All cat owners know very well: these creatures are able to sleep for most of their lives, and while awake, they behave as if they are monstrously tired. One may get the impression that in their entire life, cats really do not live, but only sleep. This impression is mistaken: for cats, sleep is no less an active part of life than wakefulness.
Two phases of sleep in cats
Modern scientists have all the capabilities to determine the physiological characteristics of a cat’s sleep. They found that sleep in our furry pets is divided into two completely dissimilar species.
The first type of sleep is shallow sleep, more like a nap. It is called low-wave sleep or slow-wave sleep. You can easily notice him in your pet when he sleeps, curled up in a ball, but he is sensitive to all extraneous sounds and sudden touches. At any time of low-wave sleep, the cat can wake up, and very, very quickly.
During low-wave sleep, a cat’s muscles are tense, but breathing and pulse are slow and even. In addition, the cat’s temperature and blood pressure decrease and metabolic activity decreases. In a word, in terms of its characteristics, this phase is very similar to sleep, but in fact it is closer to nap.
The second type of sleep is deep sleep, called rapid eye movement or REM sleep. Indeed, at this time in a cat, like in a person, the eyes rotate very quickly behind closed eyelids. This dream occurs 10-30 minutes after the onset of low-wave sleep.
This phase is also special. Sleep is really deep, so much so that the cat loses control over its muscles and can inadvertently fall off the chair or sofa if it is not very comfortable. During deep sleep, a cat can greatly change its body position and still not wake up.
But here’s what is amazing! The cat is undoubtedly asleep, but from a physiological point of view, it is no less active than during wakefulness. Scientists have found that during deep sleep, brain activity is no lower than during the time when the cat is eating, playing or hunting, and maybe even higher. Breathing is uneven, pulse and pressure are also uneven.
So, the first phase of sleep is distinguished by reduced activity, but at the same time by a lack of depth, and the second – by high activity and depth. If, during the deep phase of sleep, a cat is abruptly touched or aroused in another way, then it will wake up much slower than after a low-wave sleep – scientists say that the rate of exit from the deep phase is as much as 300 times slower!
The sleep of cats at different ages
Newborn kittens up to a month-old sleep on average 12 hours a day, and all their sleep is of the second, “deep” type. Upon reaching the month, they also have the first phase of sleep – low-wave sleep. The duration of each phase in adult cats can vary greatly depending on their lifestyle. Yard and wild cats, those who are forced to get their own food on their own, sleep much less than carefree pets. And as they get older, cats, like humans, begin to sleep less than before, and their sleep becomes mostly shallow.
Do cats dream?
At the moment, it is not known for certain whether cats dream. It is believed that during the second phase of sleep, when a cat’s eyes involuntarily move behind closed eyelids, and its legs and tail twitch, it is dreaming. Plots such as hunting and fleeing from stronger predators are attributed to cats’ dreams – it is believed that such dreams explain the movement of the eyes, paws and tail, and increased brain activity, and uneven breathing and pulse.
However, it has not yet been possible to establish exactly whether cats dream. The dream of cats is similar to the dream of a person, and since we see dreams, it is possible that cats see them, but there is no evidence of this yet.
Sleep problems in cats
Of course, so far none of the cats has come to the doctor with a complaint of insomnia, but we can still draw conclusions about the presence of some sleep disorders. In particular, a cat may experience sleep problems after experiencing a lot of stress, such as moving. It is easy to cope with this – after a couple of days the cat will get used to the new habitat and his sleep will return to normal.
But an increase in the duration of sleep can be quite a wake-up call, signaling health problems in a cat. Some diseases, such as anemia and heart disease, can affect how long and how often you sleep. Sleep disorders are not the only symptom of these diseases, but one of the first. So, if your cat has a change in sleep duration, it is worth taking a closer look at it and, in case of other symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
You can check your pet’s health by taking its temperature while sleeping. If he sleeps with his legs spread wide, he may have a fever. Normal body temperature in adult cats ranges from 38 to 39 degrees Celsius, in newborn kittens – from 38.5 to 39.5 degrees Celsius. Abnormalities are usually indicative of health problems.
However, do not worry once again – a longer sleep than usual may be simply a reaction to hot weather or pregnancy. Both of these factors reduce the activity of the cat, and it will sleep longer.
Where do cats sleep?
Sleeping for a cat is no less sacred than eating and going to the toilet. This means that a cat chooses a place to sleep according to the same criteria as a place for a toilet. This place should be protected, quiet, cozy, comfortable and accessible. The cat should be able to come to its favorite place at any time and fall asleep there, and its sleep should not be disturbed either by harsh sounds or by the walking of people and other animals.
Therefore, cats often choose secluded and comfortable corners for sleeping – armchairs, sofas, beds, and sometimes even shelves of an open closet. Many cats love to sleep literally in the corner of the room, leaning against two walls at once. And, of course, all cats have several favorite places to sleep at once, which they can alternate many times a day.
Cats and sleep: 5 interesting facts
Don’t get tired of wondering how your cat can sleep so much? Everyone knows about cats and their love of sleep, we have collected a few fun facts that you might not know about.
Feline genes are to blame
Cats sleep up to 16 hours a day, and pets even older – up to 20 hours a day. Everything is explained by genes. Wild cats had to hunt a lot in order to eat, and for this they required a lot of energy. Sleep helped restore energy between hunting periods. And although now our pets do not spend so much energy, since they no longer need to get their own food, their habit of sleeping has remained at the genetic level.
A cat’s sleep is not always sound
Another thing to consider is the quality of your sleep. Most of the time that a cat spends in a dream, we would call a nap. In this state, the pet does not lose its vigilance and can wake up at any moment. You have probably noticed that even in a dream, a cat’s ears can turn towards the noise, and the eyes can be slightly open.
However, cats also have deep sleep and have dreams
But cats also have a deep sleep phase – it takes about a quarter of the total sleep time. During this phase, cats usually sleep curled up in a ball, sometimes covering their muzzles with their tail. This phase is very important for the recovery of the body. Therefore, in older cats, it can take up to 40% of the total sleep time.
During deep sleep, cats, like humans, have dreams. If you see your pet twitching whiskers or paws while he sleeps, it is most likely that he is dreaming at that time.
Cats can snore
Yes, nothing human is alien to cats, even snoring! It is most commonly found in flat-faced cats – Persian, Himalayan and Exotic Shorthair. But from time to time almost all cats snore, regardless of breed. And that’s okay!
Health problems can be noticed from sleep
If you notice that your cat’s sleep time has changed a lot (up or down), this is a reason to consult your veterinarian. A cat may sleep more than usual if it hurts, and less if, for example, it has hyperthyroidism.