A Guide to Your British Shorthair’s Sleeping Habits

british shorthair sleeping

Your cat may no longer be the king of the Savannah, but they have still kept some of their larger cat traits. These habits include their inclination to sleep for most of the day, especially when they are well fed and in a cosy spot. 

Understanding your British Shorthair’s sleeping habits can help you develop a happy and productive relationship with them. It can also help you spot possible training or health problems that may occur. 

Your cat can spend most of the day sleeping. It is not unheard of for one to spend 20 hours in a single day sleeping. Getting this much sleep can be caused by extra exercises during the day. It is far more common for them to get 10 to 16 hours. 

Many cats like to be more active early in the morning and early evening, which can be a problem considering that’s when humans want to sleep. Don’t be surprised if you hear your cat bouncing around at four in the morning and then fast asleep at noon. That’s just how they like it. 

Common cat sleeping positions and what they mean

When a cat does decide to get some shut-eye, you can find them sleeping in all sorts of positions. There are sometimes good reasons why cats wind themselves into various poses. Understanding why they are sleeping like this can help you understand your pet better. 

Cats are pretty flexible, and they can be comfortable in positions that look like they would turn your spine into a pretzel. However, if you notice that your cat seems agitated or can’t get out of the position they got into, it is ok to help them out and make sure they are ok. 

Most British shorthairs love to find a spot to sleep, and once they have one, they don’t like to change them. If that spot involves getting in a specific position, they may sleep like that a lot. 

Here are some of the most common positions you may find your cat and what it means when they sleep like this. It isn’t an exhaustive list because cats like to find new and funny ways to sleep all the time. 

Curled in a ball

Seeing a cat sleep curled in a ball is about the most common position you will ever see. The cat can be very comfortable this way, and they are keeping their vital organs covered and heated. When you see this, your cat is relaxed and conserving heat.

Curled in a ball is almost a default setting for most cats. It is slightly defensive, but it is not something that should alarm owners. Cats who sleep like this could be feeling a bit insecure, but it likely isn’t a problem. They could also really want some extra warmth for their rest. 

Fetal position

Cats sleeping in the fetal position may be trying to keep their heat up. They could also be trying to protect their belly or their paws. A cat in this sleeping position may be watching an injury, or they may just be trying to avoid unwanted attention. 

The fetal position gives many the same benefits as sleeping curled up, but it tends to indicate that there is something else bothering the cat. They may need a break from pets and nuzzles, or they could be feeling hurt. 

When your cat sleeps like this, you may want to make sure they are warm enough. You may also want to give your cat a little space. If this becomes a habit, you may want to make sure your cat has an area of its own where it can go for peace. 

Lying on stomach

When a cat sleeps on its stomach, it is sometimes called the loaf style of sleeping. Most cats that sleep like this are planning on taking a quick nap, and they don’t plan on bedding down for a long time. 

In this position, the cat can wake up and move quickly. It is an excellent way for a cat to get some quick z’s while still feeling like they are in control and ready to take over if necessary. 

Cats who sleep this way show that they are very comfortable where they are and that they are not overly worried about being exposed while taking a nap. 

It is a position of a cat who didn’t necessarily plan a nap but won’t pass up the perfect opportunity when it provides itself. 

Lying on back

When a cat sleeps on its back, it lets you know that it feels safe and trusts you completely. It is not a position that a cat will get into with just anyone around. Your cats have to feel like they can trust you and their surroundings. 

When a cat lays on its back, it is exposing its belly to the world. Falling asleep like this puts it in a lot of danger of being attacked at their most vital organs. They are not going to take this position unless they know you are safe. 

When you see a cat sleeping like this, you know that they are happy, content, and comfortable. It is a great sign that your cat feels satisfied with you and trusts you fully.

The only thing to be careful of with this position is if your cat’s stomach seems enlarged. A cat may sleep on its back if it feels a lot of pressure and pain in its stomach. However, they would likely start by laying on their side and only switch to the back when their tummy was fully distended.  

Lying on side

Side sleeping is another good sign. It means they are comfortable and don’t think they need to stay in defence mode. Laying on the side and laying on the back is almost the same message to owners, your cat trusts you, and you are doing an outstanding job of keeping them safe. 

The cat can sometimes pull their feet in, especially if they want to warm up a little, but as long as they are staying most on their side, spread out, you shouldn’t consider this the same as sleeping in a ball or the fetal position. 

