How Much Sleep Does A Young Cat Need?

Adolescent cat sleep cycles can seem like they are from another planet. Here’s why and how you can help.

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A young cat doesn't need as much sleep as a kitten, but she'll still snooze the majority of the day. Ryhor Bruyeu/iStock/Thinkstock
Dr. Laci Schaible

Do you have a cat around the age of 7 months to 2 years that isn’t quite a kitten anymore but isn’t yet a mature adult cat either? Teenage and young adult cats are known to play hard and sleep hard. Learn all about perplexing young adult cat sleep patterns and how you can help your cat get better sleep — starting tonight.

How Much Do Young Cats Sleep?
Adolescent cats have seemingly endless energy to burn, and so much bouncing and pouncing requires frequent refueling of their kitty batteries. While your young cat won’t catch as many ZZZs as she did when she was a kitten, she may still sleep an impressive 15 to 20 hours a day during this period of her life.

If you are trying to understand the energy and sleep patterns of your adolescent cat, remember that every cat has an internal clock that influences body temperature, appetite, hormonal changes and her cat sleep cycles. The biological and psychological processes that follow this 24-hour internal clock are called circadian rhythms. As your kitten grows into a young adult cat, her internal clock changes and this can alter the time she starts feeling sleepy and awakens.

Why So Much Sleep?
In veterinary school we learned the higher up the food chain an animal is, the more sleep they need. Predators hunt, then eat, then sleep. One meal can last a long period of time, as prey is much more energy dense than vegetation. Grazing animals, such as sheep, must graze a great period of the day to sustain themselves. And while grazing expends little energy, hunting and capturing your dinner burns far more calories. Even though your pampered house cat doesn’t have to catch her own meals on the African savannah, she is still evolutionarily programmed to sleep — lots.

Common Cat Sleeping Problems
While the number of hours young cats sleep may seem excessive to you, oversleeping in this age group is usually not cause to worry. If you find your cat is sleepy when awake as well, this can indicate a medical problem. Generally speaking, if your cat’s personality changes, such as crankiness, wanting to be alone and she is sleeping more, this may indicate illness. For instance, intestinal parasites are commonly diagnosed in cats — even in indoor only cats — and can deplete them of energy until treated.

If your adolescent cat seems to be waking frequently from sleep or not sleeping enough, she may have a neurological problem or a physical obstructive one, such as sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea, the throat muscles fall slack during sleep, preventing air from moving freely through the nose and windpipe. This can interfere with breathing and prevent sound sleep. You might notice your cat snoring loudly or pauses intermittently in her breathing, along with frequent waking. While this may not seem troublesome, sleeping too little can be detrimental to your cat’s personality and health.

Resetting The Clock
As your kitten transitions into adulthood, she should begin acclimating to your nighttime sleep schedule, with a few night wakings remaining normal. If your adolescent cat is having trouble sleeping, here are a few things that you can try to help:

1. Stick to a schedule. Tough as it might be, try to keep your weekday and weekend routine bedtimes and wake times as close to each other as reasonably possible. Cats are creatures of habit and thrive on schedules and reliability.

2. Schedule play sessions during the day. Interactive games with you are great for zapping her energy; if you aren’t at home during the day, consider a companion cat or a stimulating window ledge placed near a bird feeder. If she has plenty to do during the day, she may prefer to stay awake then, and sleep more during the night when you do.

3. Consider moving her dinner meal to right before your bedtime since cats sleep best after a big meal.

4. Designate a proper sleeping place for her. Whether this snuggled next to you under the blankets or in another room with a designated cat bed, a quiet and safe place to rest and call her own will help her sleep at night. If you have dogs or a pet your cat doesn’t get along with, make sure your cat can safely retreat and relax while sleeping.

5. Adjust the lighting. If you watch TV or use a tablet in bed with your cat, consider turning down the brightness and volume to reduce the risk of sleep disruption. These simple cues can help signal when it’s time to sleep.

6. Unless you suspect your cat is waking you due to illness or injury, don’t give her the reaction she seeks. If meowing and pouncing on your feet at 2 a.m. gets her the attention she craves, she has achieved her goal. When you respond in the middle of the night, it trains her to keep this pattern up on subsequent nights.

7. Keep calm, and purr on. Encourage your cat to wind down at night with a relaxing kitty petting session. Not only will it help your cat sleep, this will lower your blood pressure and help you drift to sleep more easily, too.

If you’re concerned about your adolescent cat’s sleepiness while awake or sleep habits in general, especially if the sleep or activity level is accompanied by meowing, crying or litter box changes, contact a veterinarian. If your cat has a sleeping disorder with an underlying medical cause, proper treatment can be the key to a good night catnap’s sleep.

Article Categories:
Cats · Health and Care