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How much sleep does my kitten need?

Adult cats sleep an average of 18 hours a day and kittens even more! If you have just welcomed a new kitten into your home, or if you are taking care of newborns, you are probably wondering how much they should sleep. If you are concerned that your kitten is sleeping well, keep in mind that she has to feel protected, warm and comfortable in a quiet place. Sleep, along with proper nutrition, is essential for the development of your kitten’s brain, nervous system, muscles and bones. The rhythm and quantity of her sleep will depend on her age but also personality and life style; the more active she is, the more she should sleep.

Newborn kitten sleeping pattern

The first week, your little kitty can sleep more than 20 hours a day: around 90% of her time! Her sleep is light, agitated with small fast contractions of her face muscles and ears, and she may make small sounds. She is experiencing “rapid sleep” (sometimes referred to as paradoxical sleep or REM sleep, for rapid eye movement).You may also notice that your newborn sleeps with her siblings, close to her mother. Not yet able to regulate her own body temperature, she sleeps this way instinctively to keep warm and to feel protected. Note that your kitten may double in size within the first week of her life and such intense growing requires a lot of sleep. Among other things, sleep allows your little friend to rest and it reinforces memorization and learning.

Understanding your kitten’s sleeping needs

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Kitten sleeping habits after two weeks

As your kitten grows older, she will gradually sleep less as she becomes more active; all her senses are developing. Her sleep has a new deep phase (slow sleep or non-REM sleep) where she is totally relaxed and breathing slowly. This alternates with “light” REM sleep in a cycle called “sleep bout”. Your kitten is becoming a typical cat “polyphasic sleeper” as her sleeping time goes into multiple bouts between waking phases1.

At three weeks of age, your kitten will begin to sleep alone, with longer states of deep sound sleep. She will tend to sleep on her side or stomach. As she grows, she will become increasingly bold and start to discover her surroundings. Your little feline engages with her environment through jumping, climbing, pouncing, and scratching (watch out for your curtains and furniture!).These instinctive behaviours are very stimulating for your kitten and require a lot of energy, which needs to be restocked during sleep.

After two months, your kitten sleeps an average of 18 hours per day like an adult. Her sleep cycle could be then split into a phase of sound sleep (20-25 minutes) followed by a phase of REM-paradoxal-dreaming (5 minutes). She now sleeps alone, often in warm, sunny, comfortable places, high off the ground.

Why is my kitten so active at night?

You may notice that your kitten curls up for a nap just as your household is waking up and getting busy. This is because cats are crepuscular mammals with a tendency to be most active at dawn and at dusk. In the wild, felines hunt during those times and sleep during the day. Your little feline is still biologically programmed to do this. However, cats are also quite adaptable, especially if you are close to your feline friend. If she is waking you up at dawn, you can teach her not to do this by providing more activity during the day. You can make her daily environment more interactive by providing her with stimulating games. If she is more active in the day, she could sleep more at night! You might also try playing with her just before bedtime. If she is an early riser, you could always provide her with a puzzle feeder which is a toy filled with food to keep her busy till you have had your coffee!

Last-minute tips

Ever wonder what is going on with your little feline while she sleeps? During paradoxical or REM sleep, your kitten may appear to be awake. At this moment, she may wake up at the slightest sound and is in a kind of alert mode, ready to run, pounce, or jump. These are both protective and predatory instincts at work.

  • Make sure that she has a spot to sleep in a quiet place, in order to go into her deep sleep phase, which is essential for her health and well-being.
  • Even though she may make little noises, avoid waking your kitten while she is sleeping. It is believed that cats dream during this period, although we still do not know what they dream about. Chasing her favourite cat toy perhaps!

Finally, while stimulation and exercise are good for her mental and physical well-being, make sure your kitten has sufficient quality sleep during the day. You will both enjoy your special times playing together and bonding. And when she is sleeping, try to guess what she could possibly be dreaming about!

  • 1Ball NJ. The phasing of sleep in animals. In: Stampi C, editor. WhyWe Nap Evolution, Chronobiology and Functions of Polyphasic and Ultra short Sleep. Birkhauser; Boston: 1992. pp. 31–49.