Your pet’s sleeping patterns and how you can both get some rest

Getting a new pet is a leap of faith, especially for first-time owners. You’ve picked out an adorable puppy, kitten, or bird, shopped for the necessary supplies, got him home … and now what? What do you expect? Well, when it comes to sleeping, you can expect a lot.

Almost all domesticated animals sleep more than adult humans do. Puppies can even sleep up to 18 hours a day!1 Cats, while being somewhat nocturnal, also tend to need a lot of shut-eye. Domesticated birds like a quiet space to sleep at night as well. If you’re thinking about getting one of these as a pet, here’s what you need to know before catching some ZZZ’s yourself.

Dog Sleeping Habits

Even though dogs spend around 50 percent of their day sleeping, they don’t tend to sleep as soundly as humans do.2 That’s because through thousands of years of living in the wild, outdoor creatures had to be on the lookout, sleeping with the proverbial one eye open. So while Fido is snoozing on the couch, the slightest sound will still jar him from his slumber.

Dogs, as opposed to cats, are diurnal creatures. They sleep at night and are typically more active during the day. But if your dog is restless at night, there could be some other factors at play. Does your dog get enough exercise? Dogs should spend at least 2–3 hours each day playing or being walked. It can be helpful for dog owners, especially with younger dogs and puppies, to pick up their water source after their final potty time before bed. A dog that’s restless at night may need to go outside. This will help them sleep through the night and save the floors! Discomfort could be another contributing factor to restlessness. A supportive dog bed can enhance comfort and encourage better sleeping habits.

On the other end of the spectrum, dogs can sleep too much. It can be hard to tell, but some dog foods could be making him sluggish. Low-quality food sometimes doesn’t provide all the nutrients he could need to feel his best. Be sure to consult your veterinarian if you are concerned that your dog lacks energy.

But don’t worry too much — some breeds of dog, especially the giant breeds, can be couch potatoes. That’s just part of their charm!

Cat Sleeping Habits

When it comes to our feline friends, there’s a reason they call it a “catnap.” Cats tend to sleep in a different rhythm than humans do, catching 15–30 minutes of sleep followed by waking time throughout the day.3 Compared to humans, who need at least eight hours of sleep to achieve the right amount of REM cycles to function, cats get their REM sleep in five-minute spurts so they can stay light on their feet. But even though it’s spread throughout the day, cats sleep up to 18 hours!

Why so much? Because cats are natural predators, and even though your sweet little kitty doesn’t need to hunt his prey, his ancestors did.4 Hunting takes a lot of energy, meaning cats have evolved to conserve as much as possible to spend in bursts of excitement. Sound familiar?

Cats are typically most active during sunset and sunrise hours. This pattern stems back to their predatory past — even lions today will lie low in the heat of the day and middle of the night, while hunting in the first and last light. What this may mean for your kitty at home is that 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday feels like prime hunting time (even if his prey is nothing more than a feather toy or your feet under the covers)!

Fortunately, domesticated cats are social and trainable. If you consistently wait to feed them during hours that you are normally awake, they will adapt to this schedule.

Bird Sleeping Habits

Fun fact: Most domesticated birds come from tropical regions. Macaws, parakeets, cockatoos all come from parts of the world close to the equator. So what does that mean for their sleeping habits? The days and nights of these parts of the world tend to be around the same amount of time — 12 hours.5 As such, pet birds need sleep. A lot of it. Twelve hours of it, in fact.

To keep your bird happy, the first task is to give him the 12 hours of quiet he needs to truly rest. Birds, like people, don’t do well when deprived of sleep and can act out by showing signs of anxiety, squawking and even tearing their feathers out. And nobody likes a crabby bird. Additionally, birds need quiet in order to rest. As prey animals, they are attuned to catch every bump, scratch and voice, and make their flight away from the perceived danger. If you have a loud movie playing or the stereo turned up into the night, your bird will not be sleeping well. While having a perch for them to hang out in during the day is great, their cage should not be moved at night for them to sleep. It should be kept in one main location all the time. While the room should be dark, it should also have a small source of light as birds cannot see in the dark and can get night frights. This can lead to a bird falling from their perch if they are in total darkness. Covering birds is old school and actually very much the opposite of what most birds need. In this way, birds sleep the most like people. If it’s a sleeping condition that is optimal for you, chances are your bird will appreciate it, too.

Some good signs of a happy, sleepy bird are when he goes to sleep with one foot folded in toward his chest or when he grinds his beaks together.6 Sleepy birds also can get chatty — making noises and calls before drifting off is a way of relaxing before bed. Think of it as your little feathered friend saying good night.

No matter what kind of pet you get, it’s important to keep all of their needs in mind, and that includes sleeping. You and your furry or feathered friend will get along great, so long as everyone catches 40 winks.


  1. Hickman, Gayle. “How Long Do Dogs Sleep on Average?” Pets Adviser, 17 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 March 2015. <>.
  2. Hickman, Gayle. “How Long Do Dogs Sleep on Average?” Pets Adviser, 17 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 March 2015. <>.
  3. “Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?” petMD. Web. 09 March 2015. .
  4. Shojai, Amy. “Cat Sleep: Understanding Your Sleepy Cat.” Web. 10 March 2015. .
  5. Millburn, Naomi. “Birds’ Sleeping Habits.” The Nest. Web. 10 March 2015. .
  6. Millburn, Naomi. “Birds’ Sleeping Habits.” The Nest. Web. 10 March 2015. .

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