A cat on their side is enjoying life and enjoying their sleep. It is a very comfortable position for them to be in to get rest. 

If the cat’s belly is starting to look swollen, or the cat seems uncomfortable curling up or rolling over, you may want to check with a vet, even in this position. 

When do cats sleep?

At one time, people thought cats were nocturnal or active at night. Their incredible night vision helped fuel these theories. 

Recently scientists discovered that cats are crepuscular sleepers which means they like to be awake in the morning and evening and asleep in the middle of the day and night. 

Cats can adjust their schedule to better match when their owner is active. They like to be awake, or at least partially awake when their owners are, and sleep when their owners sleep. It allows them to stay more social. 

Even if the cat isn’t asleep, they may lay in bed with you to get extra cuddles and time with you. They may also wake up and play with you outside of their normal sleep schedule because they like to see you. 

There are times where cats will lay around with you and close their eyes even if they aren’t sleeping. It is just a way that they show that they are happy to be around you. 

You will start to notice your British Shorthair’s sleep schedule pretty quickly after they get comfortable with you. If you ever see significant changes without a good reason, you may want to pay attention; it could be a sign that they may need help. 

How long do cats sleep for?

Cats can sleep almost the whole day. It is not surprising to see a cat sleep for up to 20 hours in a single day. It is much more common for a cat to sleep for 10 to 16 hours. There is no perfect amount of sleep for a cat, and the more active they have been, the more they will sleep. 

You can trace this habit back to their ancestry. Cats can use a lot of their energy hunting and gathering food. Energy in the form of food can be hard to come by, so sleeping can help conserve it between hunts. 

High protein diets, which wild cats eat, can also use a lot of energy for digestion, which means more sleep can help them metabolize their food better.  

Today they don’t have these food and hunting concerns, but they are still hardwired into their mindset. 

Think about it. If you had the option, you would probably sleep a lot more too. Cats don’t have to be more active, and so when there’s nothing better to do, they shut their eyes and get a cat nap. 

Do cats dream?

Unfortunately, no one can know for sure if cats sleep, but according to studies, cats do achieve REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, which is a prerequisite for having dreams. Owners can also attest to seeing their cat move while sleeping like they are doing something else. 

All this seems to indicate that cats do indeed dream while they sleep. As in humans, it doesn’t happen if they are only getting a quick nap, but they can dream when they are in the middle of longer sleep cycles. 

If they do dream, you have to wonder what a cat’s dreams entail. Is it a giant feast of lobster? Could it be hunting down their favourite toy for a game of cat and mouse? What about getting an extra twenty minutes of sleep while their owner pets them gently on the coach? We may never know. 

Some owners may be concerned that their cats are having nightmares. Though we don’t know, if your cat does seem to be waking up grumpy, you may want to consult your vet about possible causes. 

Common FAQs

If you have some more questions about your British Shorthair’s sleeping habits, these FAQs may be able to help you out. 

How do cats sleep when they are sick?

First, they sleep a lot more. Being sick uses a lot of your body’s energy, and it makes your cat tired. When they are fighting off an infection or a disease, they may need to sleep a little more. 

One way to tell if your cat is sleeping because they are sick is to see if they are sleeping more than usual. Also, a sick cat won’t have as much energy to play with you or move around, even when they aren’t asleep. 

Sick cats can sleep in a variety of positions depending on what’s bothering them. However, often they will sleep in a tight ball or the fetal position, trying to conserve heat and avoid contact with parts of their body that hurt. 

A sick cat also won’t move much, and they will most likely stop or limit how much they eat or drink. You should look for any changes in their normal schedule when considering if their sleep change is due to illness. 

Why is my cat sleeping so much?

Look at what your cat has been up doing recently. If your cat played more yesterday, it might sleep more today. Remember that cats love to sleep. If they are sleeping for 20 hours some days, it is not a big deal. 

Even cats who love to be awake will still sleep for 10 hours a day. That is two more hours than you should be getting, and probably around four more hours than you are getting in sleep each night. 

Cats usually don’t sleep for 20 hours straight through, they get a cat nap here and a longer sleep there, totalling 20 hours. Spreading out their sleep can also make it appear like they are always asleep because you don’t necessarily notice when they are up and about. 

Why does my cat twitch when sleeping?

