Should I Keep My Cat Awake During The Day?

The cat’s natural sleep cycle

Cats are naturally crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk ( Wild cats spend the daylight hours resting to conserve energy for nighttime hunting. Domestic cats retain this sleep pattern and instinctively sleep during the day.

A cat’s natural sleep cycle consists of short periods of sleep and wakefulness throughout the 24-hour day. On average, cats sleep 12-16 hours per day. They tend to be most active early in the morning, late afternoon, and night when their natural prey would be active. Cats naturally nap frequently during the daylight hours to rest up for nighttime activity.

Respecting a cat’s natural inclination to sleep during the day is usually best. Their sleep pattern developed as an evolutionary adaptation to be an effective predator. Trying to keep a cat awake all day goes against their natural rhythms and instincts.

Benefits of Daytime Cat Naps

Daytime napping provides several important benefits for cats. During naps, a cat’s body goes through various sleep cycles that allow it to restore energy levels and recharge [1]. Cats naturally sleep for 12-16 hours per day, and daytime napping contributes to their total necessary sleep time [2]. Getting adequate daytime sleep prevents cats from becoming overtired, which can lead to behavioral issues.

Napping reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels and blood pressure [3]. It also supports a cat’s overall health and wellbeing by improving cognitive function, memory, mood, and immunity. Allowing undisturbed naps prevents irritability and benefits cardiovascular health. Daytime sleep is a crucial part of a cat’s natural routine and contributes to good health and quality of life.

Potential downsides of interrupted daytime sleep

Disrupting a cat’s natural sleep cycle can cause sleep deprivation. Cats tend to sleep during the day in short bursts and are most active at dawn and dusk (source). If a cat’s daytime sleeping is frequently interrupted, it may not get the total sleep time it requires. Lack of daytime sleep may result in increased stress and other health issues like weight gain, liver disease, and a depressed immune system (source).

Cats that are kept awake during the day against their natural rhythms may exhibit behavioral issues like aggression or anxiety. They may become overly energetic or restless at night when their human companions are trying to sleep. Allowing a cat undisturbed daytime naps results in a calmer, well-rested pet (source).

When it may be necessary to restrict daytime sleeping

There are some situations when it may be necessary to restrict a cat’s daytime sleeping, such as:

If the cat is recovering from an illness or injury and needs monitoring during the day – it’s important to follow any veterinary advice about restrictions on a cat’s normal sleep routines while recuperating. Restricting daytime sleep can allow owners to check on the cat’s recovery progress.

To regulate a new kitten or cat’s sleep schedule – kittens and cats new to a home may need help transitioning to the household’s normal sleep/wake cycles. Limiting daytime sleep can encourage nighttime sleep. Gradually regulate the schedule over a week or two.

If the cat sleeps excessively during the day and keeps owners awake at night – establishing a consistent daily routine with set mealtimes, active play, and limited naps can encourage the cat to sleep more at night. It’s best to slowly adjust the routine over time.

Tips for transitioning a cat to a new sleep schedule

One effective approach for transitioning a cat to a new sleep schedule is to do so gradually, by shifting the schedule in increments over time. Experts recommend adjusting a cat’s routine by about 15-30 minutes per day until the desired schedule is reached (Chewy, 2022). This gradual process allows the cat time to adapt to the changes. Trying to abruptly shift a cat’s entire sleep schedule all at once is likely to cause stress.

Another helpful tactic is to adjust when the cat is fed each day. A cat’s natural hunting instincts mean they tend to become more active around mealtimes. Feeding a cat earlier or later than usual can influence when they feel awake versus sleepy (RSPCA, 2022). So if the goal is to encourage a cat to be alert more during the day, feeding them earlier in the morning may help.

It’s also important to engage the cat in playtime and activity during the desired periods of wakefulness. To keep a cat stimulated and awake during the day, provide a variety of interactive toys and devote time to energetic play sessions. Just be sure the cat still receives adequate restful sleep as well (Blue Buffalo, 2022).

Encouraging daytime activity

It’s important to provide cats with enrichment and activity during the day to maintain their natural sleep-wake cycle. There are several ways to encourage your cat to be more active when they would normally nap:

Provide puzzle feeders, toys, and playtime to motivate movement. Cats enjoy chasing wand toys or batting at balls. Place toys around your home to pique their curiosity and get them moving. Feed meals using puzzle feeders or food dispensing toys rather than a bowl.

