Do Bored Cats Sleep More?

Cats, in general, are said to be the Rip Van Winkles of the animal world. On average, most cats sleep between 17 and 18 hours a day. That amounts to two-thirds of your cat’s entire life. The behavior goes back to your cat’s wild feline ancestors, which needed to conserve valuable energy in between hunts.

However, at least five different factors can influence how long an individual cat sleeps. Arden Moore, author of The Cat Behavior Answer Book: Practical Insights & Proven Solutions for Your Feline Questions, goes over some of these.

Boredom can indeed cause cats to sleep for longer periods, according to Moore. As it does in humans, inactivity can promote sluggishness and depression in cats. Without stimulating activities, both cats and humans can sink into longer sleep cycles. It’s therefore very important to regularly play with your cat, offering new toys and games to explore. Social stimulation is key.

Other reasons why cats may sleep more include the following:

  • Age Kittens need more sleep than adults do, similar to how human babies sleep longer than men and women do.
  • Weather Do rainy days make you feel sleepy? The different light levels and other factors seem to promote longer snoozing. This is true for cats as well.
  • How Safe They Feel If you are anxious, you may have trouble sleeping. The same happens to cats. So if a new dog, person or other addition is stressing out your cat, chances are that your pet is sleeping less soundly.

Why Cats Have Whiskers

It is a little-known fact that cats have whiskers on the back of their front legs. Most owners might not notice them because the whiskers are not very long and do not stick out much, but they are there.

First, let’s consider the function of whiskers. Cats are best known for their muzzle whiskers -- the ones that jut out from either side of their faces. The whiskers fall off every so often, similar to human hair falling out to allow for regrowth. If that happens, take time to examine the whisker’s structure.

Whiskers are lightweight and very flexible. You cannot easily bend one and break it. The whisker itself is like a probe/antenna combo, picking up information that is received by a dense network of nerve cells at the end of each whisker. It’s amazing how cats are programmed to interpret this information. A cat prowling through a tight space knows exactly how wide it is, based on information picked up from the whiskers, which can effortlessly touch the sides of the enclosure long before the head itself is put at risk.

Whiskers also can detect vibrations, picking up the movement of small prey or the stirrings of a human. During hunting or defensive moments, the whiskers help your cat gain information about the other individual, without even seeing or otherwise touching the adversary.

As for the forelimb whiskers, Roger Tabor, author of Understanding Cat Behaviour, explains that these serve a similar function. Tabor says these often-overlooked whiskers “assist in stalking and in gauging landing from a leap.”

The next time you pet or groom your cat, feel the back of its front legs and see if you can find the whiskers. Like James Bond, your cat is outfitted with many such secret weapons to aid in its survival.

Do Cats Walk on Their Toes?

Cats are digitigrade mammals, meaning they do, in fact, walk on their toes. Humans and bears, conversely, are plantigrade mammals. We walk on the soles of our feet, with the toes only touching the ground briefly toward the end of each step. This is evident when you look at footprints. Let’s say you step in some ink and walk across the floor. Your footprint will consist of your sole -- front and back -- with maybe a lesser mark left behind by your toes.

If your cat stepped in ink, you would clearly see its palm pad and five toes in its footprints. With less foot touching the surface, your cat experiences less friction and conserves more upward energy. Cats and other digitigrade animals therefore tend to be very fast runners, according to Jinny Johnson and John Burton, authors of the book Animal Tracks and Signs. They point out that, as cats walk or run, they usually retract their claws into sheaths, leaving behind just the smooth, small toes and footpad. It’s no wonder that cats can tiptoe near us almost in silence. Dogs and foxes, like cats, are also toe-walkers.

Horses, donkeys and zebras are known as hoof-walkers. They just have one hoof-covered “toe” on each foot. This gives them good traction for navigating steep or otherwise difficult-to-traverse surfaces, yet they can run fast too.

Cloven hoof–walkers, such as deer and cattle, possess four toes on each foot. Two of these have tough, split hooves. The hooved toes are used most of the time, with the other two toes often lifted off the ground. I like to think of these as four-wheel-drive animals, since the other two toes only go into action when the animal is walking on a soft surface, like deep snow.

The next time you see an animal, pay attention to its feet and toes. They can tell you a lot about how that animal moves and where its ancestors mostly lived.

How You Can Bring in a Stray Cat

Imagine if an individual that’s more than five times your size and from another species grabbed you. Your first inclination would probably be to run for your life, since there’s an automatic predator/prey dynamic in place. You, of course, don’t have those intentions with your new cat, but it does not know that yet. Its initial instinct is to protect itself and to run away to safety. This can all be changed, however, with socialization.

Socialization is when your cat learns how to properly react to other cats, people, places, situations and more. Ideally, it takes place when your cat is just a kitten, aged about 2 to 7 weeks. During that period of time, the kitten is curious about everything and has a more open mind. That can be dangerous, since the kitten hasn’t fully learned about dangers, and it requires the protection of its mother and possibly a caring human. It’s also a good time because fears have not set in.

Your cat probably had a tough life, either as a feral or in the home of someone who didn’t provide much care -- or both. All behavior can be modified, but such changes become more difficult as the individual ages, since there’s been more time for the undesired reactions to set in. People are no different. If you are afraid of public speaking, for example, you can become better and more comfortable with practice, but the whole matter is much easier if you have been exposed to, and participated in, such events over your entire lifetime with positive outcomes. Before long, the skill becomes second nature.

In addition to age, the temperament of the individual cat is a factor, as are its parents. Cats with feral parents tend to be more difficult to socialize; however, with time and patience, it can be done.

You might first try creating a safe room for your cat: a quiet, closed-off room with a comfy bed, food, water, a litter box and other amenities. In that room, just sit quietly with your cat for a while in order to gain its trust. Offer a tasty food treat. As your cat approaches, slowly pet it, perhaps while it is busy investigating the food. When your cat becomes more comfortable with your attention, put a blanket or towel on your lap and hold it for short periods, again petting it in a slow and soothing way.

Repeat the sessions over a series of days, introducing new toys, grooming tools and other objects. Through such sessions, you are teaching your new pet that you are not a danger and, in fact, are someone it can trust and look forward to seeing.

How Cats Show Their Happiness

We take smiles for granted, but the evolution of these and other facial expressions was a big deal for animals, including humans. Smiles and other expressions allow us to communicate our emotional state to others. Among primates, as social living became more important, the ability to quickly indicate fear, mating status, lack of threat and more helped our ancestors survive in the wild.

Humans, chimpanzees and other great apes even share expressions and other physical indicators of pride, which would appear to be a more abstract emotion. Azim Shariff, a researcher at the University of Oregon, studied facial expressions and found that chimps thrust out their chests, which increases testosterone production and lung capacity, showing others that they are ready to take challengers on. “We seem to share a number of similar expressions, including pride, with chimpanzees and other apes," says Shariff.

Since cats are mammals too, we share many things in common with them. Smiling, however, is not one of them. When a cat shows its teeth in a way that might look like it’s grinning, it is probably grimacing, trying to pick up odors, or is angry and ready to use those teeth to bite into someone.

According to the Arizona Humane Society, when a cat is happy, it may exhibit these facial features:

  • Relaxed cheeks that are not pulled in
  • Open ears that are facing forward
  • Closed, relaxed mouth
  • Wide open eyes that are focused on you
  • Whiskers that are pointed outward and not spread apart much

Humans tend to rely a lot on facial expressions, but cats use their bodies to communicate how they feel. A happy cat will tend to hold its head and tail high, with its tail raised upward and fur lying flat on the body.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/Vadymvdrobot