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Feature April 2019 Issue

Examining Your Cat’s Sleep Needs

What is a normal amount of sleep? What diseases might sleeplessness signify?

© NLMichal | Bigstock

This cat looks “out” but is probably ready for action at a moment’s notice.

If you think your cat sleeps an awful lot, you’re right — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cats naturally sleep about 17 hours per day — fully two-thirds of their lives. But much of that slumber is not what we think of when we think of sleep. It’s more akin to what your car does when it idles, ready to move at a moment’s notice. The trigger that might rouse your pet into becoming fully awake from her dozing might be prey, the smell of food, or someone entering the room. Your cat will be ready to respond as though she had not been asleep at all.

Some other aspects of a cat’s normal sleep pattern may surprise you as well.

Night moves

A lot of people think cats are nocturnal because their cats may be inclined to stroll around the house at night. But cats are actually crepuscular, meaning that they are most active at dawn and dusk. That’s why a cat might slap her owner’s forehead at 5 in the morning, or tear around the house in the early evening.

What can you conclude if your cat is moving around at night? It could be a sign that your pet does not get enough mental and physical stimulation during the day. To help your cat settle in for a better night’s sleep (by which we mean, to help you get a better night’s sleep), try engaging with your pet more, dragging a toy mouse on a string for her to chase, crinkling some tin foil into a ball and tossing it for her to bat around… anything to get her moving about and interested. Cats are not simply ornamental. They want to engage with you.

Signs that something is amiss

If you think you’re providing your cat with enough attention and play during the day but she still exhibits nighttime wakefulness, bring it up with your veterinarian. Your concern should be even more heightened if she’s not dozing much during daytime hours. Sleeplessness can be a sign of a number of health issues.

One is hyperthyroidism — an overactive thyroid that causes increased metabolism and quickening heartbeat. High blood pressure can lead to sleeplessness, too. Both can also be accompanied by excessive meowing.

Nighttime sleeplessness in your cat is not an automatic sign that something is amiss, health-wise. Even if she is tuckered out at the end of the day, it might just not be in her biorhythm to get a restful night’s sleep. But as one of your pet’s most important healthcare providers, you want to put it on your checklist.

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