Monday, February 23, 2015

How much sleep do old cats need?

Eamon the cat in his bed

Eamon has always been an excellent sleeper. If he can find a spot that's both soft and warm, he's happy to curl up and drift off into dreamland. He's slept through loud movies, dinner parties and several episodes of pug crazies. When he wants to sleep, it's hard to stop him.

But lately, I've noticed that he seems to be sleeping even more than he did when he was little. Sometimes, in fact, he seems to be awake for only a few hours each day (typically, those hours coincide with mealtimes....). So what's going on here? I decided to find out.

As it turns out, older cats often need a lot more sleep than younger cats do. In fact, it's not unusual for very old cats like Eamon to sleep or doze up to 20 hours each and every day.

These guys need their sleep as their immune systems aren't as robust as they once were, and their tissues don't regenerate as quickly as they once did. An advanced nap allows a cat to shut down regular functions, so the body can focus on the little details that can keep the kitty alive. An extra sleep is a sort of diversion of energy that allows that work to happen.

Plus, older cats sometimes struggle with painful conditions that impair their ability to enjoy a good romp. That's certainly the case with Eamon, as his arthritis causes him a lot of shoulder and elbow pain. He is more stationary due to that pain, and sometimes, sleeping might seem like a good way to pass the time without making him feel worse.

Since Eamon's advanced sleeping isn't a sudden change and he recently had clean-and-clear bloodwork, this isn't something I'm compelled to discuss with a veterinarian right away. But, since advanced sluggishness can be a sign of illness, I will make sure to bring it up during his next visit.

Liam the pug, Eamon the cat and Sinead the Boston terrier

But there are some things I can do to help him sleep better right now.

For example, Eamon sometimes drifts off to sleep in the middle of the floor, and the dogs try to rouse him with toys (he's surrounded by three toys in this photo). Putting soft beds in hidden spots might help entice him to sleep in less intoxicating spaces, so his naps won't be interrupted by playful pooches.

I may also try scattering more throw blankets around the couches and chairs, so he has a high-up spot to sleep. That can help him avoid startles from Lucy, as she often runs right into pets in the middle of the room. Keeping him up off the floor keeps him out of her path altogether.

Any other ideas? I'd love to hear them in the comments section.

No comments: