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It seems to be the common belief that familiars are creatures and need rest. I cannot find a question on here that specifically says so, but the general feeling is that the familiar is a creature, and creatures need rest (If someone can find one or more answers, I'll link them in).

Actually, the spell says:

You gain the service of a familiar, a spirit that takes an animal form you choose: bat, cat, crab, frog (toad), hawk, lizard, octopus, owl, poisonous snake, fish (quipper), rat, raven, sea horse, spider, or weasel. Appearing in an unoccupied space within range, the familiar has the statistics of the chosen form, though it is a celestial, fey, or fiend (your choice) instead of a beast.

So a familiar is really just a spirit, but with a beast's form. I do not think spirits need rest, but since the spell says "has the statistics" of a beast, I can accept that familiar's can, and might need, rest. And, to get to the heart of the question, we'll go with that premise.

So when do they rest?

Familiars have two states: in the "physical" world with the characters or in their pocket dimension. So their rest would need to occur in one of those two places.

In the physical world, familiars are used as scouts, lookouts, interpreters, someone to talk to, and any number of activities. But I've never heard of wizard bringing out their familiar so they can take a nap. I cannot remember a single instance of a wizard saying, "I'm waking up so-and-so." Instead, it's always, "I'm popping in so-and-so." If not actively engaged in an activity, most wizards keep their familiar safe in the pocket dimension. So I'm going to assume, that if familiars need rests, it's not happening in the physical world.

Which means we need to assume that if/when a familiar rests, it is in their pocket dimension. So at what point does the short, or even more relevant, long rest occur? It cannot unilaterally be, "when the character rests," because familiars are often lookouts while a character rests. The character goes to sleep in a nice, warm tiny hut and the familiar stays outside watching for surprises. I'm not saying it can't happen then, but the answer cannot be a simple, "when the character rests" because that is obviously not always the case.

A problem I see with resting in the pocket dimension is that the familiar may not even have a form. Per Sage Advice, and mentioned in this answer, familiars don't take objects with them into their pocket dimension1. So it might be the case that in this pocket dimension, they return to spirit form. And once again, who knows if spirits can/need rest.

But if go with the theory that familiars in pocket dimensions CAN rest, when does it happen? Is any time in the pocket dimension considered rest? Is it only after a set amount of time?

There are underlying questions of why this is important

  • If my character casts a spell, has a feature, or otherwise grants Temp Hit Points to a familiar, and the Temp Hit Points don't go away until a long rest... When does that happen? See here for another question about temp hit points, and the answers all include "until the familiar rests."
  • If the familiar suffers a level of exhaustion, can they take a long rest2 to get rid of it?
  • If the familiar naturally has more than 1 hit point and is merely injured, when do they take a short rest to heal? And a long rest to get back that Hit Dice they used?

So my question is, when, if ever, do familars rest? But please consider these factors when answering.


1 Don't ask about the sprite armor, bow, and sword. I didn't write the rule.

2 I have also never seen someone feed a familiar unless it was a "I'm going to pretend you're really a pet" situation. So I don't know how the whole "ingested food and drink" applies.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I’m not sure I understand this question. You’ve outlined that familiars will sometimes need to rest. So are you just asking “when do you have your familiar rest?” Or are you asking “when should you have your familiar rest?” I guess I just need come clarification on what your question is because “whenever they get a chance” seems to be much too obvious of an answer. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19 at 6:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ My reading is that the question is a slightly over-wordy way of asking "do familiars need to rest, and if so, can they rest when not summoned, or do they have to be summoned expressly for the purpose of resting? Also, do you have to declare that your familiar is resting or does it just happen?" \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RichardWinters Okay, that’s more or less how I approached it in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19 at 6:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related, possible duplicate: Do familiars from Find Familiar need to eat and sleep? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 19 at 6:54

3 Answers 3

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Any time a familiar meets the conditions for taking a rest, they may take a rest.

The rules for short and long rests state:

A short rest is a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds.

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps for at least 6 hours and performs no more than 2 hours of light activity, such as reading, talking, eating, or standing watch. If the rest is interrupted by a period of strenuous activity — at least 1 hour of walking, fighting, casting spells, or similar adventuring activity — the characters must begin the rest again to gain any benefit from it.

[...]

A character can't benefit from more than one long rest in a 24-hour period, and a character must have at least 1 hit point at the start of the rest to gain its benefits.

There is nothing to indicate that these rules do not apply or apply differently to familiars, so they apply to familiars the same way they apply to the player characters. So any time a familiar has met the conditions for having taken a short or long rest, the player may have the familiar take the rest. And if the familiar never meets the conditions for a rest, they never get a rest. If using the optional rules for going without a long rest from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (p. 78), this means that your familiar needs just as much rest as the characters:

Whenever you end a 24-hour period without finishing a long rest, you must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or suffer one level of exhaustion.

It becomes harder to fight off exhaustion if you stay awake for multiple days. After the first 24 hours, the DC increases by 5 for each consecutive 24-hour period without a long rest. The DC resets to 10 when you finish a long rest.

