Do Cats Ever Fully Fall Asleep?

Have you ever watched your cat snoozing and wondered if they are ever fully asleep? Cats have some intriguing sleep habits that fascinate their human companions. From their adorable sleeping positions to their tendency to nap frequently throughout the day, cat sleep is a mystery that many cat owners want to better understand.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the sleep cycles of our feline friends. We’ll uncover how cats slip in and out of REM sleep, why they are such champion nappers, and what their sleep requirements really are. We’ll also look at the factors that can disrupt or improve cat sleep. Read on to learn amazing facts about how cats truly rest.

Stages of Sleep

Cats, like humans, go through different stages of sleep. These stages alternate throughout the sleep cycle and include:

REM Sleep: REM stands for rapid eye movement. This is the most active stage of sleep when cats dream and their brains are almost as active as when they are awake. Their eyes move rapidly under their eyelids, their breathing becomes faster, and their limbs may twitch as they dream. REM takes up about 10-15% of total sleep time in cats.

Light Sleep: This stage makes up around 50% of a cat’s sleep. Their heartbeat, breathing rate and eye movements slow down. Their body temperature drops slightly and their muscles relax. They can be easily awoken during light sleep.

Deep Sleep: This is the most restorative stage of sleep. Cats are difficult to rouse from deep sleep as their brain waves slow right down. Their breathing becomes slow and regular, their muscles are extremely relaxed and they don’t move around. Deep sleep takes up about 25% of total sleep time.

Cats cycle between light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep multiple times throughout the night. Each cycle lasts around 30 minutes. Kittens have more REM sleep than adult cats to allow their brains to develop.

Cat Nap Behaviors

Cats have interesting behaviors during their frequent naps throughout the day. You may notice your cat kneading or making biscuits with their paws when settling in for a nap. This motion likely originates from kittens kneading their mother’s belly to stimulate milk flow, and adult cats continue this comforting habit when feeling content and sleepy (Purina).

Twitching is also common during cat naps, as they experience REM sleep just like humans, though in shorter bursts. Their paws may twitch or paddle the air as they dream. Some cats may meow or make other vocalizations during their naptime dreams as well. According to PetMD, the twitches and movements indicate that important neurodevelopment is taking place during sleep. Kittens especially need a lot of sleep for healthy brain development.

Overall, the kneading, twitching, and vocalizations you observe during your cat’s naps are perfectly normal behaviors. They provide insight into your cat’s comfort, contentment, and stages of sleep. With frequent short naps, cats experience REM sleep often, allowing for substantial brain development and learning.

REM Sleep

REM stands for rapid eye movement. This is a stage of sleep where the eyes move quickly as cats likely experience vivid dreaming. According to studies, cats spend about 10-30% of their sleep in the REM stage, usually in short bursts of just a few minutes at a time (Source). During REM sleep, a cat’s brain is highly active, but its muscles become paralyzed so it doesn’t act out dreams. This is similar to how REM functions in humans.

Michel Jouvet’s research in the 1960s revealed that cats do experience REM sleep. He discovered that a section of the brainstem paralyzes a cat’s major muscles during REM, likely to prevent injury while dreaming. Jouvet was also able to wake cats during REM sleep, and they demonstrated behaviors suggesting they had been dreaming, like searching for food or hissing defensively (Source).

Based on this evidence, experts agree that cats most likely dream during REM sleep. Their dreams may incorporate elements of daily experiences and play, similar to the content of human dreams. So when your cat’s paws start twitching during a cat nap, it’s likely lost in an exciting dream world of its own!

Sleep Requirements

Cats are known to sleep excessively, but how much sleep do they actually need on a daily basis? The total amount of sleep required varies based on a cat’s age and activity level.

Kittens that are under 6 months require the most sleep, needing around 16-20 hours per day. They spend a huge portion of the day napping and have short bursts of play in between. This allows their growing brains and bodies plenty of downtime for development.

Adult cats that are between 6 months to middle age generally need 12-16 hours of sleep per day. Some breeds that are very energetic, like Siamese and Bengals, may sleep towards the lower end while less active breeds can sleep up to 16 hours.

As cats reach senior ages over 10 years old, they require even more rest at around 16-20 hours of sleep per day. Older cats tend to move slower and have lower energy levels, so they spend more time lounging and napping.

The average across all life stages is around 15 hours of sleep per day for domestic cats. However, each cat is an individual and may need slightly more or less than the averages based on breed, personality, and health factors.

