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How Our Pets Sleep

The Sleep Club Editors

I currently have two dogs and at times, I have a rabbit or two joining us for good measure. We’re a definite pet family and other than the mere fact of their glorious existence in my rather hectic life, one thing that completely brings my heart rate down and a giant glow of warm happy through my whole body is watching them sleep. All of them. Each one is different, each one dreams, and each one reminds me of just how glorious slumber really is.

As we close in on the end of Sleep Month, we want to give a solid shoutout to some of our animal companions by sharing how we might be able to learn to relax by watching them as they snooze.


The golden slumber of your Golden… and Tabby… and Rex…and…

Puppies and kitties sleep about 20 hours a day. Now, if you’ve spent any quality time with either of these active — and toothy — bundles of love, you may think there is no way that’s true. But these tiny fluff balls have short bursts of playing like crazy then dropping into an almost immediate slumber. Once they get their rhythm as they move into adulthood, their sleep patterns change… sort of. 

Adult dogs usually snooze between 10-14 hours a day, although not all at once like humans do, of course. They grab time here and there, even getting some serious REM sleep during some of these short bursts, and spending about 75 percent of their slumber in quiet sleep. This is when they are dreaming. This twilight resting is when you see your favorite canine curled up or laid out, eyes at half-mast, legs twitching and eyes fluttering. They aren’t deeply asleep but they are definitely relaxing.

Cats spend most of their lives grabbing the titular catnap — three-quarters, actually — and experience what is called “slow wave sleep.” These long, irregular brain waves occur when your kitty is comfortably dozing, not quite in REM, and lasts about ten to fifteen minutes at a time. Ever catch your feline bff sleeping upright as if they’re about to pounce at any given moment? That is slow wave sleep. A cat is pretty much ready to leap into action all the time until they fall into a brief REM rest. That’s when you’ll see your purr-fect pal completely relax and turn into the ultimate wet noodle.

Rabbits, regardless of age, sleep lighter and in shorter bursts because they’re prey animals and they stay pretty alert. They are also known as crepuscular, which explains their habit of being more active during dawn and dusk. Sleeping more during the day than at night — I view the sounds of activity from my rabbit’s cage as sleep music — bunnies like nesting, so having good shredding materials in their hutch makes them feel comfortable and safe. Watching your rabbit fluff up their sleeping area then curl into a furry ball as they snooze is truly comforting.


Sleep positions that speak volumes

Just like humans, pets convey a lot about how they are feeling by how they sleep

Is it really true that if your dog or cat sleeps on their back, belly up and open to the world that they are feeling loved, secure and confident? Yes. It’s the same for rabbits, which is very unusual for this prey animal to exhibit but awesome when it happens.

What about curled up like a ball? Cats do this when they want to be left alone, protecting their bellies by covering them and their toes by pulling them in. It’s hard to remember, but kitties are both predator and prey. They react in their lives according to the wiring that runs through each and every one of their species — protect and attack.

When your dog is curled up, it can mean one of two things — they’re feeling a bit unsure and want to protect themselves or they’re cold. Rabbits, for their part, sleep curled up for both protection and warmth. It’s among the many reasons that having more than one rabbit is a great idea for your bun — they cozy up together when they sleep, keeping each other comfortable and feeling secure.

Dogs sleep on their sides when they’re comfortable and cats sleep inside of things like drawers, boxes, etc., when they want a little peace and quiet from whatever’s going on in the house. And when a rabbit is living in a hotter climate or the heat is on in the house, they sleep splayed out and away from each other for better airflow.

By the way, dogs that are sleeping sort of on their back with their paws up but not necessarily splayed out like a fillet of pup are usually doing this to cool down. As you know, dogs don’t sweat like humans, hence the panting. BUT, did you know they actually have sweat glands on the pads of their feet and by laying like this, they’re able to get more relief after playing hard? Oh, yeah.

And if your cat is sleeping wrapped around your head, well, you are loved, my friend. Very much.


Finding inspiration in the sleeping life of pets

Regardless of what type of pet you have, all of them sleep, and the trust they show you in giving themselves completely over to that necessity is extraordinary. These bundles of love have a way of relaxing fully into their rest, and there is something quite calming in seeing how they embrace that simple, wonderful rejuvenator. Cats become noodles, old dogs become puppies again, and rabbits are fluffy logs. Their chill nature during those times is a great reminder that allowing yourself to let go and be in your sleep has amazing benefits.

The next time you feel stressed, turn off your phone, shut your laptop, stow away your tablet, and go watch your pet sleep. 

And join them.

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