Are Cats and Dogs Nocturnal? Pet Sleep Habits

tabby cat awake at night

It’s no secret—pets love to sleep. Whether you are a cat or dog parent, or parent to both, you are probably familiar with your pal’s sleeping habits. Have you ever wondered, ‘Why does my cat sleep with their eyes open?’ or ‘Why is my dog breathing fast while sleeping?’ Well, read on for answers to these questions and more.

Are My Pets Nocturnal?

As a pet parent who has, at one point or another, probably been woken up in the middle of the night by your cat or dog, chances are you’ve asked yourself the following questions: “Are dogs nocturnal?” and “Are cats nocturnal?”

If an animal is nocturnal, they sleep throughout the day and are primarily active during the night. Unless they work the midnight shift, people are the opposite of nocturnal—they are diurnal. This means they sleep at night, and their prime time for activities is during the day.

Dogs and cats fall into a third category known as crepuscular. This term categorizes animals that are most active during dawn and dusk. Crepuscular animals will also have short bursts of energy in between their long periods of rest. That said, some dogs may follow a closer sleeping schedule to their parents and be more diurnal than crepuscular.

Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Not all cats sleep with their eyes open, but many certainly do, and it can be a strange sight to see. This can typically happen when your cat is not in a deep sleep but lightly dozing.

Part of a cat’s survival instincts involves being alert to what’s happening around them. By sleeping lightly, with their eyes partially open, they can rest their bodies while still being aware of what’s occurring around them.

Do Dogs Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Similar to cats, dogs are also known to sleep with their eyes partially open—it isn’t that unusual. Though the thought of sleeping with your eyes open may make your own eyes feel itchy and dry, dogs can do this unbothered because they have another eyelid that is still covering their eyeball.

Many people believe that dogs may keep a watchful eye open to be alert of any possible dangers while also tricking any potential threat that they are still awake and alert. Though these survival techniques may have helped our canine companions’ ancestors, when our spoiled pups sleep with their eyes open in the house, it often just looks a little creepy.

Not all dogs will sleep with their eyes open, and it is not a cause for alarm if you catch your pup one day starting this habit. However, it is always worthwhile to take note of your pal’s sleeping habits, so if they ever drastically change, then you know when it may be time for a visit to the veterinarian.

Why Do Pets “Talk” in Their Sleep?

While your four-legged friend is napping or sleeping, you may have noticed that they whimper, whine, huff, grumble, snore, and make any number of other noises while they rest. Even if your dog doesn’t make noises, you may have noticed your dog breathing fast while sleeping.

So, what do these noises mean? There’s a good chance that all these noises mean that your pal is simply dreaming. This can also indicate that your pet is getting a deeper, more restful sleep.

Your pet making noises while they sleep shouldn’t normally be a cause for concern, but there are a couple of things you should take note of. For instance, if your pet was previously a quiet sleeper and now makes lots of noise, if your pet is noisy enough that they are keeping you up or waking you up, or if your pet is a heavy snorer.

Also known as brachycephalic, short-nosed dogs and cats naturally have more respiratory issues. While a bit of snoring or heavy breathing may be okay, excessively loud or unusual noises may be a sign that there’s another respiratory issue occurring.

Along with making noises while they sleep, your pet may also twitch or move their legs or tail. This can also be an indication that your pal is in a deep, restful sleep and that they may be dreaming. It’s best not to wake your pal up while they dream, as this could startle or frighten them.

If you notice any unusual behavior while your cat or dog is snoozing and you are worried, it is best to wake them up gently, either with a soft pat or by softly calling their name. It is then recommended that you bring your concerns up with your veterinarian.

golden retriever asleep in a brown dog bed

Where Your Pet Sleeps and What It Means

Have you ever seen your cat sleeping in the litter box? Or wonder why your dog always sleeps in their kennel? When it comes to your pet’s sleeping habits, including where they sleep and the positions they sleep in, there is often an explanation behind their behaviors.

For instance, if you’re wondering, “Why do pets sleep at your feet?” there are a few possible answers. One of the most likely is that your pal just wants to spend more quality time with you, so they are sticking close to your side.

This may also be the reason your pet enjoys curling up on the couch next to you or sleeps snuggled up to your side. Some animals may also find this to be more relaxing, and it can help keep your short-haired cat or dog warm during those cooler months.

You may notice that your dog prefers to sleep in their kennel, which can be traced back to their wolf ancestors, who would sleep in caves. By resting in a smaller space, dogs will often feel safer and more secure. This same concept is also true for many cats—as you may also notice that your feline friend will often doze off in tight spaces such as boxes or an enclosed cat bed.

Don’t be mistaken—this is not why cats will sleep in a litterbox. Typically, when a feline begins staying in their litterbox for an extended time, it means that they could have a bladder issue, or they could feel uncomfortable or stressed. If the problem is the latter, your cat may just need some time to become more relaxed in their new environment. If you believe that the underlying issue is bladder-related, you may need to take your pal to their veterinarian for an examination.

Did you know that dogs typically sleep on their back when trying to cool themselves off? With thinner hair on their tummies, this goofy sleeping position is as practical as it is photogenic.

How Long Do Cats and Dogs Sleep?

Since our four-legged friends are fans of napping throughout the day, it may not always be easy to tell how much sleep they are truly receiving. One thing is for sure, though—they are getting far more than the human-recommended eight hours.

How much sleep your dog or cat requires to be healthy and rested can vary based on multiple factors. These can include your pet’s age, size, and lifestyle, plus every animal has unique needs.

The average dog sleeps around 12-14 hours per day, but dogs that are more active, have certain health conditions, or are a larger breed may require more snoozing time. Don’t forget, dog sleeping habits change over time. Older dogs may nap more throughout the day, and puppies may need closer to 18-20 hours of sleep.

Cats, on average, require even more sleep than dogs. Felines will typically sleep anywhere from 12-16 hours, and kittens will sleep 18-20 hours daily. Just like dogs, how much sleep a cat requires can be affected by multiple items, including their age, activity level, and health.

Ensuring a Good Night’s Sleep

It’s crucial to your pet’s well-being and health that they receive plenty of sleep every day. There are even a few extra steps you can take to ensure that they are establishing a good sleeping routine.

  1. Follow a schedule.

    Cats and dogs can be creatures of habit, so many do well with a consistent schedule. This includes waking up and going to bed around the same times, and having set times for meals, walks, and play.

  2. Provide plenty of exercise.

    It’s important for pets to receive plenty of exercise every day. For dogs, this can include going for walks, runs, jogs, or hikes, having playtime, running around the yard, or taking part in a sport. For cats, this can include plenty of playtimes, including games that exercise their mind and body. By wearing your pet out during the day, they should be plenty tired by bedtime.

  3. Give a snack.

    Some pets may have problems falling asleep if their tummy is rumbling. If they are hungry enough, you may have even been woken up in the middle of the night by your four-legged friend. Feed your pal a small meal or snack close to bedtime to fix this issue. For puppies, pick up their water dishes an hour or so before bed. Otherwise, they will need to go out in the middle of the night.

  4. Keep it calm.

    Try to avoid getting your cat or dog rowdy right before bedtime. If they get riled up, it may take quite a while before they can calm back down again. Try keeping things calm before bed—this is a great time for cuddles.

Of course, every pet is unique, so you may find that some bedtime tactics are more efficient than others. Then again, some of our feline and canine friends don’t require any of these nighttime routines since they are independent companions that will put themselves to bed whenever they’re tired.

Though the above information may explain some of your pet’s odd sleeping behaviors, it doesn’t fully explain what’s going on in a cat’s mind or a dog’s mind. That’s an entirely different conversation.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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