Earlier this week, on a sunny day, I found my cat in her usual place: sprawled on the living room floor and absorbing sun. Those who cohabitate with cats understand the humor associated with walking into a room and finding their cat curled up or stretched out in those sunny spots. One can’t help but wonder what purpose chasing the sun around the living room has. Why do cats spend so much time in the sun? Why do they seek out heat?
This could be attributed to a number of things, ranging from the cat’s feelings of safety and security to their fairly recent desert heritage, but I will focus on a biological factor: the cat’s metabolism.
Every animal has a different metabolism. Some animals have extremely slow metabolisms, such as the sloth--so slow, in fact, that when combined with a low body temperature, a sloth could starve to death even with food in its belly. Others, such as the hummingbird, have an extremely fast metabolism that requires them to eat almost 50% of their weight each day to “fuel” their body.
Metabolism can be affected in many ways: overactive or underactive thyroids, which leads to unhealthily low or high metabolisms, age and sleep patterns. An interesting factor about metabolism is how the level of temperature in the surrounding environment can also greatly affect an organism.
Cats spend 12 to 16 hours sleeping due to their nocturnal schedule, therefore, the more time a cat spends sleeping in a warm environment, the better their body metabolizes. Of course, it is unlikely that a cat thinks about its metabolism when it settles down to nap in a warm spot; all it is hoping for is a warm nap in a safe place. Nonetheless, your cat is doing its body a favor taking a nap in a sunny spot in your living room.