Once a feline reaches senior status, it will spend far more of its daily life dozing. A cat that’s aged 11 years or older may spend up to 20 hours a day asleep. This is a perfectly normal way for elderly cats to recuperate.
A lifetime of hunting, jumping, and chasing takes a huge toll on a cat’s body. Sleep provides an opportunity for a senior cat to heal its aching bones, joints, and muscles. If an older cat is arthritic, resting is really important because regular movement will be more painful.
Feline movement requires the use of countless muscles in tandem, and a senior cat’s body doesn’t recover as quickly as it once did. Observe your cat’s behavior while it’s awake to check that it’s healthy. If your cat is acting normally, just focus on making your cat’s bed comfortable and accessible.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Why Do Senior Cats Sleep All Day?
- 2 Older Cat Sleeping Comfortably
- 3 Why Is My Cat Asleep All Day And Awake At Night?
Why Do Senior Cats Sleep All Day?
It will hardly come as a surprise that senior cats sleep most of the day. Even at the peak of health, cats spend much of their day resting with one eye open. Expect an aged feline to sleep as much as 20 hours a day.
As long as the cat is otherwise healthy, this is nothing to worry about. Do be mindful of your cat’s general behavior and demeanor, though. Your cat should be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the hours it is awake.
Even if you can’t spot anything concerning, consider possible explanations for your senior cat’s sleepiness. It may be natural, or your cat could have quality of life concerns that require addressing.
Everyday life for a cat is exhausting. Just walking requires the cat to use every muscle in a cat’s powerful legs. Even young-and-vibrant cats only like to move if it is strictly necessary and needs regular recovery naps.
What’s more, a cat is also always aware of surroundings. Thanks to its excellent senses of hearing and smell, cats are always picking up external stimulation. A cat’s whiskers also detect vibrations, ensuring changes to air pressure are detected.
This constant bombardment of information can take its toll on a cat. After all that stimulation, just walking to the litter box may leave a cat feeling shattered. Older cats have limited energy reserves and they are easily drained. Sleep aids recovery, both mentally and physically.
Excluding naps, cats have two main modes of sleeping. REM sleep sees a cat’s mind filtering through the day’s events. The cat is subconsciously deciding what memories are important and what can be discarded. It is during REM sleep that cats dream.
When not in REM sleep, cats enter deep sleep. This, as the name suggests, is a deep and dreamless slumber. It is critical for older cats, as this is when the body repairs itself. While a cat is in deep sleep, aching joints get some welcome respite.
Sleep does not cure arthritis, which is common in senior cats. It certainly helps manage it, though. If your cat gets enough rest, it will feel more capable of movement upon waking. Thankfully, senior cats spend the majority of their day in deep sleep over REM sleep.
It is common for cats to indulge in a long sleep after eating. This is to aid the digestive process. Older cats struggle to digest traditional cat food. This could make your senior cat particularly sluggish and dozy after eating.
At your local pet store, you’ll find an array of senior-specific cat foods. Most reputable brands will provide these meals in flavors that your cat enjoys. Older cats should always be fed one of these age-appropriate diets.
As per Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, senior felines struggle to digest fats and carbohydrates. Food designed for older cats focusses on digestible proteins. Ergo, it does not sit heavy in a cat’s stomach.
By switching your cat’s food, you may find your pet is a little more energetic. Even if this is not the case, it will be happier and healthier. The cat’s digestive tract will find it much easier to process a senior-specific meal.
Hiding Illness or Vulnerability
Can you be sure that your cat is not hiding something from you? Cats dislike revealing pain or illness. Felines see this as a weakness and worry it will open them up to attack. A poorly or pained cat would rather hide and sleep.
Take a look at your cat’s body language while it spends prolonged periods dozing. Does it adopt any of these postures?
- On side, all paws outstretched
- On back, belly exposed and claws retracted
- On front, paws tucked under belly
If you answered yes, your cat is unlikely to be in pain or sick. These are the postures of happy, relaxed cats. If your cat is curled into a ball, it’s different. The fetal position is a classic warning of pain in a cat. It is trying to comfort itself.
