Updated November 03, 2018 07:59:27 What are the main reasons cats get so much sleep?
In an ongoing investigation by ABC News, a team of academics led by Professors Michael Poulter and Stephen Gorman found that the answer is the same as it always is.
“We find the cat’s brain has been tuned to get the best quality of sleep as a result of the way they are designed to sleep,” Dr Poulters said.
Dr Poulster is a professor in the department of human development at Curtin University in Western Australia.
He said there are five key parts of the brain involved in sleep and the cat has them all.
“The first two are the hypothalamus, the seat of the cat brain, and the ventral tegmental area, the part of the head that’s associated with dreaming,” he said.
“What we do in this study is we start from the beginning and we try to understand why cats are the sleepiest animals in the world.”
What is the ‘circadian rhythm’?
The first part of sleep is known as the ‘wake-up’ phase, where the cat starts its night-time routine.
It’s when the cat is aware of the world around it.
During this time, the cat becomes active and makes a conscious decision to get up.
“This is the time where we are in the habit of doing things in the morning,” Dr Gorman said.
The second part of cat sleep is the sleep-stage, which is known in scientific terms as the sleep cycle.
The cat is also active during this stage of sleep, but its activity is not thought to be focused on the task at hand.
During the second stage, the cats brain is trying to determine which tasks are most important to it.
This stage is called the ‘reward-seeking phase’.
The third stage is known simply as the night-walking stage.
The fourth stage is the deep sleep stage.
Dr Goulters team has found the cat sleeps as a whole, so it’s not possible to say what it’s doing during the sleep stage, but Dr Gopal said it was thought to involve the cat trying to keep itself active while sleeping.
“It’s a complex, multi-stage process that involves the brain’s limbic system, which has been known to be active during REM sleep,” he explained.
Dr Cairns is also a professor of neuroscience at Curt in Western Australian.
“There’s a whole bunch of different things going on in the brain, not just in the sleep and reward-seeking stages, but in the whole process of waking up,” she said.
“When we look at cats, the brains of them sleep like people, they don’t wake up on their own.
The brain doesn’t have a built-in alarm clock and that means that it has to rely on things that we’re not normally aware of in humans to help it regulate our sleep.”
This includes the role of the REM sleep stages, the ability to remember things and what it does during the night, as well as the ability of the cortex to store memories in the hippocampus.
“So all of these things play a role in how the brain sleeps, but we don’t really know how well these different parts work together.”
What are some of the main benefits of cats being awake?
“I think it’s important to realise that cats have a lot more in common with humans than they do to other mammals,” Dr Cairs said.
In addition to the above benefits, cats also have a number of other advantages.
“One of the big benefits that I think that humans have with our pets is the fact that they don�t need to be around a lot of people, and cats are quite active in social groups,” Dr Carras said.
What are their main disadvantages?
“It may sound like we’re talking about cats who are just really, really happy, but they are actually quite depressed, very lethargic and prone to heart problems,” Dr Rachael said.
She said cats often suffered from depression due to the lack of social interaction, and often ended up eating or drinking too much.
Dr Caras said some cats even started to lose interest in things like their own food, so they became more stressed.
“If we go into a situation where a cat is unhappy, they’re not going to like that.
That means it’s likely that they’re going to have a heart attack, or they’re very lethulatic,” Dr Mihal said.”
If you think about it, cats are really hardwired to have this desire for social interaction.
It just means that they have to spend a lot less time out there than other animals,” Dr Saini said.
What are the best places to find cats?
“A good place to start would be to see if you live in an area where cats are very common,” Dr Fuchs said.