Why Do Cats Sleep on You?
You might love it when they snuggle you at night, or you might hate it. Here’s why cats sleep on you—and how to get them to sleep elsewhere.
Cats can be moody. So when your cat chooses to snuggle up with you in bed at night, you probably don’t fight it. But why is it that your cat ignores you all day and then wants to sleep next to (or right on top of) you at night? Well, there are actually a few reasons cats love sleeping with you. Though they might not want to cuddle with you if you’re doing any of these things cats actually hate.
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Why do cats sleep on you?
They’re looking for security
Cats are always ready to attack or defend themselves, so even when your cat appears to be out cold, they’re actually still on high alert for any noises or smells that mean they need to spring into action and attack. However, sleeping is their most vulnerable state.
“Since cats are always poised for action, it makes sense that they’d seek extra protection by curling up next to their owner,” says Mikel Delgado, cat behavior expert with Rover. “You may give your cat an extra level of security during sleep, a time when they’re most vulnerable.” If your cat sleeps near you it means they trust you and feel secure with you by their side.
They’re seeking warmth
“A cat’s normal body temperature is up to 102 degrees, which is why you can typically find your feline friend snoozing in a sunny window or crammed in a box—to soak up as much warmth as they can get, which includes using you for your body temperature,” says Delgado.
They’re marking their territory
Cats like to claim their territory by marking it with their scent. When they sleep on top of you, they may be marking you as theirs.
They want to bond
If you’re wondering “Why do cats sleep on you?” it may be because they’re trying to tell you they love you. “It’s not unusual for cats to engage in ‘pillowing’ at bedtime, which is when they use another cat as a pillow, so if they’re the only cat in the house, they love to use you as an alternative,” says Delgado. “And even if they’re not the only cat in the house, you may be their preferred ‘pillow-mate!’”
Could your cat sleeping on you be a sign that something is wrong?
If your cat sleeps on you almost every night, there is typically no cause for concern. If you notice that they’re sleeping much more than usual and have low energy, you should take them to the vet to get checked.
“If your cat has never slept on you before and suddenly has started to, watch carefully for any other signs of illness. A change in behavior can sometimes be the first clue that something is wrong,” says Delgado.
Is there a reason some cats sleep on specific body parts?
There is, actually. If your cat likes to sleep near your head it’s probably because your body releases a lot of heat from there while you sleep, making it extra cozy for your cat. You also don’t move your head much in your sleep, so your cat knows that they’re less likely to get whacked by an arm or leg up there. Another reason your cat might like to sleep near your head is that they like the smell of your shampoo and your natural hair oils, Delgado mentions.
If your cat likes to sleep on or near your chest it could be because the sound of your heartbeat and steady breathing draws them in and comforts them.
And if your cat is a lap sleeper, it’s probably because they know they get extra scratches and love while they’re on your lap. It’s also a warm place to snuggle up.
Why do most cats sleep with their back to you?
Since your cat is always ready to attack if needed, he or she most likely sleeps with their back to you so they can watch the environment for both of you. Isn’t that adorable? Here are some other ways your cat shows affection.
Is it bad to let your cat sleep with you?
There are definitely pros to letting your cat sleep in bed with you. It can help with stress relief, allow the two of you to bond and keep you both cozy and warm. But there are also some cons.
“Although not strictly nocturnal, many cats are active in the evening, so it could be hard to get in some zzz’s if he’s being rambunctious,” says Delgado. “Plus, if your cat prefers to sleep on your chest or head, this could become bothersome, particularly if he’s overweight.” Indoor cats could also track litter into your bed, and outdoor cats might be carriers of disease.
Delgado also warns that cats should never sleep with children under the age of 5. There could be a risk of suffocation, and if the cat gets startled in the middle of the night they could panic and scratch a child.
Are there ways to teach your cat to not sleep in your bed with you?
Delgado recommends a few different options for helping your cat sleep in a separate room from you:
- Upgrade their bed. You can try a heated pet bed so they can get a little extra warmth while sleeping.
- Feed and play with them before bed. Help them settle down for the night by playing with them, then feed them a large dinner. Having a full belly can make them sleepy, and they’ll be happier to plop down on the couch instead of your bed.
- Utilize automatic feeders. You can set up an automatic feeder for particularly restless cats to dispense a small amount of food every one to two hours throughout the night. This will keep your cat watching the machine instead of barging into your room and running up and down your bed.
- Establish distractions. Setting up some early-morning distractions can help too. Try setting up a bird feeder outside a window your cat likes to sit by so they can watch “Bird TV” in the morning instead of waking you up at 4 a.m. to be fed.
About the expert
- Mikel Delgado is a cat behavior expert with Rover who has worked with cats for more than 20 years. Delgado is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (Animal Behavior Society), a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) and an Affiliate Member of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.