When your cat is not eating, grooming himself, or playing with his catnip mouse, chances are he’s sleeping. Most cats sleep twelve to sixteen hours a day, or more.
Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active around dawn and dusk and less active in the middle of the day and the middle of the night. They alternate periods of activity and sleep throughout the day, rather than sleeping in one long stretch. The term catnap didn’t come from nowhere!
Cats have different stages of sleep, just like humans. Slow-wave sleep is a light sleep. Breathing slows and his muscles relax a little. Even so, the cat is still somewhat aware of his environment and is easily awakened by the sound of the can opener or the tweet of a nearby bird.
Cats spend about three-quarters of their steep time in slow-wave sleep and the remainder in deep, rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep your cat ‘s eyes move rapidly back and forth. His muscles relax more fully and his breathing slows even more during this critical, restorative period of sleep. In humans, REM sleep is dream sleep, and many experts believe that cats dream too, during this phase of sleep.
Cats can snooze most of the day they never hesitate to make themselves comfortable, whether that means stretching out on a cozy comforter or tucking into a peaceful ball of fluff. Cats enter light sleep and intense REM cycles, when the bra in is active and their body responds accordingly. Their paws flex, claws extend and retract, their kitty whiskers twitch, and they mumble softly in meow-gibberish. Cats spend about 30 percent of their sleeping time in deep sleep, when dreaming occurs.
What could your cat be dreaming? Consider his basic instincts. While our house cats aren’t wildly chasing down prey, the paw movement in their dreams could be your cat pouncing on his victim.
Cats remember past experiences, and these can surface subconsciously during sleep. This is a good thing, actually. Dreaming is vital to a cat’s health. It’s a time for data processing and memory storage, for mental replenishment and brain development.
There is great temptation to wake your cat during REM sleep, especially when he is thrashing his paws or meowing as if he is in a heated debate. Despite activity taking place in the room, a cat in REM is not easily awakened. If you do choose to wake your cat from a nightmare, do so gently by petting him and speaking in a calm, reassuring voice.
Waking a cat while he’s in deep sleep can provoke a swipe of the claws, so avoid startling him awake with a sudden touch. It’s best to leave your cat alone until he wakes up on his own.