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Understanding Pet Sleep Habits

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Companion animals such as cats and dogs have a lot in common with their owners, including the need for plenty of high-quality sleep.

Understanding healthy pet sleep habits can go a long way toward helping your furry friend enjoy a long, happy life. Not only do pet sleep patterns influence animal health, but when and how long your pet sleeps can have a big impact on their behavior.

How Much Sleep Is Normal for Dogs?

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs usually spend about half of the day, or around 12 hours, sleeping. They also devote an additional six hours or so simply relaxing, with the remainder of their time spent eating, playing and interacting with humans and other pets.

Unlike humans, who spend about a quarter of their sleep time in REM sleep, dogs tend to only be in the REM stage about 10% of the time they're sleeping. As a result, dogs need to sleep longer than humans to achieve the amount of deep, restful sleep needed to stay healthy and active.

Dog sleep habits also vary with the breed. Large dogs tend to need a lot more sleep than small dogs, and canine sleep habits change as dogs age. Puppies can sleep up to 20 hours a day, while mature dogs need far less rest. Older dogs tend to revert to needing more sleep, and many senior dogs can snooze for 18 hours or more daily.

Do Cats Really Sleep Up to 16 Hours or More Every Day?

Cats are known to sleep far more than any other animal. The average adult domestic cat sleeps an average of 12 to 16 hours daily, and while that amount of sleep seems excessive when compared to humans, it's perfectly normal for felines.

Cats are crepuscular animals — that means they're most active between dusk and dawn. Also known as nocturnal, cats naturally sleep during daylight hours, and that's why it's virtually impossible to force your cat to sleep at night. They're genetically predisposed to sleeping during the day when they're least likely to be targeted by predators who also share their same nocturnal tendencies.

Newborn kittens spend almost all of their time sleeping, and their need for sleep tapers off somewhat as they mature. Older cats tend to have sleep patterns similar to kittens, where they spend most of their time alternating between resting and eating.

While cats rarely sleep for more than eight hours at a time, all those little cat naps can really add up. Cats frequently doze for brief periods throughout the day to conserve their energy and prepare for the upcoming sleepless night.

What's the Difference Between Cat and Dog Sleep Habits?

If you happen to have a household that includes cats and canines, you know that, unlike most dogs, cats are notoriously difficult to train.

Cats are renowned for their night time antics that can include sudden bouts of the cat zoomies or mad moments — a feline-specific phenomenon that's characterized by quick bursts of activity, often immediately following a long sleep. Many cat owners report that their pets tend to nap throughout the evening and wake up just in time to do laps around the house around midnight.

By comparison, dogs tend to be far more trainable than cats, and that means dog owners can usually train their canine companions to develop sleep habits that fit the owners' schedules.

Changes in Pet Sleep Habits Can Be a Sign of Sickness

Just like with humans, changes in pet sleeping habits can indicate an underlying health problem.

Keep an eye on pets that sleep significantly more, or less, than usual. Other sleep-related signs of illness, injury or disease in cats and dogs include:

  • Sleeping somewhere other than their usual spot or spots
  • Sleeping much deeper than normal and difficult to wake up
  • Tossing and turning frequently while sleeping
  • Snoring
  • Restlessness, including difficulty getting settled down to sleep

If you observe any of the above changes in your pet's sleep habits, you may want to consult with your veterinarian.

In Summary

Healthy sleep habits are just as important for pets as they are for humans. Cats and dogs need quality sleep at all stages of their lives. Any noticeable changes in pet sleep habits may be a sign that your pet needs medical attention, so be sure to pay attention to when, where and how frequently your pet is sleeping.

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