Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Carla Moreira
By Carla Moreira, Veterinarian. December 26, 2022
Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

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Cats are known to sleep an average of 18 hours a day. The reason cats sleep so much is related to the fact that cats are naturally predators and need to rest between hunts. Even after domestication, they retain the habit of sleeping several hours a day, combining their naps with meals, just as they do in the wild. Like humans, cats have sleep phases, with moments of light sleep and others of deep sleep. If you have ever watched a cat sleep, you have probably seen them sleep with their tongue out and, in some cases, with their eyes slightly open.

In the following AnimalWised article, you will learn why cats sleep with their eyes open and some other interesting facts about the sleeping habits of cats.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Sleeps With Their Eyes Open
  1. How do cats sleep?
  2. Why do cats sleep with their eyes open?
  3. How to improve the quality of a cat's sleep?

How do cats sleep?

As mentioned earlier, cats sleep an average of 18 hours per day. As a rule of thumb, domesticated cats spend 4 to 9 hours of the day eating, grooming, and playing/attacking, while the remaining 15 to 20 hours are devoted to recharging their batteries.

The sleeping habits of cats also change depending on their age. It is often assumed that curious little kittens are much more active, when in fact they are very sleepy. Growing and learning about the world is exhausting, so your kitten needs time to rest. As cats get older, they are awake more hours a day and become sleepier again as they get older.

The cat's sleep alternates between two phases or periods of sleep: deep sleep and dozing. During 75% of the time they sleep, cats are in a dozing state and only in the remaining 25% do they sleep deeply.

Deep sleep is a much shorter sleep cycle because cats in the wild need to be alert to avoid threats. The deep sleep cycle only lasts about 5 minutes. When cats are in the REM stage, they are able to twitch and go completely limp, losing muscle tone. Deep muscle relaxation is important to prevent cats from acting out their dreams.

On the other hand, when your cat dozes, it is usually a light sleep. This type of sleep can last 15 to 30 minutes and makes up most of your cat's day.

It is very essential that you take your cat to the vet if you notice any significant changes in their sleeping habits. Too much sleep can be synonymous with illness or pain, and too little sleep can be related to thyroid problems.

You may also be interested in this other article, where we talk about what the different sleeping positions of cats mean.

Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open? - How do cats sleep?

Why do cats sleep with their eyes open?

There are many reasons why your cat may occasionally sleep with one or both eyes open, but most of the time it is not a cause for concern. As mentioned earlier, cats have two different sleeping phases. So if your cat's eyes are open while they sleep, they are most likely in light sleep mode.

Since cats are not only hunters but also pray, by nature, their instinctive awareness and alertness are designed for protecting them from potential danger. For this reason, many cats keep their eyes slightly open when they sleep. They may also open their eyes briefly to assess the situation, but they are not awake in any real sense. Furthermore, their paws are probably folded, or they are in a position from which they can easily spring into action.

Note that not all cats exhibit this behavior. Those that sleep this way do not always do so either. Researchers have found that this trait is more common in older cats.

Even though this behavior is normal, you should still keep an eye on your cat. If your cat always sleeps with their eyes open, they may be suffering from a medical condition that prevents them to close their eyes while they sleep. Beneath the two eyelids of a cat is a third transparent layer called the nictitating membrane. If this layer is scratched or injured, your cat may have a hard time closing its eyes. If this is the case, your cat may need surgery.

You may also be interested in this other article, where we talk about why your cat sleeps so much.

How to improve the quality of a cat's sleep?

As with humans, the health of cats is closely related to how well they sleep. That's why we have put together some tips for you on how to help your cat sleep:

  • Enrich their environment: since cats like to be stimulated physically and mentally, playing can help them expend their energy during the day, which will most likely help them fall into a deep sleep faster. If you do not have enough time to play with your cat, you can buy or make your own toys to stimulate your cat. You may also be interested in this other article where we talk about 5 DIY cat toys that are simple, cheap and made with household materials.

  • Create routines: by following a few simple habits and routines, your cat will learn when and where to sleep, avoiding disruptions and surprises.

  • Provide your cat with a healthy diet: cats sleep better when they get the nutrients they need. Eating the right nutrients is essential for a cat's optimal health.

Do not miss this other article where we talk about 5 reasons why your cat sleeps with you.

Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open? - How to improve the quality of a cat's sleep?

If you want to read similar articles to Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  1. Fukushima, FB; Malm, C. (2012). Well-being and environmental enrichment for domestic cats . Technical Notebooks of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics. Available at https://vet.ufmg.br/ARQUIVOS/FCK/file/editora/caderno%20tecnico%2067%20Bem%20Estar%20Animal%20ok.pdf.
  • Scholten, A.D. (2017). Behavioral peculiarities of the domestic cat . University of Rio Grande do Sul, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Available at file:///C:/Users/carlamoreira/Downloads/001050568%20(1).pdf. Consulted on 12/14/2022.
  • Castro, V.C.; Genaro, G. Environmental Enrichment – Practical Strategies to Improve Feline Welfare and Behavior Using Inanimate Objects . XIV Meeting of Scientific Initiation of the Barão de Mauá University Center. Available at https://api3.baraodemaua.br/media/22117/veridiana-de-campos-castro-gelson-genaro-corr.pdf.
  • Cats: Nocturnal Behavior . SPCA San Francisco. Available at https://www.sfspca.org/sites/default/files/documents/sp-cat-nocturnal-behavior.pdf.
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Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open?