Factors Affecting Sleep

A cat’s age, environment, and health all influence the quality and quantity of their sleep. Kittens and older cats need more sleep than adult cats. Kittens may sleep up to 20 hours per day as they grow and develop. Senior cats tend to become less active and sleep more as well. Environmental factors like noise, light, and temperature impact sleep. Cats prefer sleeping in quiet, dark, and moderate temperature environments. Health issues like arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Cats may vocalize or seem restless when sleeping if they have pain or discomfort from medical conditions. Stress and anxiety also affect sleep. Changes in routine, a new home, or introduction of a new pet may cause sleep disruptions. Ensuring proper nutrition, providing enrichment, and maintaining routine can promote better sleep.


Sleep Disorders

Cats can experience a variety of sleep disorders that disrupt their normal sleep patterns and prevent them from getting enough deep, restorative sleep. Some common feline sleep disorders include:

Insomnia – An inability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. This may be caused by anxiety, pain, illness, or environmental factors like noise or light disruption. Insomniac cats may pace, meow, or be restless at night. (Is Your Cat Not Sleeping Enough?)

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness – Sleeping more than normal during the day can indicate a cat is not getting proper sleep at night. This daytime sleepiness can occur along with insomnia or on its own. Underlying medical issues may be a cause.

Sleep Apnea – Brief pauses in breathing during sleep caused by airway obstruction. Signs include loud snoring or gasping noises while sleeping. Left untreated, sleep apnea increases risk of other health problems.

Narcolepsy – Falling quickly into deep REM sleep unexpectedly during waking hours. Narcoleptic cats may randomly lose muscle tone and collapse into a deep sleep.

REM Behavior Disorder – Acting out vivid dreams by moving and making noises while in REM sleep due to a lack of muscle paralysis. This can appear dramatic but is not painful for cats.

If a cat’s sleep disorder persists, veterinary assistance may be needed. Medication, dietary changes, or treatment of underlying illness can help resolve many feline sleep problems. Ensuring good sleep hygiene with a calming bedtime routine also aids sleep quality for cats prone to disorders. With time and care, most cats can overcome disruptive sleep issues. (What Does a Bengal Cat’s Sleeping Habits Mean?)

Improving Cat Sleep

There are several tips that can help cats sleep better at night and get the rest they need.

  • Keep your cat active during the day with playtime and exercise so they are tired at bedtime. Try playing with interactive toys before bed. (Source)
  • Feed your cat a meal before bedtime so they aren’t kept awake by hunger pangs. Automated feeders can help with this. (Source)
  • Make sure your cat has a comfortable, warm sleeping space away from noise and light disturbances.
  • Use calming aids like Feliway pheromone diffusers or calming treats/supplements to relax your cat before bed.
  • Keep nighttime interactions with your cat low-key to avoid getting them too stimulated.
  • Consider using flower essences like catnip that have relaxing properties to help your cat sleep.
  • Stick to a regular daily routine so your cat knows when to expect sleep times.

Consult your vet if your cat has underlying medical issues interfering with sleep. With some adjustments, you can help your cat sleep soundly through the night.

Fun Facts about Cat Sleep

Cats can sleep up to 20 hours a day! Older cats tend to sleep even longer than kittens and young cats, who may sleep 16 hours a day (Source). During REM sleep, cats can move their legs as if they are chasing something, with tails twitching and eyes moving beneath their eyelids. This is likely when cats experience vivid dreams (Source).

Cats are able to transition quickly between sleep stages, which is why they often seem to startle awake for no reason. Their “cat naps” allow cats to frequently check their surroundings for threats before falling back asleep (Source). Some interesting cat sleeping positions include the “loaf,” with paws tucked underneath, or sleeping on their back with legs in the air. These positions help cats regulate their body temperature and feel secure while sleeping.


In summary, cats have a unique sleep pattern that consists of short periods of sleep and wakefulness throughout the day and night. On average, cats sleep for 12-16 hours per day, with older cats generally sleeping more than kittens and young adults. Cats go through several stages of sleep similar to humans, including REM sleep where dreaming occurs. However, they often only experience brief periods of deep sleep.

A cat’s sleep requirements are influenced by factors like age, environment, and health. Indoor cats tend to sleep more than outdoor cats. Various sleep disorders can also affect a cat’s sleep. While cats never fully fall into a deep sleep like humans, their frequent napping behavior does fulfill their sleep needs. Understanding the sleep patterns of cats can help cat owners ensure their pets get adequate rest.

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