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Common Cat Sleep Disorders

What Might Be Keeping Your Cat Up

By Meredith Alling. March 14, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Common Cat Sleep Disorders

Just like humans, cats can sometimes suffer form sleep disorders. Learn how to tell if your cat has a sleep disorder and what to do.

You might think that all cats are expert sleepers, but many cats suffer from sleep disorders that can wreak havoc on the slumber of both pet and owner. Sleep disorders in cats are either secondary or primary, meaning that the sleep issue is being caused by a secondary factor (such as heart problems, brain tumor, epilepsy, etc.) or that the disorder is the problem itself. These disorders can affect the welfare and behavior of your cat, and should be taken seriously. Here we’ll look at the most common primary sleep disorders seen in our feline friends.

Sleep Apnea

The word “apnea” means the temporary cessation of breathing, and it’s perfectly normal for both humans and animals to experience this kind of respiratory pause during deep REM sleep. However, frequent or extended apnea can result in excessive daytime lethargy, and even death.

    • Sleep apnea is usually progressive, with a pattern of sleep behavior developing over a period of time.
    • The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring. Your cat may also gasp for breath and experience spasms in the diaphragm.
    • This type of apnea is sometimes seen in Persian cats whose shortened muzzles make them prone to breathing problems.
    • Overweight or obese cats are also at risk for developing this disorder.

If you suspect that your cat is suffering from sleep apnea, see your veterinarian. Surgery may be suggested in extreme cases.

Narcolepsy

A sleepy cat is nothing unusual, but a cat who exhibits sudden sleepiness or collapses into a state of unconsciousness may be suffering from narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is one of the less common sleep disorders in cats, but there is an affected population. This disorder is not painful and usually not dangerous, but it can be alarming if you do not know what is happening. Correctly diagnosing narcolepsy with your veterinarian is important, since the symptoms of narcolepsy can mimic those of heart disease, epilepsy, or diabetes.

    • Narcoleptic episodes usually occur in the daytime and are often preceded by eating, playing, or other excitement.
    • Your cat may collapse suddenly and fall into a deep sleep, then awaken moments later as if nothing happened.
    • Episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to a half an hour.
    • During an episode your cat may twitch or experience temporary muscle paralysis (known as Cataplexy).
    • Most cats awaken on their own or can be roused with a loud noise or petting. Once awake, your cat should return to their previous normal state.

How often your cat has an episode will depend on the severity of their narcolepsy - some cats have weekly or monthly episodes while others are affected daily. There is no cure for narcolepsy in cats, but some cats suffering from frequent episodes are placed on medications such as antidepressants or stimulants. Your veterinarian will help you decide what treatment -- if any -- is appropriate for your cat.

Restlessness or Insomnia

While it’s true that cats love to sleep, many experience restlessness at night. These cats wake in the middle of the night and roam around the house, play with toys, look for food, or try to rouse you. This behavior is often attributed to the cat’s nocturnal nature, and most cats do wake at least a couple of times a night. However some cats wake more often than that, and for extended periods of time. This problem can also carry over into the day, and you end up with a cat who isn’t getting rest day or night.

So what can you do to get a good night’s sleep for both you and your cat? First and foremost, if your cat is exhibiting significant restlessness (especially if punctuated by meowing or crying), visit your vet to rule out any illness. Once you know your cat’s sleep problems are not symptomatic of a medical condition, there are number of steps you can take to get your cat (and you!) a full night of sleep.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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