Do kittens sleep a lot? And how to get a kitten to sleep at night

Two kittens sleeping together in cozy pink blanket
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do kittens sleep a lot? It’s a question you may be asking if you’ve just added a little feline friend to your family and discovered they spend more time with their eyes closed than they do with them open. While all that beauty sleep may seem worrying, rest assured it’s completely normal. 

For the first three months of their lives, kittens sleep for a minimum of 18 hours a day with more than 20 hours typically being the norm. They’ll wake to indulge in a portion of the best kitten food or to play a game or two and then will usually go right back to sleep. 

Kittens need all of this sleep to help their bodies grow and develop, so unless you notice that they’re low on energy or lethargic during the brief periods they’re awake or you have a kitten not eating, your little one sleeping most of the day isn’t a cause for alarm. 

Below, we spoke to Dr. Hannah Godfrey to get her thoughts on whether it’s okay to let your kitten sleep all day, where the best place is for them to sleep, and how to get a kitten to sleep at night if they won’t stop crying.

Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS
Dr. Hannah Godfrey

Dr Hannah Godfrey studied Veterinary Medicine at the Royal Veterinary College London. After graduating in 2011, Dr Godfrey went on to become a veterinary surgeon, conducting surgery consultations on a range of animals at a small independent practice in Cardiff, South Wales, UK. Dr Godfrey has a strong interest in soft tissue surgery. When she’s not helping animals back on their feet, Dr Godfrey writes a number of veterinary and animal-focussed articles.

How much sleep does a kitten need?

"Growing and developing rapidly like kittens do requires lots of sleep, so young kittens can nap for up to 20 hours in a day!," explains Godfrey.

However, from the age of around 8-12 weeks, you should find that that has reduced a little to around 18 hours a day. This is the same kind of pattern you can expect your feline friend to follow right into adulthood too.

Although it’s not necessarily a concern if a kitten or cat is asleep pretty much all of the time, (if that is normal for them and as long as they are easily rousable), if you notice that they are lethargic or low in energy when they are awake, then this can be a sign of concern - keep an eye on them and of course take them to a vet if you are particularly worried.

Should I let my kitten sleep all day?

kitten asleep on chair

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Why do cats sleep so much? It's a question you may find yourself pondering as you watch your fur friend snooze the day away. But rest assured, kittens really do need their sleep, and just like human babies, they need it even more than adult cats do. 

"Generally, you don’t need to worry about your kitten sleeping too much, but if they are hard to rouse or showing signs of being unwell you should contact your vet for a check up," Godfrey advises.

Try not to wake your sleeping kitten if you can avoid it, unless you are concerned about them. This is especially important when the cat is new to your home as disturbing their sleep can cause anxiety and fear when they’re still settling in. 

When you’re still trying to get your kitten used to you and your home, it can be a good idea to stay in the same room as the sleeping kitten, but doing something calm and quiet so as not to disturb them. Something like watching TV at a low volume, or reading, gives them the opportunity to snooze and nap while you’re still there, which helps build your bond. 

When they wake up, use it as an opportunity for play time and affection. Spending time on the floor with your kitten also gets you down to their level and helps to build up extra trust. 

Should I ignore my kitten crying at night?

Cat meowing at night? There are lots of reasons why your kitten may be crying at night and one of the big questions that new kitten owners have is whether it’s safe to ignore it. 

"If your kitten is settling in, it’s normal for them to cry at night. However, if your kitten has previously been settled and quiet and you hear them crying overnight out of the blue, it’s a good idea to check on them," Godfrey explains.

As with lots of pet training, the key to getting your new cat used to being in your home is consistency. So any changes should be made gradually. If you’re finding crying to be a problem, something you might like to try is putting their bed in or close to your bedroom, then slowly moving it further away every couple of days until they are in the place you actually want them to sleep. 

Where should kittens sleep at night?

Kitten meowing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most cats (and let’s face it humans too) just want somewhere warm and cozy to snuggle up in at night. 

Look for a suitable spot to set up their bed before you bring your kitten home for the first time. Somewhere out of the way of draughts, away from doors and corridors, where they can feel safe and secure is generally a good option. 

Again, if you want to place your kitten near to your bed for the first few nights with the ultimate aim of moving to them to a different spot, try and find somewhere close by that isn’t at risk of them being trodden on or otherwise being in the way. 

It’s also perfectly fine to leave your kitten to sleep alone or in a completely different room, even when they are very young.

"Where your kitten sleeps at night, to an extent, is up to you," confirms Godfrey. "Some pet parents prefer their kitten to initially be in the same room as them, then they gradually move them further away once they’re settled. However, there’s nothing wrong with letting your cat sleep alone in another room away from you as long as they’re safe from dangers."

At what age do kittens sleep through the night?

When you first bring your kitten home, you should be prepared for a couple of sleepless nights. Although cats do indeed love to sleep, when they’re still settling into unfamiliar environments and getting to know their new home, it’s pretty common for them to have some disturbed sleep - and to wake you up in the process.

On top of that, they’re also crepuscular, meaning that they are often at their most active at dawn and dusk - in the wild that’s the best time for hunting. As such, you might find that you’ve got an early riser on your hands, or that they enjoy late night zoomies.

"The bad news is that many kittens and cats don’t sleep through the night - it’s just not natural for them. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll disturb you much. After a few weeks you should find that your kitten sleeps a lot during the night, even if they potter about quietly to explore a bit and snooze in different places," explains Godfrey.

If you're lucky, your kitten will be sleeping longer at night and disturbing you less within a few weeks of bringing them home - but if you find that you’re struggling, make sure to speak to your vet to rule out any underlying problems that could be keeping them awake. 

How to get a kitten to sleep at night

A brown and white kitten yawning

(Image credit: Getty)

If you’re keen to make sure that both you and your feline friend get a good night’s sleep, there are a few straightforward techniques you can try to make sure they’re fully prepared for bedtime. These include the following: 

1. Alter their food schedule  

It can be helpful to feed your cat later at night in order to make them sleepy right before bedtime. You might also want to avoid feeding them as soon as you wake up - otherwise they might think all they need to do get food is to wake you up. 

2. Make sure they’re getting plenty of exercise and play 

Although cats love sleep, dozes and naps, when they are awake, you’ll find that they’re pretty active. Make sure you’re providing them with enough mental and physical stimulation in the way of toys and exercise to tire them out for night time. 

3. Provide comforting objects 

When your kitten is new to your home, bring something along from the breeder or their previous home - such as a blanket to help provide comfort, stability and reassurance.  

4. Don’t reward nighttime behavior  

Although it’s important to rule out any problems that require attention (such as medical issues), it’s also crucial not to overly reward nighttime crying, too. Don’t immediately rush to your cat should you hear it crying, and be firm and consistent in your approach to responding to cries. 

5. Make sure their basic needs are met 

Ensuring your cat has access to a litter tray and a bowl of water overnight can be all it takes to stop the night time crying. If you find you have a dawn riser, you might also want to leave them the best cat puzzle feeder to keep them occupied until you want to get up. 

If you've just welcomed a new bundle of fluff into your family, check out our vet's top six kitten care tips to ensure they thrive in their first year of life. 

Amy Davies

Amy Davies is a freelance writer and photographer with over 15 years experience. She has a degree in journalism from Cardiff University and has written about a huge variety of topics over the years. These days she mostly specialises in technology and pets, writing across a number of different titles including TechRadar, Stuff, Expert Reviews, T3, Digital Camera World, and of course PetsRadar. She lives in Cardiff with her dog, Lola, a rescue miniature dachshund.

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