The first few weeks (and months) of a kitten’s life are both busy and tiresome. Between wrestling with littermates, feeding with mom, learning to use the litter box, and grooming themselves, it’s not surprising that kittens also spend a lot of time catching some much-needed shuteye.
You may be surprised to learn just how much your new four-legged friend will sleep during the first few months.
Kittens sleep up to 22 hours a day as newborns, crucial for developing a healthy brain, muscles, bones, and immune system. By six months, kittens need closer to 16-20 hours of sleep. Since kittens are nocturnal, they tend to spend their nights exploring and nap during the daylight hours.
Young kittens are adorable, playful, and—best of all—loving! They also happen to be incredibly sleepy creatures, spending most of their days napping and catching some Zs. Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about your kitten’s sleeping habits.
How Often Do Newborn Kittens Sleep?
Newborn kittens are entirely reliant on their mothers for at least the first four weeks of life. It takes a kitten 14 days to open her eyes, 17 days to hear sounds, 18 days to walk, and 23 days to relieve herself on her own.
Given this rapid succession of milestones and massive growth during her first four weeks (sometimes tripling in size), newborn kittens may need up to 22 hours of sleep a day.
Newborn kittens spend some of their time sleeping in what’s known as REM sleep, which stands for “rapid eye movement.”
Your kitten’s brain is still somewhat active during her brief cat naps and long snoozes, making her 22 hours of daily sleep light and commonly paired with facial and muscle twitches. It’s during these long stretches of sleep that your newborn kitten grows the most, allowing her body to build strong and healthy muscles, bones, brain, and immune system.
While your newborn kitten certainly will sleep a lot within the first few weeks, she won’t sleep for 22 hours without interruption. She’ll wake up when she feels hungry, rest after eating, and feel exhausted after playing with her siblings. Your newborn kitten will snuggle up with her mother and siblings when it’s nap time to keep her warm and comforted as she rests.
How Often Do 4-Week Old Kittens Sleep?
By the time your kitten is four weeks old, she may be ready to chow down on some wet food, learn to use the litter box, and play with her siblings more often. Her naps are also much more rejuvenating, thanks to deep sleep, and she’s more likely to sleep away from her littermates for the first time.
A 4-week-old kitten may sleep closer to 20 hours a day between REM and deep sleep, where her breathing will slow, and she can better recover from playtime. Sleep is more about recuperating energy she lost during play than growth, at this age.
How Often Do 8-Week Old Kittens Sleep?
By the 8-week mark, your kitten is learning to be a bit more independent. She’s weaning off of her mother’s milk, has a few teeth growing in, her personality is beginning to show, and she’s learning that toys can be fun!
Eight-week-old kittens still sleep a lot, but likely closer to 16-20 hours a day instead of a massive 20-22 hours that newborns sleep.
Two months is about the age that kittens start to go off on their own and adopt adult cats’ behaviors. You may notice that your kitten likes to sleep in the warm sunshine, in a comfy bed, or even perched on the kitchen window sill.
Deep sleep is much more apparent at this age—your kitten will cycle through sound sleep (up to 25 minutes) and REM sleep (around 5 minutes) as she lounges. By the time your kitten is six months old, she’ll be sleeping about as much as an adult cat, around 16-20 hours a day. She may still have a year left of growth, but sleep doesn’t have to consume as much of her day.
Why Your Kitten Is Sleeping More or Less Than Usual
Though it’s normal for your kitten to sleep 16-22 hours a day, it’s important to keep a close eye on your kitten’s sleep habits with time. If you notice that your kitten is suddenly sleeping more or less than usual and is exhibiting other unusual symptoms (like a lack of appetite, mood change, or lethargy), you may want to bring your kitten to the vet.
A change in sleep habits can be a sign of:
- Sleep disorders
It’s also important to consider your kitten’s activities during the day when her sleep schedule seems different. Kittens might need more sleep if they spent more time than usual socializing, playing, or eating.
Here’s a video that’ll show you how to help a kitten go to sleep at various ages.
The Complicated Sleep Schedule of Kittens
Unlike puppies, who tend to work their naps around your schedule, kittens depend on their internal clock to let them know when it’s time to sleep!
That’s because kittens are nocturnal animals, meaning they’re active from dusk until dawn and use those precious daylight hours to nap instead. As such, your kitten’s sleep schedule may seem sporadic or random, at best. And you may find that your kitten has a sudden burst of energy and wants to play in the middle of the night.
Your kitten may take several short naps a day (between five and 15 minutes at a time) where she’s getting mostly light sleep. She may wake easily at sudden sounds, delicious smells, or if you touch her unexpectedly. Studies show that up to 75% of the time a kitten spends asleep is in this “light sleep.” In other words: Cat naps.
After large meals or vigorous play sessions, your kitten may take a longer period of rest to recover. Your kitten may sleep for a few hours, uninterrupted. Your kitten may be so comfortable and tired that she’ll stretch herself out, expose her belly, and even snore.
A Kitten’s Favorite Places to Take a Nap
Until your kitten is about four weeks old, she’ll prefer to sleep close to her mother and siblings, as they provide an insatiable warmth and sense of comfort to young kittens. As your kitten gets older, she’ll look to recreate these feelings as she naps—looking for areas of your home that are both warm and safe.
Some of your kitten’s favorite snooze spots may include:
- On (or next) to you or another pet in the house
- In your bed or on your clothing (because it smells like you)
- A basket, box, or small kitten bed
- Atop a blanket (with a warm water bottle, if it’s cool)
- On the window sill or a beam of sunlight on the carpet
Your first few months with your kitten are crucial for setting rules and building healthy sleep habits that extend into adulthood. For example, it won’t be easy to train your six-month-old kitten to sleep in her bed if you’ve allowed her to sleep in yours for nearly half a year.
A warm water bottle, a piece of your clothing (worn), catnip, a toy, or even treats on your kitten’s bed can help you teach her where she’ll catch her Zs from now on.
Your kitten may spend 22 hours a day snoozing, but this need for sleep doesn’t slow much as your kitten gets older. Many full-grown adult cats still dedicate 12-20 hours a day to sleep.
While these sleep habits may seem excessive from a human perspective, they’re merely instinctual for your beloved cat. Both cats and kittens sleep up to 90% of the day to save up energy for “hunting” and keep warm on chilly or stormy days—even if your cat has always been an indoor cat.
- PetMD: Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
- Pet Place: Developmental Milestones in the Kitten
- Wikipedia: Rapid Eye Movement
- Wikipedia: Nocturnal
- Study: Behavioral and EEG Effects of Paradoxical Sleep Deprivation in the Cat
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.