Why Does My Cat Sleep on Me?

By Sara Ochoa, DVM March 22, 2019

Cats are very peculiar creatures. Sometimes they act as if they cannot receive or give enough affection.  At other times they act as if you don’t even exist! Before you think your cat is just being rude when they sleep on you, let’s first ask ourselves why they act this way.  It always seems like cats want the most attention when you’re really trying to concentrate on something else. Even though you may not want to give them attention at the moment, it's important to at least acknowledge their presence. Just sitting beside you can be enough for some cats. So if lying on top of you isn’t feasible, then that is okay.  However, if you are comfortable with the situation, just let your cat bask in your affection.  In order to better understand why your cat sleeps on you, let’s explore some questions to learn about your cat’s sleeping habits.

Why Does My Cat Sleep On Me?

When a cat sleeps on you or even just near you, they are letting you know that they trust you. Have you ever noticed that when a cat sleeps, it is usually under, in, or on top of something? This is because most felines feel very vulnerable while they are sleeping, and like a place where they can feel safe. By choosing to sleep on or near you, they are letting you know that you make them feel safe. Cats also adore the heat their human puts off. Having a cat put their trust in you is a wonderful feeling that creates a very special bond between you and your cat. This is important in many ways, especially when your cat needs veterinary care. By sleeping and cuddling together, it teaches your cat that humans are good and not dangerous. So when the time comes for another person to handle your cat, they are much more receptive. 

Now that you know why your cat sleeps on you, other questions regarding their sleeping habits might have popped into your head.  Let's explore feline sleeping habits further.

How Do Cats Sleep In The Wild?

In the wild, cats prefer to sleep within a group. Much like a domesticated cat sleeping with their human, feral cats depend on each other to a certain extent for warmth and security. They also tend to be much more active than their domesticated counterparts. Wild cats still sleep a lot, but they have to cover much more ground in order to find food. It has been found that a single male cat covered a range of two miles in one day.  Wild cats usually sleep in a hidden spot while one member of the group watches out for the others, taking turns between who sleeps and who stands guard. Then taking turns on who sleeps and who keeps watch. This way they are always protected from whatever may come to harm them.

When Do Cats Sleep?

Cats sleep mostly during the day because the prey they hunt (mice, rats, etc.) are more active at night. So, it makes sense not to spend energy looking for food that is much more difficult to find during the day. You’ve probably noticed that cats don’t necessarily sleep all day, but are still not very active. They may play a little here and there usually in the early morning which is a natural active time for them. Remember: even a domesticated cat likes to hunt. Early morning for your cat is much like coming home after a busy night and winding down with a bit of frisky play. Some house cats do go outside at night and may not return home until morning. When they do return, it is because they know they have a nice warm human to snuggle up with.

How Long Do Cats Sleep?

Most cats sleep anywhere from twelve to sixteen hours a day. That’s twice as much as humans. The thing is, the only reason they sleep so long is simply because they can. Remember, even though your cat loves to sleep and snuggle with you, they are still a predator by nature. In the wild, feline predators are most active when they are on the hunt or looking for a mate. This is no different with your house cat. It has been in their DNA for thousands of years. Domesticated cats may sleep up to twenty hours a day because they know they don’t have to hunt for their food. Their food is brought to them in a shiny bowl. In the wild, cats know they need to reserve their energy to hunt. Although cats are excellent hunters, they are not always successful. Precious energy is spent when prey gets away. If too many get away, then the cat may eventually starve to death because it hasn’t replenished enough energy to hunt again.

What To Do If Your Cat Sleeps On You?

Your cat sleeping on top of you is usually a sign that they love you. They feel protected with you. If you are fine with your cat sleeping in bed with you, just let them be.  However, if the situation is inconvenient for you, here is what you can do: Find an old tee-shirt that you have recently worn, and place the shirt in the spot that you want them to sleep in. This will give them your scent to sleep with. Moreover, making their sleeping space safe and away from high traffic areas in your house will help. Sometimes you may have to go as far as blocking them off in the part of the house you want them to stay in.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of why your cat sleeps on you.  There are many pros and cons to letting your cat sleep with you. Your cat can provide you warmth, help decrease your stress levels, and provide you with something furry to cuddle with at night. However, cats like to hunt at night and are usually most active at that time. So sleeping with your cat at night may not be the best idea as this may disrupt your normal sleep pattern. If you want to explore the pros and cons further, then read “Should You Let Your Cat Sleep with You?”.  Moreover, reading about your kitty’s sleeping habits will also help you better understand your cat.

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