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Do Cats Like Pillows? Facts & FAQ

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

three cats on blue fabric pillow

Did you know that your cat can sleep an average of approximately 15 hours a day? Some sleep as many as 20 hours! You may have noticed that your cat has favorite sleeping areas and gravitates to them quite often. But do cats like pillows?

Cats do seem to enjoy sleeping on pillows. Not all cats opt for pillows, though, and instead prefer blankets and windowsills.

Here, we look at why cats do seem to like sleeping on pillows and discuss a few methods that you can use to discourage the behavior if necessary.

 

Cats Sleeping on Our Pillows

Most cat owners enjoy sharing their beds with their cats. One study discovered that 65% of pet owners share their beds with their pets, and 23% of pet owners share their pillows with their cats1. The biggest reason that cat parents enjoy sharing their beds with their cats is that gives them a sense of being loved, and the second reason is that it provided comfort.

Those of us lucky enough to be cat parents can get amazing benefits from this relationship. Here are a few reasons that our cats seem to want to take over our pillows. Bear in mind that these explanations are the most common ones, but it’s not an exhaustive list.

cat sleeping under the sheets
Image Credit: Kate Stone Matheson, Unsplash

The 5 Reasons Why Cats Like Sleeping on Pillows

1. Love and Affection

Cats love giving us head bonks, grooming our hair, and nuzzling and licking our faces. So, your pillow is an optimum place for your cat to be close to your face and get in a good cuddle and hair grooming session.

Also, your pillows are imbued with your scent, which can make your cat feel secure and loved. Essentially, when a cat shares your pillow, they are sending you the message that they love and trust you and enjoy your company as much as you enjoy theirs.


2. Warmth

Cats are fans of warmth and sunlight. We’ve all seen a cat burrow under a cozy pile of blankets or stretch out in the sun, catching as much of the sun’s rays as they can.

Cats are heat seekers because their normal body temperature is higher than a human’s — it averages from 100.4°F to 102.5°F (38°C to 39°C). They are most comfortable when the environment is approximately 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C), with 70°F (21°C) being the absolute perfect temperature!

Since cats clearly love a warm and cozy environment, pillows are the perfect place for them to make themselves snug. Our own body temperature makes the pillow even warmer.


3. Territorial

Cats are bossy little creatures, and they seem to think that they are the ones in charge in the home. One way to demonstrate this is by sleeping next to your head. This is even more of a likely scenario if you live in a multi-cat home.

Claiming the pillow next to your head announces to everyone that they are the cat in charge. The rest of your cats probably end up down at your feet!

Since cats also claim their territory by marking things with their scent, their scent on you and your pillow is another way that your cat is marking you as their own.

Gray cat lying on a pillow
Image Credit: Laura Balbarde, Pixabay

4. Sense of Security

When you’re not at home and if your cat tends to get stressed or anxious quite easily, your pillow might make them feel more secure. Your pillow smells strongly of you, so your cat might be seeking out your scent to feel comforted. If you are already in bed, your cat might be seeking you out as a protector.

However, if your cat doesn’t seem to be snuggling up with you but is instead turned away from you — with the lovely view of their butt in your face — your cat might be on high alert. Some cats can be protective of their loved ones and might be placing themselves on guard duty while their humans sleep.


5. Safer Place to Sleep

In some cases, your pillow is safer than the foot of your bed. If you tend to toss and turn while asleep, it might be smarter for your cat to be on a pillow away from your thrashing limbs.

We don’t tend to move our heads as much as our arms and legs, so clever kitties on pillows aren’t as likely to get accidentally kicked or lightly squished.

 

Should Cats Sleep On Our Pillows?

The choice is ultimately yours, but there are a few reasons that it might be better if you stop this behavior. While it can be a lovely bonding experience and super cozy, you are probably being woken up several times throughout the night by your cat.

Cats can be active at night, most typically at dawn, so you run the risk of interrupted sleep, particularly if you want to sleep in on your day off. Getting a good night’s sleep is imperative for your health and even safety.

There’s also the fact that it can be unhygienic. Cats dig around in their litter boxes, which also means they stand in their urine and feces. They carry around bits of this on their paws, so you might be sleeping with feces and urine next to your head!

Cute kitten lying down on a big pillow
Image By: millivigerova, Pixabay

Keeping Your Cat Off Your Pillow

The easiest solution here is to keep your bedroom door closed while you’re sleeping. But if this isn’t doable, consider the following:

  • If you want to close your door but your cat tends to scratch it and you’re worried about the damage, try placing double-sided tape or tin foil along the sides and bottom of the door. If you put tin foil on the floor directly in front of your door, your cat might not want to get close to it.
  • Try getting in a good play session with your cat before your bedtime. This could tire out your cat, and it also gives you bonding time.
  • Find another pillow or sleeping pad specifically for your cat, and try to make it quite appealing. You can place a heating pad underneath it or put it close to a vent or heater so your cat might actually prefer it over yours, especially if you have it in front of a window!
  • Try to make your own pillow as unappealing as possible. Spray it with a peppermint or citrus scent, as cats naturally dislike these smells. Just be careful with using essential oils around your cat, as they are quite dangerous for cats and can prove fatal when inhaled or ingested.
  • Get your cat a friend. Sometimes when cats are alone all night, they can be lonely — and noisy. Another cat might give your kitty extra companionship. However, this also depends on your cat, as not every cat enjoys having another feline around.
  • Finally, be firm. When your cat starts to curl up on your pillow, say no firmly, and gently nudge your cat away from it. If you keep allowing the behavior, your cat will continue to sleep on your pillow.

 

Conclusion

The reasons that cats sleep on pillows are perfectly understandable. We all appreciate warmth, affection, and security, after all. Your cat has the bonus of sleeping next to you, which is also a sign of trust. Unfortunately, it has the potential to be unhygienic, due to your cat’s paws not exactly being the cleanest.

In the long run, though, the choice is ultimately up to you if you want to share your bed and your pillow with your cat. If your kitty cuddling up next to you on your pillow is something that you truly enjoy, then by all means, continue with the cuddles. It is a lovely bonding experience, and we all need soft, fluffy snuggles from time to time.


Featured Image Credit: Fablegros, Pixabay

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