Cat Sleep Disorders

Cats are often perceived as “lazy” because of the amount of time they spend just laying around doing nothing. Because cats spend a greater portion of their daily (normally between 11-16 hours per day) lives sleeping, it seems both impossible and surprising that they can suffer sleep disorders. However, there are four common sleep disorders that cats can experience. Despite the common belief that cats can fall asleep anytime, and anywhere; that is simply not true.


There are basically four types of sleep disorders that cats may experience – hypersomnia, apnea, narcolepsy and insomnia. Here is some useful information on each type. They are listed in the order of most common to least common:


This is perhaps the easiest sleep disorder to resolve and the most common among cats. Hypersomnia is a condition where your cat gets too much sleep. The reason for this may be something as simple as boredom. If your cat does not have another cat to play with and must spend several hours daily without a human companion, it will sleep because it has nothing else to do and nothing to spark its curiosity or motivate its energy. An easy remedy for this may be just the addition of a few toys to play with, or ribbons attached to a doorknob or table leg. Keep in mind that the best way to reduce your cat’s boredom is to spend more time with it. Cats love to chase, and play catch, so make it a habit to spend some time each day interacting with your cat. This is also a good way to get them the exercise they need to keep their weight at a healthy level. Be aware too, that if your cat spends the majority of the day in an environment that is dark, its sleep clock will become skewed and it will spend that time sleeping, as cats, like humans, do most of their sleeping at night.


As the second most commons sleep disorder among cats; this condition is when your cat stops breathing during sleep. Also common in humans, this can be a bit more serious for felines when the frequency increases and the periods of apnea become longer. An interruption in normal breathing that lasts too long will cause a cat’s diaphragm to spasm, which results in your cat gasping in its sleep. If this condition is not addressed quickly, it can be fatal for your cat.  Diagnosing this disorder is fairly simple, requiring that you observe the cat while it sleeps. Watch the cat and take note of how often its breathing is interrupted, and what occurs when the cat stops breathing. Also note how long each episode of interrupted breathing lasts. Take this information with you when you visit your veterinarian, as this will help him determine the severity of this condition.


This the third most common sleep disorder among cats. This sleep disorder is simply a strong, irresistible urge to sleep no matter what time of day it is. Cats, like humans, generally sleep through the night and some during the day. A cat experiencing narcolepsy will not care what time of day it is, but will be driven to sleep no matter what. A cat who suffers from this condition will often fall asleep when extremely excited, and is unable to fight the urge, despite the excitement. This clearly is not normal for a cat, and definitely requires a visit to your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation. Narcolepsy can be treated with medications if your veterinarian feels it is necessary.


This last sleep disorder is a lack of sleep, generally caused by some stress your cat is experiencing. The stress could be an underlying illness, anxiety over strangers or a new pet in the household, living in a new location, or nothing more than the activity level in the home increasing, which provides the cat less opportunities to find some peace and quiet for a nap. Often the elimination of the cause of the stress will remedy the insomnia.

Cats, like humans, need their rest, so it is important to provide a space in the home where they can rest away from the hub of activity, or simply get some solitude (even from other pets in the household), enough to relax and sleep uninterrupted. A cat that does not get enough sleep will become restless and begin to exhibit behavior that is not acceptable, as the stress from lack of sleep begins to manifest itself in negative ways. A well-rested cat is a happy cat. Lack of sleep may make them irritable, interfere with their eating and cat box behavior; both of which are difficult to correct if they become too disgruntled.


Age – older cats will sleep longer, because their bodies require more sleep.

Appetite – if your cats eats more than needed, he will feel tired because he is full. It is important to feed your cat enough to meet his daily nutritional requirements, but do not always make food available to him.

Exercise – if you have multiple pets/cats in your household, then chances are you cat is getting a good amount of exercise, and may require a little more sleep.

Mood – a cat that is depressed will sleep more than necessary. Pay attention to your cat’s moods and anything in his environment (new or old) that may be causing some stress and eliminate it if possible.

Health – visit your veterinarian annually to make sure your cat is healthy. If you have any concerns about your cat’s sleep habits, this is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and get advice or treatment if necessary.

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