Twitching usually occurs when a cat is in REM sleep, also called “Rapid Eye Movement” sleep. During these times, they may be having dreams, and they think they are reacting to something else. Sometimes these can be small motions, or they can be large sweeping reactions by your cat. 

Occasionally if your cat isn’t fully asleep, they could be reacting to real-world stimuli, like itches, irritants, or other sensory inputs like light or sound. 

If you notice your cat twitch, you probably shouldn’t wake them up unless they seem to be in distress or pain. If it is just normal motion to some kind of stimulus, they will eventually stop reacting to it when that sensation passes. 

If they are doing something funny, it may be an excellent opportunity to grab the camera. Youtube, social media, and message boards love watching cats react to things in their sleep. 

Why does my cat wheeze when sleeping?

Cats can wheeze and also snore in their sleep. If it happens occasionally, it is probably minor congestion, or it could be due to how they are sleeping. If it becomes more common, it may indicate other respiratory problems. 

There have been a few studies on sleep apnea in cats. With sleep apnea, they may not be able to breathe well in their sleep, and this can cause them to have sleep and rest issues. It is more common in overweight pets. 

If your pet’s sleeping sounds are causing problems for you or your cat, you can consult a vet. Sometimes if the symptoms are bad enough, they may even warrant surgery.

If the wheezing is sporadic or only happens occasionally, it is probably something minor and not a big deal.  

Why does my cat like sleeping next to me?

Often when you think of cats, you think of super independent animals that don’t need a lot of interaction. That is one of their biggest draws. 

However, cats are very social creatures, and they love to cuddle up next to the people they love. Your cat may not always be sleeping when they are lying next to you in bed. They may just like being close to you. 

On top of being close to you for emotional reasons, cats like to get close to share your warmth. Your bed is also usually one of the most comfortable places in the house. Between that comfort and pooling, the two bodies’ warmth can make an extra cosy spot for cats to sleep. 

Also, cats get a psychological boost from sleeping in groups. There is a safety to numbers, so they feel better sleeping in a group that they consider friendly. You are an extra layer of security for your British Shorthair. 

Recent studies have shown that having your pet sleep in your bed can also help you get better sleep, so it is a win, win for you and your cat. 

Why is my cat sleeping in the litter box?

When humans think of worse places to sleep, a room filled with sand and waste is one of the worst options we can imagine. Cats don’t feel like this, though. To them, the litter box is one of the safest places they can think of sleeping. 

Your cat may be telling you that they are very stressed when they are sleeping in the litter box. A few reasons they may choose to sleep there is because it is a place they feel comfortable, it is usually secluded and covered to help them hide, and it smells like them, which they like. 

The smell may be off-putting to humans, but to cats, they register the scent of their litter as familiar and safe. 

Sleeping in the litter box shouldn’t be cause for alarm, but if you notice that they aren’t moving from the box or have also stopped eating and drinking, you may want to find out what is stressing them out so much. 

Why is my cat sleeping in weird places?

Usually, our British Shorthair will find a place that they love to sleep, which will become their main nighttime bed down spot. However, sometimes they like to explore and find out what other options are out there for them to sleep. 

Sometimes they like to sleep in a spot because it is safe. Other times they may enjoy the warmth that a specific location offers. If their favourite space is getting too much light or too much noise, they may leave and find somewhere darker or quieter. 

Cats like sleeping in cosy spots, even if they don’t look fun to you. We may see these spots as cramped or strange, but they see these spots as amazing and warm. 

As long as your cat isn’t picking dangerous spots, you shouldn’t worry. If they start to feel uncomfortable, they will move and find a better place to catch their shut-eye.  


There is still a lot we don’t know about cats when they are asleep, and we may never fully answer some of those questions, but we do understand a lot about your cat’s sleep habits and why they may have developed them. 

Cats are social creatures, and they love to be up when you’re up and play with you, even when it goes against their natural sleep schedule. They don’t like to be up very long anyways, so you can expect them to enjoy a nap or two while hanging out with you on the couch. 

By watching how and where your cat sleeps, you can learn a ton about them. Everything from how comfortable cats feel in their home to if they are too cold on the couch. Understanding your cat’s personal sleep schedule can be an indicator as to if they are doing ok.

Just because your cat is napping doesn’t mean they don’t love you or that you should be concerned. It just means cats like to sleep. 

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