TLDR; Cats require 15-20 hours of sleep per day and mental stimulation.
Hi! I’m a dog trainer who’s also trained cats, horses, and other farm animals.🐕🦺🏇🐐🐑
Cats are crepuscular, which means they have two active periods at dawn and dusk, and sleep most of the rest of the time.🌅🌆
Crepuscular animals evolved to be most active during the same time as their prey – which, for cats, is birds in the AM and rodents in the PM.🐦🐁
It is important for cats to have their needs for exercise and mental stimulation met, and we’ll discuss what that looks like a bit farther down.
But is it imperative that they also get enough SLEEP!💤😽💤
Like people, young cats can develop unhealthy habits that do not serve them – or their people! – well. When that happens, it is up to us to get them into a good rhythm.
(Have you ever met a human toddler that’s overly screamy and out of control? 👶 Chances are, that child’s sleep patterns are disregulated!)
Most cats are allowed to run around and do whatever they want all day… and honestly, most do just fine without any sort of schedule.🐈🏠
However, if your cat:
• exhibits “crazy” behavior at all hours of the day and night
• engages in overly destructive behavior, or
• is well socialized but frequently in conflict with housemates
S/he might be sleep deprived! 😿
This is an easily overlooked issue and one we know less about than, say, the needs of dogs. To my knowledge there is not a lot of research on the ideal sleep/wake schedule for kittens, and nobody is really studying this.
But I discovered a solution when it happened with my 7 month old Ragdoll kitten, Starbuck.
I noticed him attacking his dog sister more frequently during the day, and with more intensity. I realized his play had become generally more frantic and aggressive.
This “crazy” behavior made me realize:
Something is off.🙀
Knowing what I know about over-stimulation in puppies and young dogs, I thought: could this have a similar cause?
So I observed Starbuck for a few days and realized: this cat is constantly on the go-Go-GO! I knew that cats need 15-20 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period – and he wasn’t getting it.
That’s when I realized Starbuck needed help.
If they don’t get enough sleep, cats can actually mess up their circadian rhythms – which has behavioral consequences.
I’ve been crating Starbuck in a medium dog crate at night because otherwise, he would attack his dog sister all night trying to play. I adapted the ideal puppy training schedule for a cat’s physiology to include a much longer daytime crate period, and BINGO – discovered the little devil was, indeed, suffering from overstimulation and lack of sleep!😈
By providing plenty of enrichment during the crepuscular waking periods twice a day, and enforcing a long rest period when he’s “supposed” to be asleep, he’s become calmer and more content.😺
That long rest time during the day led to more peaceful evenings and an apparently happier cat.😸
And no doubt, he is healthier as a result…
Adrenaline pumping through the bloodstream all the time isn’t good for anyone!🚨
Here is my cat’s schedule:
7:00 – Out of the crate when we get up.
Breakfast – I do a scatter feed so he has to use his nose to work to find the little pieces of food. To keep it interesting, I sometimes change locations, scatter some food in a box, etc. – it’s fun to get creative!
Sometimes I make it a training game – I throw each piece of food away so he can run and get it, and then practice recall by having him come back to me for the next piece.
I sometimes come up with other mentally stimulating ways he can work for food, like this morning we have a ladder out for some work that’s going on in our house. So, I put a few pieces of food on each step with a jackpot at the top. He figured out how to climb the ladder to get his breakfast.
Starbuck is leash trained so I either take him for a walk up the road, or put him on a tie out in the garden while I’m working outside, or both. Then I’ll take him to the downstairs terrace where he likes to patrol for bugs.
8:00-10:00 Walkies and/or Terrace Time
Whatever activities I choose, I’m ensuring he’s very active from 7-10AM and 4-8PM both mentally and physically.
10:00-4:00 CRATE REST
Yes, all day.😁
Remember, cats need a *minimum* of 15 hours of sleep daily. Kittens, more!
Sometimes the activity of a busy household or the sounds of modern life conspire to keep kitties awake when they should be sleeping – especially if they have housemates.
I put my cat in his crate in a quiet room with a fan running for white noise. You can close the curtains or cover the crate to make it darker if that helps them settle. You can also use a bathroom or other small area of confinement as a kitty nursery.
By simply removing the choice to go randomly “do stuff” (and get into trouble), the confinement allows him to relax and sleep… When we first started he would wake up, groom himself, and go back to sleep. The longer we do this, the longer his daytime sleep period has become.
Think of crate time like this: it’s a bit like putting a toddler down for a nap, after snack and playtime, in his crib, in a dark, quiet room.👶
More mental and physical stimulation followed by free time/toys around the house.
Both the cat and the dog eat a fresh meat dinner in their crates, but with the door open.
5:30-8:30 Free Play
When he’s done eating he gets to do whatever he wants (except harass his sister).🐶😆
Toys and bugs may or may not be involved.🪀🦗
8:30, ish – Short night time walk/explore outside session before bed
9:00 NIGHTY-NIGHT 🌃
In the crate until 7:00 next morning.
* * *
I find this schedule keeps conflict to a minimum. My kitty is generally calmer and usually makes more acceptable choices for amusement.
Now that I ensure he gets enough sleep during the day, he appears much more happy and relaxed.
There is less conflict with his dog sister at any hour, and we all get a good night’s sleep.
This is what worked for me. If you try this with your krazy kitty, I’d love to hear how it goes. If you have any other ideas to add, please send me a message.
If you would like one on one support, I’m available for coaching online.