If you notice this sleeping position, look for other behavioral changes. Does the cat reject handling? Has it lost interest in food or grooming? Is it being uncharacteristically grumpy? These are all signs that something is amiss. Veterinary advice is recommended.
As previously discussed, older cats spend much of their day in deep sleep. Do ensure this is the case, though. Your cat may be aiming to just nap. If the cat is experiencing hearing difficulties, it will drift further into unplanned slumber. There is no noise to keep it awake and alert.
Test your cat’s hearing by making noises out of eyesight. Avoid making noises such as handclaps or stomping your feet. These will create vibrations that the cat’s whiskers detect. This means you will no closer to knowing if your cat is deaf. Examples you could use include:
- Jangling car keys
- Using a training clicker
These sounds meet the criteria of checking feline hearing. They will pique a cat’s interest if it hears them. They are not loud enough to distress the cat if it retains its hearing, though. Some cats exhibit signs of selective deafness when feeling stubborn.
If your cat is losing its hearing, do not panic. Most deaf cats adapt to live long, happy lives, especially if the hearing loss was gradual. Do have your cat checked by a professional to confirm the diagnosis, though.
There is always a possibility that a cat is sleeping due to boredom. If the cat has nothing better to do, it will sleep until something changes. Cats start to slow down as they age, but they still need a little fun.
Boredom is a dangerous path to cats to go down. Bored cats often become stressed and depressed, which leads to a loss of appetite. Senior cats need to eat regularly to keep their strength up. Boredom can also lead to destructive, attention-seeking behaviors.
Surround your cat’s territory with appropriate entertainment. This means toys, scratching posts and climbing trees. There is every possibility that your cat will ignore these items. All the same, it will appreciate having them around.
Talk to your cat regularly, too. Cats enjoy interacting with their owners. If your cat is older and arthritic, it may miss the playtimes you once shared. Holding a conversation is the next best thing. The cat will still feel acknowledged and prioritized.
Older Cat Sleeping Comfortably
If your senior cat is spending more time dozing, embrace it. Unless you have any reason to believe the cat is unwell, it’s natural. In fact, focus on ensuring the cat is as comfortable as possible. Quality of sleep is as important to senior cats as quantity.
All cats love routine, but senior cats are particularly keen on structure. Remember, your cat will not spend much time awake. Those hours that it is active need to be spent in a reliable and reassuring manner.
Arrange for an appropriate time for feeding each day and stick with it. Your cat will quickly start to build a body clock around this. It will awaken in the early evening anticipating food.
If possible, work a little exercise into your cat’s routine here too. This could be play, or just simple physical movement. Senior cats frequently need to be coerced into moving, so be patient. This will help the cat sleep in the aftermath.
Once your cat has exercised and eaten, offer a hand with grooming if necessary. These three activities are a ‘holy trinity’ of sorts for cats. Exercise, food and grooming and all precursors to a long, restful sleep. Encourage routine and your cat will be relaxed enough to doze.
A senior cat needs appropriate territory in which to sleep. It’s important that the cat is not disturbed, so this area must be quiet. Environmental factors must also be taking into consideration, such as temperature.
A cat will often choose its own territory. Felines are strong-willed and largely do as they please. You can try to gently guide a cat into particular parts of the home, though. Older cats will gravitate to quiet locations with soft furnishings and easy access to a litter tray.
Remember just how much time you cat spends sleeping each day. You should not set up a dozing spot somewhere inconvenient to you or family. Do not tiptoe around a senior cat, but equally, they should not be disturbed. Avoid loud noises or physical interaction.
A spare room is an ideal location for a senior cat to sleep away the day. If this room has a window, avoid placing a cat’s bed directly under it. This could create a draft, or the sunlight could burn a cat’s skin. Set the thermostat to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beds and Blankets
Consider how you can make your senior cat as comfortable as possible. A specialist bed is advisable. In fact, it may be a necessity. As cats grow older and wearier, they struggle to access human furniture.
