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3 Reasons Why Cats Sleep More In Winter

 3 Reasons Why Cats Sleep More In Winter

Cats, similar to numerous other animals, can display alterations in their behavior due to seasonal fluctuations. Although the responses of individual cats may vary, here are three explanations as to why certain cats may experience increased sleep during the winter season:

During the winter season, as the days become shorter, darker, and colder, and you bring out your fuzzy socks, hot cocoa, and pine-scented candles, you may observe some changes in your cat's behavior. One noticeable change could be that they appear to be sleeping more than usual.

It is common for cats to sleep more in winter, and this is generally not a cause for concern. According to Dr. Kevin Puzycki, DVM and spokesperson of Solid Gold, your cat's increased sleeping habits are a natural response to the decrease in daylight. As their natural circadian rhythm adjusts, it is likely that they will sleep more, with some cats even sleeping up to 20 hours a day during the winter season.

Why Do Cats Sleep Longer In Winter?

Dr. Erica Thiel, DVM, IndeVets Midwest Area Medical Director, explains that cats are known for being polyphasic sleepers. On average, a cat sleeps for about 12 to 13 hours a day, with each sleep phase lasting around 78 minutes. However, during the winter season, there are additional factors that can influence a cat's sleep patterns, such as their lifestyle.

According to Dr. Thiel and Molly DeVoss, a Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist, outdoor cats, especially those that are not spayed or neutered, tend to be more affected by the colder and darker winter days compared to indoor cats. These factors can contribute to an increase in the amount of sleep outdoor cats require during the winter months.

Now, let's explore three scientifically-supported reasons why cats tend to sleep more in winter.

They’re responding to reduced daylight hours

Outdoor cats that depend on natural prey for survival adjust their hunting and sleeping patterns during the winter months. This is necessary because the times of dawn and dusk shift during this season. Additionally, these cats face challenges in obtaining their prey as the numbers of birds and rodents decrease due to migration, hibernation, and reduced breeding levels.

Furthermore, intact female cats cease entering heat when the daylight hours are less than 12. As outdoor intact cats have a strong drive to reproduce, they exhibit reduced activity during the winter months when daylight is limited.

Indoor cats that have been spayed or neutered and live with humans share the same biological composition. However, their overall well-being, behavior, and health are heavily influenced by their daily routines. It is important to note that if you do not alter your habits during the winter season, your cat is likely to follow suit.

According to experts, cats are highly adaptable and can quickly grasp your established routines. Once they become familiar with these patterns, they will come to rely on them.

For instance, if you consistently wake up at the same time throughout the year and prioritize feeding your cat first thing in the morning, chances are they will not opt to sleep in, even on a chilly December not forget to visit our website to know more about your cat

They’re conserving energy

Outdoor cats, particularly those that are not spayed or neutered, tend to sleep more during the colder months compared to indoor cats. This is because their bodies instinctively try to conserve energy and fat reserves. In winter, this behavior is further intensified as they need to expend more energy in the chilly temperatures while hunting for scarce prey, as stated by DeVoss.

On the other hand, if you observe that your indoor cat is sleeping longer, it could be attributed to various factors such as stress, boredom, or underlying medical conditions. Indoor cats that have been spayed or neutered have access to consistent food sources, indoor heating, and artificial light.

Due to these favorable conditions, they are less likely to require energy conservation in response to the cold weather. Instead, they are more likely to adapt to changes in the household routine, such as an earlier bedtime during the winter months.

The cold reduces their sleep quality

Certain studies indicate that cats, particularly older ones, may experience heightened periods of wakefulness and disturbances in their sleep when the temperature in their surroundings decreases. According to Dr. Thiel, this can result in a decrease in the quality of their sleep, leading to lethargy and an increased need for sleep. As their sleep is not as restorative as usual, their bodies naturally react to this disrupted sleep pattern. Consequently, your cat may attempt to make up for the lost sleep by taking additional naps throughout the day or sleeping for longer not forget to visit our website to know more about your cat

Do Cats Sleep Longer Because They’re Sad?

According to Maggie Shuter, Feline Behavior Consultant and President and Founder of Refuge Chatopia, it is important to note that when cats spend more time sleeping, it does not necessarily indicate that they are bored, sad, or disengaged. Similar to humans, cats' sleep schedules can be influenced by hormonal and environmental factors, causing fluctuations in their sleeping patterns. 

