Do Cats Sleep With Eyes Open

When it comes to our feline companions, their mysterious behavior often leaves us wondering about their quirky habits. One peculiar aspect that prompts curiosity is whether cats sleep with their eyes open. As you observe your furry friend curled up in blissful slumber, you might find yourself wondering if those beautiful, round eyes are truly shut or if their enigmatic nature extends to their sleeping habits. Let’s delve into the intriguing world of cat behavior and unravel the secret behind their sleeping patterns, shedding light on the question of whether cats sleep with their eyes open.

Cats and Sleep

Cats, as we all know, are notorious for their love of sleep. In fact, they spend an average of 12-16 hours a day sleeping. This might make you wonder about their sleeping habits and whether they sleep with their eyes open. Let’s explore the world of feline sleep and uncover the truth behind the myth of cats sleeping with their eyes open.

Normal Cat Sleeping Habits

Before we dive into the intriguing question of cats sleeping with their eyes open, let’s first understand their normal sleeping habits. Cats are crepuscular animals, which means they are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. However, they also take short naps throughout the day and night, which allows them to be ready for any adventure that may come their way.

During their sleep cycles, cats go through different stages of sleep, including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. You may notice your cat twitching or gently moving their paws during REM sleep. This is a sign that they are dreaming, just like humans do.

The Myth of Cats Sleeping with Eyes Open

Now let’s address the common misconception that cats sleep with their eyes open. Contrary to popular belief, cats do not sleep with their eyes open, at least not in the way we imagine. While it is true that cats have the ability to partially close their eyes during sleep, giving the illusion of them sleeping with their eyes open, their eyes are not actually open.

Why do Cats Sleep with Eyes Open?

Although cats don’t sleep with their eyes open, there is a reason why they can appear that way. This is due to their unique anatomy and a fascinating feature called the nictitating membrane.

Anatomy of Cat Eyes

To understand why cats can partially close their eyes while sleeping, we need to explore the anatomy of their eyes. Cats have large, round eyes that are set forward on their face, giving them excellent binocular vision and depth perception. Their eyes are also equipped with a special protective layer called the nictitating membrane.

Structure of Cat Eyes

The structure of a cat’s eyes is quite remarkable. They have both vertical and horizontal pupils, allowing them to adapt to various lighting conditions. This unique design enables cats to have exceptional night vision and the ability to accurately judge distances when hunting or pouncing on their prey.

Differences between Cat and Human Eyes

While both cats and humans have eyes that serve the same basic purpose of allowing us to see the world around us, there are significant differences between the two. Cats have a higher number of rods, which are specialized cells responsible for low-light vision. This helps them navigate in the dark with ease.

Humans, on the other hand, have more cones in their eyes, which are responsible for color vision. This is why cats have limited color perception compared to humans. Additionally, the size and shape of a cat’s eyes contribute to their ability to partially close them while sleeping.

Nictitating Membrane

One feature that sets cat eyes apart is the nictitating membrane. This third eyelid is a thin, protective layer located in the inner corner of a cat’s eye. Unlike our eyelids which move up and down, the nictitating membrane moves horizontally across the eye, from the inside towards the outside.

The nictitating membrane serves various functions. It protects the eyes from dust, debris, and potential injuries during hunting or play. It also helps moisten the eyes and spread tears across the cornea. Moreover, the nictitating membrane partially covers the cat’s eyes during sleep, giving the appearance of their eyes being open.

Sleeping with Eyes Open: The Truth

Having a better understanding of the anatomy of a cat’s eyes and the role of the nictitating membrane, let’s explore the truth behind cats sleeping with their eyes open.

Cat Sleep Patterns

Cats, like humans, go through different sleep patterns. They have periods of light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. During the deep sleep stages, cats often close their eyes completely. However, during light sleep or during a brief nap, they may keep their eyes partially closed, creating the illusion of them sleeping with their eyes open.

Signs of a Sleeping Cat

When a cat is sound asleep, it is usually easy to tell. Their body is relaxed, and their breathing becomes slower and more regular. Their muscles may twitch occasionally, and they may even make soft noises or purr while sleeping peacefully.

Factors that Influence Cat Sleep

Several factors can influence a cat’s sleep patterns. These include their age, health, environment, and daily routine. Kittens and older cats tend to sleep more than adult cats. Cats living in multi-cat households may have disrupted sleep due to social dynamics. Additionally, changes in their environment or routine, such as moving to a new home or experiencing a loud noise, can also disrupt their sleep patterns temporarily.

Cat Sleep Disturbances

While cats are known for their ability to sleep peacefully, just like humans, they can also experience sleep disturbances. It’s essential to be aware of common sleep disorders in cats and when to seek veterinary advice.

Sleep Disorders in Cats

Sleep disorders in cats are relatively rare, but they do occur. Some of the common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and sleep aggression. These disorders can disrupt a cat’s sleep and impact their overall health and well-being.

Common Reasons for Sleep Disturbances

Various factors can cause sleep disturbances in cats. Stress, anxiety, pain, discomfort, and medical conditions such as dental issues or urinary problems can all interfere with a cat’s ability to sleep peacefully. Additionally, certain medications, changes in diet, or environmental factors like excessive heat or noise can contribute to sleep disturbances.

When to Seek Veterinary Advice

If you notice persistent changes in your cat’s sleeping patterns, such as sleep disruptions, excessive sleepiness, restlessness, or extreme fatigue, it is essential to consult with your veterinarian. They can rule out any underlying medical conditions or behavioral issues that may be affecting your cat’s sleep. Seeking professional advice is crucial to ensure the health and well-being of your feline companion.


In conclusion, cats do not actually sleep with their eyes open, contrary to popular belief. While their eyes can appear partially open due to the nictitating membrane, their eyes are, in fact, closed during deep sleep. However, during light sleep or brief naps, cats may keep their eyes partially closed, giving the illusion of them sleeping with their eyes open.

Understanding the normal sleeping habits of cats and the unique anatomy of their eyes can help us appreciate their fascinating sleeping behaviors. It also allows us to recognize the signs of a sleeping cat and be aware of potential sleep disturbances that may require veterinary attention.

So the next time you see your feline friend taking a catnap with their eyes seemingly open, you can rest assured knowing that they are simply enjoying a restful slumber, fully immersed in the world of dreams.

Do Cats Sleep With Eyes Open

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