in either full light or full dark.
The tapetum lucidem in the back of their eyes helps reflect light to make the best of low visibility conditions. (The tapetum lucidem is also what causes your cat’s eyes to seemingly glow in the dark.) That’s why your cat is most active when you’re going to sleep and before you’re ready to get up in the morning – their biological clock is telling them it’s time to get up and hunt!
Cats sleep an average of 15 hours a day. Kittens and older cats can sleep up to 20 hours a day! Why is that? Cats are hunters, and it takes a lot of energy to find and kill prey. Digesting all that protein also requires a lot of energy, so cats need sleep to rest up and digest their food in between hunts.
Three quarters of the time a cat is asleep, they are actually only lightly dozing. Their eyes may be partially open and their ears will still swivel towards any sounds. They’re also usually perched in a way that they can leap into action at a moment’s notice. Dozing typically lasts from 15-30 minutes. After that, they may fall into a deep sleep for about 5 minutes. Deep sleep is the only time that cats dream. Any time your cat’s whiskers or feet twitch when they are sleeping, they are probably dreaming.
Essentially, the strange sleeping habits of cats are all related to hunting prey without being hunted themselves. While this can sometimes feel like an inconvenience (especially at the crack of dawn!), one of the things we love most about our kitties is how in-tune they are with their wild instincts!