With this in mind, invest in a soft bed that offers plenty of padding. The bed should be large enough for your cat to stretch if it wishes. Do not make the bed so big that it dwarfs the cat, though. Felines like to feel snug and secure.
Ideally, choose a bed that it made from soft material in its entirety. If this is not possible, ensure that a plastic frame has at least one low side. The limited flexibility of a senior cat must always be considered when purchasing furnishings.
Line the bed with familiar scents to tempt your cat in. Remember, your cat is going to sleep most of the day anyway. It will be better served doing so in comfortable surroundings. If your cat snoozes in a warm, padded bed, it will be in a better mood upon waking.
Why Is My Cat Asleep All Day And Awake At Night?
Some cat owners complain that senior felines reserve their few waking hours for after dark. A reversed sleep-waking cycle in a cat can be frustrating. Cats may appear delicate and quiet, but they can make a lot of noise after dark.
Most cats can be trained to sleep through the night. If your older cat has broken this training, there will be a reason. This could be medical in nature, or it may be due to lifestyle. Identify the cause of the behavior and it can be rectified.
Lack of Routine
The first thing to check is your cat’s routine. Senior cats love to live according to a reliable schedule. You may be inadvertently messing with your cat’s body clock.
Do not feed your cat a main meal during the day. The cat will always want to embark upon its ‘main’ sleep after this. Although most naps end in deep sleep for senior cats, there are still varying levels of rest.
If your cat gets substantial sleep during the day, it may wake up with a burst of energy. This does not last long in senior cats, but it is enough to be disturbing. The cat will want attention that you are unwilling to provide. This will provoke upset and agitation.
You should also consider your cat’s general surroundings during the day. The cat may find it easier to relax and sleep by day, when nobody is home. This, again, will lead to activity by night. Carve out some quiet territory for your cat and re-train it to sleep at night.
Hyperthyroidism, aka thyrotoxicosis, is a health concern common in senior cats. As per the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, age and the consumption of tinned foods are the most common causes.
Hyperthyroidism stems from the thyroid gland, in the back of a cat’s neck. A hyperthyroid feline will produce an excess of hormones from this gland, called T3 and T4.
The thyroid glands impact upon a range of organs within a cat’s body. This means that untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to secondary health concerns. It is important to start a course of medication as quickly as possible. Warning signs of hyperthyroidism include:
- Inexplicable weight loss, despite a healthy appetite
- Increased thirst and associated urination
- Lack of interest in grooming, leading to greasy and matted fur
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Bursts of hyperactivity
It’s the latter symptom that can be linked to the subject at hand. A cat may sleep all day as standard, but suddenly wake up with a spike of energy. This is not sustainable and should be taken seriously. A hyperthyroid cat may hurt itself in a frenzy of excitement.
If your cat is well into its dotage, cognitive decline becomes increasingly likely. Feline cognitive dysfunction is essentially cat senility. Your cat will struggle to think straight, experiencing a steady deterioration of the mind.
A senile cat will often experience a reversed sleeping and waking schedule. This means the few hours the cat remains awake are after dark. As cats with FCD are often disoriented, the cat will likely wail and verbalize throughout this time. Other symptoms of FCD include:
- Eliminating outside the litter box
- Failing to recognize owners or other pets
- Behavioral shifts and mood swings
- Lethargy and lack of interest in surroundings
- Staring into space for prolonged periods
As explained by Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice, FCD cannot be cured. The focus is on slowing down degradation of the brain. Allow your cat to sleep as much as it needs. Distressing the cat by keeping it awake will not help. Just make the most of waking hours.
Once cats reach double figures in age, they slow down considerably. A senior cat will spend more of its day sleeping. This is usually fine and natural. Focus on keeping your cat comfortable and meeting essential needs whenever it is active.