Sleep Disorders (Monthly Cat Care Article)

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photo by Clarabelle Fields

Disclaimer: the staff writers here are not vets nor are they qualified to give medical advice. This article’s purpose is strictly to share stories/information and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Please take your cat to the vet if you suspect anything might be wrong with them. Your vet will know best what to do in your specific situation.

Cats can certainly adhere to odd schedules, at least by human terms. Cats often sleep blissfully through entire days only to burst with lively energy and enthusiasm at particular hours of the night. Most “normal” cats do sleep quite a lot — sometimes upwards of 15 hours or more — but this sleep is generally light or dozing sleep, from which they can awaken quickly if need be, and most “normal” cats awaken for activity during dawn or twilight hours. That being said, however, cats can and do suffer from a variety sleep disorders, especially as they age.

Narcolepsy is one kind of sleep disorder cats can suffer from. A cat with narcolepsy will suddenly collapse and seem to have fallen into a deep sleep, and the cat will also exhibit signs of REM sleep as if it is dreaming. The exact causes of narcolepsy are unknown. The disorder in and of itself is not dangerous, but could present dangers if the cat were to fall into water or from a high height because of a sudden sleep attack.

Sleep apnea is another sleep disorder cats can have, especially if they are overweight or if they are Persian. Symptoms to look out for include loud snoring, gasping/choking while asleep, and spasms of the diaphragm. Treatment might involve weight loss if the cat is overweight or corrective surgery in more extreme cases.

Cats can also suffer from insomnia, especially elderly cats. Some elderly cats will develop erratic sleeping schedules and will have difficulty sleeping. Some cats will be extremely restless and vocalize frequently throughout the night as well. In many of these cases, insomnia and disrupted sleeping patterns can be the result of age-related cognitive decline or sometimes hyperthyroidism. 

So what’s a pet parent to do? If your kitty doesn’t seem to be distressed or in pain and their sleep schedule stays relatively the same, perhaps they just enjoy roaming during nighttime hours. You might want to invest in earplugs.

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