The question of feline fatigue is a controversial one. Some may give cats the label of laziness because of their unique sleeping habits. Others may say cats are lazy because they won't fetch a ball like Fido does. To understand cats, one must take a look at their evolutionary history.
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If you think cats are lazy because they seem to be sleeping all the time, you may be half right. Cats sleep an average of 13 to 16 hours a day. If a human did that, he'd be called a slacker. The age and general health of the cat has a lot to do with how many hours he will sleep. His living arrangements, too, come into play. A strictly indoor cat with little mental stimulation may become bored and take naps because there's not much else to do. Bottom line, cats may appear lazy because of their normal sleeping patterns.
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Today's domestic cat is evolved from the African wild cat, a desert animal. As with all desert animals, cats conserve energy during the daytime and become more energetic at night. The big cats are still nocturnal and do their hunting under cover of night, while domestic cats have evolved to be crepuscular, meaning they are more active at dusk and dawn. Cats will sleep 85 percent of their day away. Only 40 percent of that is regular sleep, while 15 percent is spent in deep slumber. The rest of the time is spent in resting or just hanging out. You see your cat spending so much time catching zzzzz's you begin to think he's lazy, but he's really just being a cat.
A Cat's Sleep
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There are different sleep patterns and their quality varies greatly from regular sleep to deep REM sleep to light cat naps. The cat nap is the result of a cat's instinct as a predator. During a cat nap, your cat can be up and running within seconds of opening her eyes; it's a very light sleep. Their night sleep is more restful, their bodies a bit more relaxed. A deep sleep is unmistakable, the body is totally relaxed, they are usually curled up or stretched out, you notice twitching and rapid eye movement that indicates dreaming and it takes a moment for your cat to wake from a deep sleep. Your cat isn't being lazy so much as simply giving into habit.
Why Won't He Fetch?
If you're of the opinion that cats are lazy because they won't fetch a ball and refuse to learn tricks like a dog, you are not alone. Cats have a reputation of being lazy and aloof because, for the most part, they cannot be taught tricks and obedience like dogs. Some cats can, and do, learn a repertoire of requested behaviors but it takes a lot of patience on the part of the cat's owner. A 2009 study titled "From wild animals to domestic pets, an evolutionary view of domestication" and reported to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America suggests that, unlike dogs, cats actually domesticated themselves. They tolerated humans, found they could benefit from hanging around humans and decided to partner with humans, which led to their domestication. This differed from the domestication of dogs who were deliberately brought into the fold for the mutual benefit of both human and canine and led to their laid-back attitude today. They are not as eager to please as dogs because their survival does not depend on our support as it does for dogs.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- PetMD: Why do Cats Sleep So Much?
- Catster: A Guide to the Feline Sleep Cycle
- World Story: How Do Lions Hunt?
- Cats Info: History of the Domestic Cat
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: From Wild Animals to Domestic Pets, An Evolutionary View of Domestication; Carlos A. Driscoll, David W. Macdonald and Stephen J. O’Brien
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.