So the answer to the question is “a familiar rests whenever its owner gives it the chance” – which, depending on how closely you pay attention to the rules for resting, is somewhere between “as often as necessary” and “never because we don’t worry about these rules”.

I’ve played it both ways. I have had games where we didn’t bother with having my familiar take a rest, and I’ve had games where the DM was rather strict about the sleep rules – the familiar was on watch when I was on watch, and slept when I slept. One way is not better than the other, just talk to the DM and decide how you want to play it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting on that last point... I've always considered that one of the benefits of a nocturnal familiar like a bat or owl is that they can potentially stand watch at night and sleep in their pokeball -- er, "familiar pocket" while you're traveling or doing other stuff that doesn't require a familiar's presence. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19 at 18:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym Yeah, that should work just fine. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19 at 18:26
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Get ready for a whole lot of DM Fiat

Nothing in the rules clearly states whether or not familiars need to eat, or need to sleep. We don't know much, RAW, about the nature of spirits. There is room for a DM to make decisions either way. A wise DM will make decisions that dovetail with the kind of game they want.

Eating and resting are not part of a creature's stat block

Answers to questions about familiars typically start with the following quote:

the familiar has the statistics of the chosen form, though it is a celestial, fey, or fiend (your choice) instead of a beast.

Unfortunately, many people then erroneously assume that since familiars share a stat block with the creatures whose forms they take, they take on the same needs for sleep or food as the creatures have. This is not necessarily correct. The Monster Manual (p.6) clearly states that the Statistics, or stat block, of a monster starts with Size. Any descriptions that come before size are thus, by definition, not part of its Statistics. While there are several monsters with Undead Nature or Construct Nature that say they do no need to eat or sleep, these traits are listed before the stat block and are not, properly speaking, part of their Statistics.

Thus, whether or not a beast or other creature eats is not part of its Statistics. A spirit can assume the "form" of an animal, including all of its statistics, without necessarily assuming its need to eat (or lack thereof). Whether or not a spirit needs to eat is based on the nature of spirits, not based on the nature of the forms they assume. The rules do not tell us whether spirits need to eat or sleep - it might be that they do, but if they do, it is not because the creatures whose forms they wear do.

Food Clues

If, as the caster of a familiar, the game expected you to feed it, it seems reasonable that the rules for how to obtain that food and how much food it needed would be player-facing, as they clearly are for characters and mounts.

A character's needs for Food and Water are found in Chapter 8 of the PHB (Adventuring).

Characters can purchase food explicitly explicitly for themselves:
"Adventuring Gear", PHB 153

Rations. Rations consist of dry foods suitable for extended travel, including jerky, dried fruit, hardtack, and nuts.

Characters can also purchase food explicitly for their mounts: "Tack, Harness, and Drawn Vehicles", PHB 157

Feed (per day) 5 cp 10 lb.

The 'feed' items will meet the needs of creatures from the 'Mounts and Other Animals' table, and the food ('rations') will meet the needs of characters - but what about the needs of familiars? A rat can likely eat the same things as a human, and a crow the same things as a mount...but what does a spider, octopus, sea horse, or bat eat?

Rather than purchased food, perhaps familiars need magically created food?
"Create Food and Water", PHB 229

You create 45 pounds of food and 30 gallons of water on the ground or in containers within range, enough to sustain up to fifteen humanoids or five steeds for 24 hours.

Again, the spell explicitly mentions characters and mounts (here called steeds), but not familiars. It does include pounds of food and gallons of water, so assuming that magic food is magically suitable for any body type, a character with a familiar could supply it with food - if any player-facing rules told them how much the familiar needed. But they don't.

Instead, we have DMG p.111, Food and Water table, which shows how much food and water are needed by different sizes of creature. So if a familiar is tiny, it might need "1/4 pound" of food, and "1/4 gallon" of water per day. On the same page, the DMG describes how much food and water can be obtained by foraging, making it possible to feed familiars that way as well.

Thus, there are no player-facing rules that explain how much to feed your familiar and how much that should cost. Why not? It could be because the Spirit Nature of familiars means they don't need to eat, but that is certainly not the only explanation (and I wouldn't argue that it is). It could also be because familiars need to eat, but this is not something the game deems important to track. Or, it could be that these rules are DM-facing because DMs are expected to decide for their game whether they want familiars to require food or not. We don't know which. What we do know is that the rules are not set up in such a way that makes it clear that familiars do need to eat.

Pocket Monsters

As an action, you can temporarily dismiss your familiar. It disappears into a pocket dimension where it awaits your summons.

The familiar may be dismissed into a "pocket dimension" and later recalled. No time limit is given for how long the familiar may remain in the pocket dimension, a place where it is not eating (since it can't take objects with it) and not breathing (if its pocket dimension is anything like that of a bag of holding).

