How Often Should Kittens Sleep?

Published: 4/12/2021
If you've just become a pet parent to an adorable, pint-sized feline, you'll no doubt have lots of questions. Pet parents who have never had a cat before will be unsure about their kitten's behavior, including how much their little lion should sleep each day. From how much sleep your kitten should get to why they spend so much time snoozing, here's everything you need to know.

A kitten's sleeping pattern

Pet parents who are new to cat care may be alarmed by the amount of sleep their fur-baby gets. Sleep is a vital part of a kitten's development and is the prime time for cognitive and muscular development. For example, a newborn kitten will double in size during the first couple of weeks of their life. 

On average, a newborn kitten can sleep as much as 22 hours — more than 90% of their day! While this may seem excessive to some, this is normal and doesn't change much into adulthood. (They don't call it a "catnap" for no reason.) A fully grown cat is still expected to sleep around 18 hours every day.

How your kitten sleeps and how it changes as they grow

During the first 2 months of your kitten's life, you'll notice they are easily woken up and may even appear to be awake while napping. They'll likely twitch, make facial expressions, and even make noises while in dreamland. This initial phase of sleeping, known as rapid eye movement (REM), allows your vulnerable kitten to stay alert as their senses develop. 

After a couple of weeks, your kitten will start being more independent and will begin to sleep solo. As their senses become sharper, your tiny tiger will develop a new slower sleep stage, and they'll seem more relaxed while resting. At around 2 months old, your kitten will make its transition into adult sleep, and you should notice they become more active and start sleeping around 18 hours a day, similar to an adult cat.

How to ensure your kitten is sleeping soundly

Worried your kitten doesn't have a suitable place to sleep? When a kitten is first born, they sleep with their mother and siblings as they can't yet regulate their body heat independently. After a few weeks, they'll fly the nest and require a safe, quiet space to move out of the REM sleep stage. 

Pet parents should provide a safe, quiet, and dark place for their kitten to sleep. Some kittens will pick a spot in a closet or cabinet where they can curl up. You should also place a cat bed or their favorite blanket in a room without much foot traffic where they can go to get away from it all. 

It's also possible that your kitten will pick somewhere undesirable to nap, like their litter box. Kittens sleeping in a litter box is a fairly common occurrence that's usually caused by health and environmental factors. Your cat may be sleeping in their litter box due to a urinary tract infection or urinary crystal formation. Both are potentially serious medical concerns, and if you notice any additional symptoms, consult your vet immediately. Another common environmental reason is your kitten doesn't have a comfortable place to escape, and they see their litter box as the best and safest option. 

It's also essential you structure your kitten's day so they can get the best sleep possible. At around 2 months, your kitten will want to play more and more. Try to play with them for at least 30 minutes over the course of the day, so they're sufficiently tuckered out when it's bedtime. Kittens also tend to sleep better after a meal and may bother you for food before bedtime, so try to plan a meal just before they go to sleep.

Why is my kitten more active at night?

If you've never had a cat, you might be confused why your kitten seems most active when everyone else is ready to settle down for the night. Cats are crepuscular mammals, meaning they're most active around sunrise and sunset. This crepuscular behavior is instinctual, as these twilight hours are the best times for cats to catch their favorite prey, like birds and mice. 

As your kitten grows into an adult, they'll become more flexible with their sleeping pattern and may adjust to sleep when you're sleeping. If you find your kitten keeps you up at all hours, try providing more stimulation during the daytime. If your tiny tiger wakes up early expecting food, buy a puzzle toy to keep them entertained while you get some much-needed shut-eye.

Potential causes of under/oversleeping in kittens

While most kittens will sleep a normal amount without any issues, several environmental and health factors may cause your feline to sleep too much or too little. 

Kittens can also sleep too little, although this is rare and is usually caused by underlying health issues like seizures or a heart condition. If you're worried your kitten isn't sleeping or seems uncomfortable when trying to sleep, contact your vet. Luckily, most of the time, the reason your kitten isn't sleeping as much as you expect is they simply don't sleep as much as other cats. Unsure why your kitten is over or under sleeping? Contact a vet 24/7 through Wag! for advice on how to improve your feline's sleep pattern.

If your kitten seems drowsy when they're awake or seem to be sleeping even more than usual, it could be a symptom of anemia. While a low red blood cell count is common among people, it's potentially dangerous to kittens. If you notice your kitten's gums are very pale and they're oversleeping or lethargic, contact a vet.

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