Seeing cats behaving strangely is nothing new for cat parents. In fact, many cat lovers would probably agree that a cat’s weirdness is a big part of their charm. Just look at the countless funny cat videos on Youtube and you’ll see how our feline friends have captured the hearts of many. Yes, cats have a lot of strange behaviors, but how do you know if it’s just normal or otherwise?
One of the things that humans might find strange is a cat’s sleeping habits. Case in point, if you’ve ever noticed your cat sleeping with eyes open, you might have freaked out a little bit. After all, we humans are used to sleeping with our eyes closed. So can cats sleep with their eyes open? Is it just normal behavior for a cat or is it a cause of concern?
Reasons Why Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open
Note that not all cats exhibit this behavior. Also, those that sleep this way don’t do it all the time.
In most cases, this behavior is just normal, so there is no need to worry. However, it’s advisable to observe your cat if there are other symptoms present as this might indicate a medical issue (although rare).
As cats are hunters in nature, they conserve their energy during the day by sleeping. Because of this, many cats keep their eyes slightly open when they sleep. Moreover, they are designed to be aware of their surroundings and be on the lookout in case there might be a potential danger.
Much like us humans, cats also have a sleep cycle that has several stages. So when your cat’s eyes are open while they sleep, they’re most likely in light sleep or the initial stage of their sleep cycle called NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement).
On the other hand, when they are in the stage of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) or deep sleep, they’ll most likely sleep with their eyes closed (although it is still possible for a cat to sleep with eyes partially open even in REM).
Research specifies that during the NREM sleep period, cats’ eyes move slowly and are commonly unconjugated, producing an elevation of the visual axis. While during the REM sleep period, cats’ eyes can move even behind closed eyelids both horizontally and vertically.
In the study of Michel Jouvet, it was observed that during REM sleep, cats also can twitch and become completely limp losing muscle tonus. Deep muscle relaxation is important for cats not to act out their dreams. During the NREM sleep period, the muscles of the cat are active. That’s why cats can sleep in weird and really uncomfortable positions.
Underneath a cat’s two eyelids there is a third translucent layer known as the nictitating membrane, and when this layer is scratched or wounded, your cat might have a hard time closing their eyes. If ever this is the case, your cat might need to undergo surgery. Although it's not a common scenario that explains why your cat is sleeping with eyes open, it would be best to have your cat checked by a vet if other symptoms are present.
How To Help Your Cat Sleep Better
It's essential to ensure that your cat is in good health, and making sure that they are sleeping well is part of it. Below are some of the ways to help your cat' sleep.
1. Give them enough playtime
As cats like to be physically and mentally stimulated, play sessions would allow them to use up their energy during the day, which will most likely help them to reach deeper sleep quicker.
If you don’t have enough time to play with your cat, consider buying a smart pet camera Petcube Play 2 with a laser toy, and you’ll be able to play, see and talk to your purring friend even when you are away from home.
2. Keep their sleep schedule consistent
Sticking to certain habits and routines may train your cat when and where to sleep, and thus avoiding disturbances and unexpected scenarios.
3. Maintain a healthy diet
4. Feed your cat during the night
Cats often sleep well after they’ve eaten a good meal. If you give their meal many hours before their sleeping time, they might wake up from their sleep because they’re feeling hungry. On the contrary, if their meal is given before their regular sleeping time there are fewer chances of them waking up in the middle of the night because they are craving for food.
Cats sleep a lot, but they are often in light sleep mode during the day. And during the initial stages of their sleep cycles, their eyes might be partially open when sleeping. A cat that sleeps with eyes open is likely not a cause of concern and is usually fine.
If, however, other symptoms are present, such as red eyes and seizures, do have your cat checked with a veterinarian to find out whether there’s a health condition that needs to be treated.