How Much Do Cats Sleep, and Where Do They Prefer to Sleep?

Does it seem that your cat is always napping? Here’s how much sleep the average cat gets, and how to choose a cat bed.

A cat's tail sticks out from under a brightly-coloured crochet blanket where they have gone to sleep
Photo: Koldunov Alexey/Shutterstock

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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“Cats sleep, anywhere,” by Eleanor Farjeon was a favourite poem when I was a child. We see cats sleeping in so many places. My cat Harley’s favourite places are stretched out in the sunshine by a window, on his back on the heat vent with his paws in the air, up in his favourite cat tree, or on our bed (often cuddled up to my feet). My other cat Melina likes what used to be my dog’s bed (though she avoided it for a few days after he passed), and she has a couple of chairs that she particularly likes to sleep on.

How Much Do Cats Sleep?

Cats are said to be naturally crepuscular, meaning they are more active at dawn and dusk. This makes sense because this is the time their prey – especially mice – are most active. But when cats live with people, they can adjust their schedules. In a study of 10 cats that were given activity monitors to wear, cats that were routinely shut out of the house overnight were most active during the night-time (Piccione et al 2013). However, cats that slept indoors at night were most active during daytime, especially at the times when their owner was home and interacting with them.

According to a review paper that looked at the sleep times of all kinds of animals, adult cats sleep for between 10-13 hours a day in total (Campbell and Tobler, 1984).

Types of Sleep in Cats

Just like people, cats have periods of REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep. REM sleep gets its name from the fact that the eyes can be seen moving rapidly, and this is the part of sleep in which dreams occur. When cats first fall asleep, they go into non-REM sleep, and can be woken up easily (for example if they detect a sound) (Bradshaw et al 2012). After 10-30 minutes of this, they enter REM sleep which lasts for about 10 minutes, and then they return to non-REM sleep. They will then move between periods of REM and non-REM sleep until they wake up.

Up until about 6 weeks of age, kittens need more sleep than an adult cat. At 10 days old, all of a kitten’s sleep is REM sleep, but by 28 days this has dropped to about half of sleep time. As the kitten’s activity levels increase, periods of non-REM sleep take up more of their sleeping time.

Always pay attention to whether your cat is really sleeping, because cats can feign sleep when they are stressed. You might be more likely to see this in a shelter cat, because a shelter is a stressful environment, but if you think your cat is stressed see what you can do to help them be less stressed. One thing to do is make sure you are meeting the five pillars of a healthy feline environment.

A cat sleeps with their head on a book and their tongue sticking out
Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Where Do Cats Sleep?

The most common sleeping place for cats at night is their guardian’s bed (34%), with 22% choosing furniture and 20% their own cat bed (Howell et al 2016). Many people report that their cat only spends part of the night on the bed, with 47% estimating the cat spends half the night or less there (Hoffman et al 2018). The presence of a cat doesn’t seem to help their human sleep;  only 21% of people say they sleep better if their cat is touching them at night while 38% say it’s better for their sleep if the cat is not touching them (41% say it makes no difference either way).

It goes without saying that you should provide your cat with beds of their own, even if they often choose to spend time on yours. Cats like hiding places and they like to be high up, so make sure they have a nice space to sleep at the top of a cat tree.

A brown tabby cat curls up asleep next to a sleepy Australian Shepherd dog
Photo: Julie Vadier/Shutterstock

Cats that are part of the same social group will often choose to sleep cuddled together or close to each other. If your cat gets on with your dog, they may also sleep in close proximity. If you have multiple cats, they need their own beds, even if they choose to share.

How to Choose a Cat Bed

When choosing cat beds, look for one that will be nice and cosy for your cat. It’s ideal if it is just the right size for them. Raised sides can help to make it warmer and provide some hiding opportunities. You may also want to put a towel, blanket or fleece in the bed to make it warm and comfortable. Of course, it also helps to pick a bed that is washable. But don’t wash all your cat’s beds on the same day, because the cat’s scent on the bed helps them feel safe.

If you get a new cat bed and your cat isn’t interested, one thing you can try is to put something that already smells of your cat in there, such as a towel or blanket they have already been sleeping on. They may also like an item of your clothing that you have worn, especially if you ever find them relaxing on some dirty clothes you left on the bedroom floor. You can also put treats in the bed for your cat to find, or toys (especially ones with catnip or other scents that cats like). But also consider the location and remember to think about places that are warm, quiet, high up, and/or by a window, as this might be more attractive to a cat.

Of course, if you have any concerns about your cat's sleep patterns, speak to your veterinarian.

If you like this post, check out my book Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy which is full of practical tips to help you understand your cat. Modern Cat magazine, “Zazie Todd has created a must-have guide to improving your cat’s life.”

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Where does your cat like to sleep?

Bradshaw, W.S., Casey, R.A. and Brown, Sarah L. (2012) The behaviour of the domestic cat. 2nd edition. Oxford:  CABI.
Campbell, S. S., & Tobler, I. (1984). Animal sleep: a review of sleep duration across phylogeny. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 8(3), 269-300.
Howell, T., Mornement, K., & Bennett, P. (2016). Pet cat management practices among a representative sample of owners in Victoria, Australia Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 11, 42-49 DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2015.10.006
Piccione, G.,, Marafioti, S.,, Giannetto, C.,, Panzera, M.,, & Fazio, F. (2013). Daily rhythm of total activity pattern in domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) maintained in two different housing conditions Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 8 (4), 189-194 DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2012.09.004

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