Summer 2013

Cat Nappers

If your kitty sleeps too much, it could be a sign of poor health

Illustration: Ward Schumaker

Illustration: Ward Schumaker

Cats seem to be able to sleep anytime and anywhere. But contrary to a popular notion, they’re not feline Rip Van Winkles.

“Cats don’t oversleep,” says Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. “In fact, they don’t sleep much more than dogs, but might sleep as much as a baby or young child. It is important to recognize that there is a difference between catnapping and being asleep.”

When cats nap, their bodies and minds are operating in essentially a standby mode, says Dodman. During a nap, a cat is similar to an idling car engine, which can be put into “drive” at a moment’s notice—especially if a cat senses prey nearby.

That said, adequate sleep is important to a cat’s health, longevity and mood, and changes in sleep patterns may signal illness.

Cats with hyperthyroidism or hypertension, for example, may sleep less and be more active than usual. In both cases, cats may vocalize at night, loud enough to wake their owners. Cats infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) often sleep less, much as people with HIV do.

Sudden bouts of prolonged sleep are more indicative of poor health and can indicate such conditions as kidney disease, diabetes and heart disease.

If you notice your cat is sleeping more or less than usual, talk to your veterinarian to make sure any potential health issue is addressed early.

Adapted with permission from Catnip: The Newsletter for Caring Cat Owners, published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. For subscription information, go to or call 1.800.829.0926.

Top Stories

Doggone DNA

All dogs and cats are at risk for inherited health problems. Understanding them can benefit animal and human health

Editor's Picks

Backyard Hunters

A recent report says our feline friends are killing wildlife at an alarming rate, but the issue is much more complex