Breathing creatures inside the bag can survive up to a number of minutes equal to 10 divided by the number of creatures (minimum 1 minute), after which time they begin to suffocate.

Since a familiar can survive indefinitely in its pocket dimension, it seems reasonable that it does not need to breathe. If it does not need to breathe, perhaps it does not need to eat or sleep either - at least while in the pocket dimension.

DM, ask yourself...

If a wizard dismissed its familiar into a pocket dimension and left it there for several days, would you have it make Con checks for exhaustion from lack of food? Would you have it die from lack of water and have to be re-summoned (for 10gp and an hour of time)? If a wizard put its familiar on guard duty for several days straight would you have it gain exhaustion from lack of sleep? You already know, or you can quickly come up with, the answers to these questions for your own game. Given that the rules have nothing definitive to say about the answers, your own answers are more important, and are what will drive the resolution of the question Do familiars need to eat or sleep?

What I would do

At the start of each campaign, I ask myself a simple question: is this familiar a class feature or a recurring NPC?

In almost every game I have run, they are clearly a wizard class feature. They do exactly what the player wants them to do, using the rules from the spell, only. They are the means to an end for the player, and I am happy to run them as such, without the need for any tedious book-keeping about what they eat or when the last time they rested was. At best they get a cute name to keep track of what form they are in, but they don't even have personalities.

In one game I run, most familiars work as above, but one in particular is singled out because it is an imp. He has a distinct personality (as comic relief to give grief to the party paladin) and is an important source of information (because the party is currently in Avernus). I have invested in a distinct personality because it enhances the game; I have not worried about resource tracking because that would clearly not.

In one game I used to run, there were no familiars, but the Ranger had a beast companion which was a full-on NPC. It had its own likes and dislikes, preferred food, moods, and ways of interacting with the ranger and other members of the party. Had there been a familiar in that campaign, it would have gotten the same treatment. Why? Because that group of players cared very little for the mechanics of conflict and very much about role-playing relationships. Perhaps not co-incidentally, this group was my then-teenage daughter and her friends. They wanted to know how every character felt about every other character, and the animal companion had to have its own emotional life as well - they didn't much care about how many rages per long rest the barbarian got. How well the ranger kept the companion fed, and its response to that, was an important part of their playing experience.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with some of what you're saying, so much of it is unsubstantiated and seems to be just leaps in logic. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Apr 20 at 2:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott My basic point is that there are not rules about whether or familiars need to eat, so a DM will have to make a ruling. If you think that central claim is unsubstantiated, it would be great if you could point out where it says that familiars do or don't need to eat. Or, perhaps, pick out one other claim I make you think is unsubstantiated so I can see where you are coming from? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 20 at 5:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott I would appreciate any context you can give me, since different versions of this answer are equally downvoted on three different questions. With no one commenting about any specific claims I make, it sure feels like people object to the conclusion rather than the logic. Thus any specific criticism you can provide would be useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 20 at 6:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example, you go into great detail about food; foraging, buying, creating magically. And then you make the leap that, because there is no familiar kibble listed in the PHB, nor a conversion of how much a familiar needs to eat, therefore familiars don't eat. By the same logic, if I buy a dog, I wouldn't need to feed it because it's not a humanoid or a mount, it does not eat. There is no "familiar food" because they are all very different. What you feed a spider would not work for a cat and what works for a hawk probably wouldn't work for a seahorse. Instead, generic rations and feed. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Apr 20 at 22:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott Thank you. It was not my intention to say that the food rules prove that familiars don't need to eat. Instead, I am saying that if familiars did need to eat, it seems reasonable that there would be rules for that. My claim is that, unlike characters and mounts, there are no rules that clearly say that familiars do need to eat - so a DM has to make of that what they will. I have edited that section and would be interested in your thoughts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 21 at 1:32
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The spell Find Familiar states: "You gain the service of a familiar, a spirit that takes an animal form...". This means that the familiar isn't a creature it's a spirit. So it doesn't need to eat or sleep.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ But it has a stat block, which is something creatures have, and when a thing with a stat block doesn’t need to eat or sleep, the stat block will tell you that. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov yes it uses the creatures stat block as a reference to its form, but it isn't that creature, just a spirit mimicking it. Further into the spells description it says: "You can't have more than one familiar at a time. If you cast this spell while you already have a familiar, you instead cause it to adopt a new form." Showing again that it isn't (lets say) a bat, but a spirit that looks like a bat, who can later become a hawk. \$\endgroup\$
    – Will Moff
    Apr 26 at 22:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ So any feature that only affects creatures cannot affect a familiar? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 at 22:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. Especially when you think about a spell like charm monster. There is no way that spell should be usable against a familiar whose ultimate loyalty is to the master. \$\endgroup\$
    – Will Moff
    Apr 26 at 22:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ So when a spell like guiding bolt says “A flash of light streaks toward a creature of your choice within range”, it means that the familiar is an invalid target for the spell? (Which would mean familiars are basically invincible against all spells). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 at 22:28

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