On the other hand, humans are diurnal creatures, meaning we are most active during daylight hours. When daylight hours are reduced, we may feel a sense of deprivation as we have less time to accomplish our desired tasks. This can lead to an earlier bedtime during the winter season.

Interestingly, if you find yourself sleeping earlier in the winter, there is a good chance that your cat is responding by imitating your sleep patterns. However, it is worth noting that indoor cats may experience less variation in their sleeping patterns compared to outdoor cats, as the amount of light indoors is not as dramatic as it is outside.

How to Keep A Cat Happy In Winter

1. Engage in daily aerobic exercise: Interact with your feline companion by using toys that encourage them to chase and run, such as stuffed plushies, feathers on strings, or bouncy springs. This type of exercise allows your cat to utilize their natural hunting instincts, as suggested by Shuter.

2. Introduce changes to their environment: Simple modifications can provide stimulation for your cat. Consider moving a chair to a different location and hanging a crystal or stained glass suncatcher in a well-lit window. These alterations will keep your cat's environment fresh and captivating.

3. Regularly try new ideas for environmental enrichment: Enhance your cat's living space by incorporating hiding places, vertical climbing spaces, and even an outdoor enclosure. These additions can significantly enhance their overall well-being and quality of life. For more ideas on environmental enrichment, consult your veterinarian, a cat behavior expert, or conduct online research.

4. Provide mental stimulation: In addition to physical exercise, mental activity is crucial for your cat's thriving. Consider using a puzzle feeder to keep your cat engaged while they eat, promoting mental stimulation.

5. Encourage exploratory play: Engaging your cat in exploratory play not only provides physical exercise but also stimulates their mind. Cat towers and shelving units are excellent options for this activity. Additionally, placing cardboard boxes and paper bags around can pique your cat's interest and encourage them to interact with their surroundings.

How to Keep A Cat Warm In Winter

Similar to indoor cats, outdoor cats also look for warm and comfortable spots to take their naps. However, during cold weather, they may unknowingly expose themselves to danger by seeking refuge in unconventional "beds," such as cars.

According to Dr. Brian Collins from Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, cats often crawl into the wheel wells and engine compartments of cars during winter.

To ensure their safety, Dr. Collins advises checking the wheel wells of your car and either honking the horn or banging on the hood before starting the vehicle. This will prompt any cats seeking shelter in the engine compartment to leave.

Outdoor cats are exposed to various risks during cold weather, such as hypothermia and frostbite affecting their paws, ears, and tails. Additionally, they face dangers from antifreeze and snow melts, which contain harmful substances.

To ensure the well-being and safety of cats in winter, it is highly recommended to keep them indoors. However, if outdoor living is unavoidable, it becomes crucial to provide them with a winterized shelter that shields them from the cold, wind, and snow. The ideal shelter should be elevated a few inches above the ground and furnished with bedding, such as straw, to retain warmth.

Studies indicate that indoor cats tend to prefer room temperatures ranging from 86 to 100°F. While it may not be practical to raise your thermostat to such levels, you can create cozy and warm resting spots for your feline companions using soft blankets and cat beds.

Do cats get seasonal illnesses like humans?

Dr. Puzycki explains that outdoor cats who spend extended periods of time in cold weather may experience a weakened immune system, making them more susceptible to illnesses such as the common cold. Similarly, indoor cats can also develop respiratory symptoms during the winter months. Dr. Puzycki notes that many cats in his practice exhibit dry, non-productive coughs during this time.

Dr. Thiel adds that indoor cats are also at risk of contracting various contagious upper respiratory infections. However, research has not found any evidence to suggest that winter specifically causes more seasonal illnesses for indoor cats. Instead, these symptoms may be attributed to stress and the effects of indoor heating, which can dry out the air.

During the holiday season, cats can experience significant changes and disruptions to their routines. This includes traveling with their families, staying in boarding facilities, having a cat-sitter, or temporarily residing with a new family. These changes can have a profound impact on cats.


In addition to recognizing and addressing these sources of stress to alleviate your cat's discomfort, using a humidifier indoors can provide relief from the dry air. Dr. Thiel recommends ensuring that your cat's vaccinations are up to date and minimizing their contact with other cats to reduce the risk of contracting illnesses.

It should be emphasized that seasonal changes can elicit varied responses in individual cats, and their behavior can be influenced by factors like age, health, and environment. If you observe any notable alterations in your cat's behavior, particularly if it involves excessive lethargy or changes in eating patterns, it is recommended to seek advice from a veterinarian to exclude any potential underlying health problems.

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