Place food, water, and litter in separate locations to promote activity. Cats are naturally inclined to patrol their territory. Having resources spread out motivates them to walk between areas.

Offer access to outdoor enclosures or supervised time outdoors. Outdoor spaces allow cats to explore and exhibit natural behaviors. Boxes and high perches add enrichment.

Allowing restful daytime sleep

Cats thrive on routine and feel most comfortable when they have a designated safe space for sleeping during the day. To encourage restful daytime cat naps:

Provide a comfortable, quiet space away from household noise. Set up a cozy cat bed or blanket in a spare room, closet, or other low-traffic area of your home. Make sure your cat has easy access to food, water, and a litter box nearby.

Use pheromone diffusers or soothing music to create a restful environment. Feliway diffusers mimic cat pheromones and help reduce stress. Playing soft music can also help lull your cat to sleep. Choose music that is free of vocals and has a calming melody.

Respect when kittens need extra sleep during growth spurts. Growing kittens sleep up to 20 hours per day. Allow your kitten uninterrupted daytime naps to support healthy development.

With a designated nap zone, you can feel confident allowing your cat undisturbed daytime sleep while also encouraging playtime when they are awake.

Seeking Veterinary Advice

If you consistently have trouble regulating your cat’s daytime sleep and nighttime activity, it may be time to consult a veterinarian. Some underlying medical issues like hypothyroidism, anxiety, sleep disorders, or pain can lead to excessive sleeping or wakefulness (1). A vet can perform diagnostic tests and rule out any health problems causing your cat’s sleep disturbances.

Your vet may also be able to prescribe medications or recommend natural supplements to help regulate your cat’s sleep-wake cycle if behavioral and schedule changes have not been effective. Prescription medications like Trazodone or Prozac can curb nighttime activity in cats (2). Natural supplements like melatonin or valerian may also help induce sleepiness. Discuss all medication options fully with your vet and follow their dosage recommendations.

While adjusting your cat’s sleep schedule takes patience and persistence, your veterinarian can provide guidance, support, and treatment options if your cat still struggles with disruptive nighttime activity or excessive sleeping after you’ve tried various techniques at home.


Alternatives to interrupting a cat’s sleep

There are some alternatives to interrupting a cat’s natural sleep cycle that can help redirect their energy and activity to more appropriate times.

One approach is to focus any play, feeding, and interaction during your cat’s natural wake periods. For example, engage them in active play and provide treats in the morning and evening when cats tend to be alert and energetic. This helps satisfy their needs during those active times so they are more likely to sleep during the day. You can also use puzzle toys and activities that allow for self-entertainment to occupy them when you are not available.

Getting a second cat can provide companionship and an outlet for play and energy during the daytime hours. Cats often sync their schedules with others in the home, so having a feline playmate may help redirect their natural rhythms. Just be sure to properly introduce any new cats slowly and be aware it could take some time for them to adjust.

While interrupting a cat’s sleep schedule can be frustrating, there are humane alternatives to try first before resorting to confinement, punishment or other extremes. Paying attention to their natural cycles and providing enrichment during periods of wakefulness is usually the ideal approach.

The bottom line

Generally, it’s best not to disrupt your cat’s natural inclination to sleep during the daytime. Cats are crepuscular animals most active at dawn and dusk, and all that daytime sleeping is part of their natural biological rhythm. However, there are some situations where it may be necessary or beneficial to gently transition your cat to a different sleep schedule – such as if you get a new kitten that needs socialization during the day, bring home a cat that’s used to being awake when you’re home, or need to give medication at set times during the day.

If you do need to modify your cat’s daytime sleep patterns, do so gradually over the course of days or weeks. Use engaging playtime and rewarding toys and treats to encourage wakefulness and activity during the desired times. Make sure your cat still gets adequate overall sleep by allowing undisturbed rest at night. Pay attention to signs of stress or exhaustion. Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your cat’s health, sleep, or behavior.

With patience and care, you may be able to shift your cat’s sleep schedule. But in most cases, it’s best to let sleeping cats lie and allow them to follow their natural rhythms.

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