If you’ve ever wondered where mountain lions sleep, you’re not alone. These powerful predators lead mysterious lives in the wilderness, so their resting habits remain shrouded in mystery for many people.

In short, mountain lions are adaptable sleepers who don’t have set sleeping dens. They prefer secluded, sheltered spots in rugged terrain where they can rest safely away from disruptions and threats.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about the fascinating sleeping and resting behaviors of the North American cougar.

Mountain Lions Are Opportunistic When Selecting Resting Spots

They Often Use Caves, Crevices, Thick Vegetation

Mountain lions, also known as pumas or cougars, are very adaptable when it comes to choosing places to rest during the day. These big cats will sleep in a variety of shelters depending on what is available in their habitat. Some of their preferred resting spots include:

  • Caves and rocky crevices – These shaded areas provide shelter from both the elements and potential predators. Mountain lions may choose caves or crevices in cliff faces, boulder fields, or talus slopes.
  • Thick vegetation – Bushes, dense thickets, and areas of heavy brush serve as concealed bedding areas. The vegetation helps camouflage mountain lions from threats and prey.
  • Hollow logs and tree cavities – Like many wild felines, mountain lions will crawl into hollow logs or trees to sleep, especially in forested areas. This also helps them remain hidden.
  • Undercut banks – Eroded areas along creeks, rivers, lakes, etc. create shaded overhangs that mountain lions utilize for resting.

According to research from the Santa Monica National Recreation Area, radio-tracked mountain lions used a different bedding site after nearly every individual kill. This demonstrates their adaptability and opportunistic nature when it comes to picking resting areas.

Location Must Feel Secure and Have Easy Escape Routes

The most critical factor mountain lions consider when choosing a place to sleep or temporarily den is security. They are vulnerable when resting, so the location must provide cover and concealment from threats.

Mountain lions typically pick spots with good visibility and multiple escape routes should they need to leave quickly.

In particular, female mountain lions are cautious when selecting denning sites to birth and raise young kittens. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife research, dens were often found in areas with dense vegetation or rocky features.

These protective sites were normally facing south or west to provide warmth and shelter.

It’s also worth noting that mountain lions don’t use permanent dens or return to the same beds. They will resume hunting once rested, and then find a new secure site to sleep afterwards. Remaining unpredictable helps mountain lions avoid conflict with competitors and predators in their home ranges.

Day Beds and Night Beds Serve Different Purposes

Day Beds For Digestion and Grooming

After feasting on a fresh kill, mountain lions need time to rest and allow their bodies to digest the large meal. They will lounge on day beds – makeshift nests made of debris, grass, leaves, or soil that provide comfort and seclusion.

Tucked away in vegetation, thickets, rock crevices, or caves, the big cats can sleep off their food coma in safety and privacy. These day beds allow them to conserve energy during digestion when they are more vulnerable to threats.

The shaded spots also offer shelter from the elements like rain or harsh sun.

In addition to napping, mountain lions use day beds for grooming activities like licking fur and sharpening claws on nearby trees. Staying clean helps regulate body temperature and blood flow for improved alertness during night hunts.

Night Beds For Extended Rest While Hunting

At night when mountain lions are active hunters, they alternate between patiently stalking prey and taking catnaps to recharge energy. These brief rests often occur in temporary night beds located near their hunting grounds.

By daybreak after the hunt, the stealthy predators retreat to more secluded lairs that serve as safe long-sleep nests. These nighttime beds tuck them out of sight from threats for uninterrupted sleep. Males rest 8-10 hours a day while females with young may sleep over 12 hours securing needed rejuvenation.

Their elusive nature makes observing exact sleeping habits a challenge. Researchers confirm the solitary cats likely shift resting spots regularly. But GPS tracking shows they seem to prefer elevated beds near ridges, cliffs, or boulders – allowing security to spot danger and channel daytime breezes.

Mothers With Kittens Have Special Sleeping Needs

Hidden, Inaccessible Areas to Protect Vulnerable Young

Mountain lion mothers with vulnerable kittens require secluded and hard-to-reach sleeping areas to protect their young, who would be easy prey for predators in the open. Remote rocky outcroppings, dense thickets, and caves carved into canyon walls serve as excellent dens where mountain lion mothers can hide with kittens.

Mothers will stash kittens in extremely isolated spots while they are out hunting, sometimes tucking them into small caves high up cliff faces or within tangled roots of fallen trees. One study in California found a mountain lion mother who would leave her kittens in a cave 30 feet up a cliff overnight while she hunted!

Frequently Moving Dens to Avoid Predators

In addition to stashing kittens in well-hidden dens, mountain lion mothers also frequently rotate between different dens to avoid predators detecting their scent. Mother pumas may use upwards of 20 different dens to hide newborn kittens, changing locations every few days.

Frequent den relocations helps throw predators like bears, wolves, or rival mountain lions off their trail. Mother pumas will gently grasp kittens by the scruff of the neck in their mouths to transport them carefully to new dens through rugged terrain.

Kittens instinctually go limp and relaxed when picked up this way, facilitating transportation. According to researchers in Wyoming, rotating dens is crucial for improving survival rates of vulnerable kittens and avoiding predation from hostile animals that may catch their scent.

Sleeping Habits Vary by Habitat and Region

Desert Cats Rest in Shade and Burrows

Mountain lions that live in arid desert environments have adapted their sleeping habits to deal with the hot, dry conditions. During the day, they seek out shade under rocky outcroppings, trees, and shrubs to escape the punishing midday sun.

They may also utilize burrows dug by other animals as cool, sheltered rest sites. Their light fur helps reflect heat and keep them comfy even when sleeping on hot ground. Desert-dwelling pumas tend to be most active at dawn and dusk when temperatures are coolest.

They do much of their hunting at night under the cover of darkness.

Mountain Cats Use Caves and Cliffs

In mountainous habitats, pumas find shelter amid rocky cliffs and outcroppings where they can bed down in crevices, caves, and under overhangs. These spots offer protection from weather and concealment from prey. Their camouflaging coat blends into cliff walls.

Some resting spots are used repeatedly for generations. In the winter, mountain lions may descend to lower elevations and use blown-out spaces under thick evergreen boughs as secluded, insulated lairs to wait out storms.

Cougars are remarkably resilient in frigid temperatures thanks to their furry coats and high metabolism.

Forest Cats Sleep in Dense Vegetation

Mountain lions that inhabit forested areas sleep hidden in extremely dense underbrush, heavy thickets, or brush/rock piles. These secluded spots allow the ambush predators to safely observe trails used by deer and elk while remaining undetected.

Like house cats, they prefer to wedge themselves into small, enclosed spaces. Data from GPS-collared pumas in Montana showed forest lions actually slept in a new site almost every day rather than repeatedly using the same beds.

Females with kittens favor sleeping in habitat that provides cover for quick escape from danger. Pumas are well-camouflaged in the forest, with fur that can appear gray, red, brown or even black.

How Much Do Mountain Lions Sleep Each Day?

Mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, are remarkable creatures when it comes to their sleeping habits. As solitary and elusive predators, their rest patterns allow them to conserve energy while still effectively hunting prey across their vast territories.

On average, mountain lions sleep about 8-10 hours per day. However, their sleep is not continuous and they tend to take many short naps rather than sleeping for extended periods of time. Here’s an overview of the fascinating sleeping behaviors of mountain lions:

Napping and Rest Cycles

Mountain lions do most of their hunting at dawn and dusk. As a result, they tend to be most active in the early morning and evening, and sleep more during the middle of the day. They generally take short naps lasting about 30-90 minutes at a time.

These short rest periods allow them to recharge while still maintaining awareness of threats in their surroundings.

Daytime Resting Places

Mountain lions don’t have specific dens or nests for sleeping. They simply curl up on the ground or in vegetation when they need to rest during the day. Their preferred daytime resting spots include:

  • Under trees or rocky outcroppings
  • In low-lying brush
  • Near logs or downed trees
  • On hillsides or embankments

These spots allow mountain lions to easily scan their surroundings and detect potential threats while resting. Their tan-colored fur also provides excellent camouflage in these settings.

Nocturnal Resting Habits

At night, mountain lions will seek sheltered spots like caves, crevices, or thick vegetation to sleep for longer periods of time. However, they still tend to sleep lightly and may only doze for a few hours before getting up to patrol or hunt again.

Their nocturnal resting places provide protection from nighttime cold and storms.

Interestingly, some research indicates that mountain lions may avoid resting overnight in the same spot where they made a kill earlier in the day. This behavior helps minimize the risk of attracting scavengers or competitors to their location while sleeping.

Maternal Dens

The one exception to mountain lions’ tendency to nap on open ground occurs when females give birth. They will seek out secluded dens, often caves or rock crevices, to deliver and care for their helpless young cubs for the first 6-8 weeks of life.

These dens shelter and conceal the cubs while the mother hunts.

Once the cubs are more mobile, the mother will then resume her typical habit of napping on open ground with the cubs nearby. The cubs mimic their mother’s napping behaviors as they mature.


Mountain lions are remarkably adaptive creatures who can rest just about anywhere. By choosing secluded, sheltered spots that allow quick escape, they sleep safely despite leading solitary lives in rugged habitats. Their sleeping habits vary based on terrain, maternal status, and other factors.

Hopefully this guide gave you a comprehensive overview of the sleeping behaviors of the stealthy cougar!

The next time you venture into mountain lion country, keep an eye out for signs of these elusive cats at rest. With lucky timing you may just spot one napping the day away in a hidden mountain crevice or shady desert burrow.

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