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Why Do Cats Sleep on My Head? 6 Reasons for This Behavior

woman looking at the cat sleeping

Cats do things that we don’t always understand. Their quirks and weird behaviors leave us scratching our heads in amusement or sometimes frustration. If you have an affectionate cat, you might notice that they enjoy sleeping on or near you in some way. Curling up in your lap or stretching out against your legs is common, but what about when they sleep on your head? Not all cats do this, but there are a few reasons that some cats do seem to enjoy this behavior. If you’re happy to wake up to your cat sharing your pillow with you, then there’s no need to change anything. If you’d rather that this behavior stop, however, we have a few suggestions for you. Read on for possible reasons that this happens and what your cat might be doing when they choose your head for their bed.

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1. Your head is warm.

Have you noticed that your cat likes to sleep in warm spots? Coming back to your seat after getting up, you may find that your cat has taken it over. Are you ever typing while your cat is trying to use your keyboard as a bed? Some cats even burrow under blankets. A laundry basket full of freshly dried, warm clothes will attract some cats like nothing else. A patch of sunlight on the floor is inviting for a catnap. When you go to bed, you curl up under the covers, and your cat is still looking for that warm spot. Naturally, they’ll follow you in the bed and find the warmest spot there. People lose a certain amount of their heat through their heads. This makes your pillow a warm spot, and it’s also soft, making it a win-win for your feline.

British shorthair cat sleeping near woman's head
Image Credit: Georgy Dzyura, Shutterstock

2. They want to groom you.

When kittens are born, they all sleep piled up together for warmth and comfort. Some cats continue to do this with other resident cats all their lives. Not only do they curl up together to sleep as adults, but they may also groom each other. Licking each other’s heads, ears, and faces is a sign of love and bonding. This grooming behavior also spreads the same scent between them. Cats that smell like each other trust each other and view each other as safe family members. When wild cats leave the pack and return, the colony recognizes that cat by scent. On your head, your cat may have just found your “fur” and is grooming your hair to bond with you and let you know that they view you as someone they trust.

3. Your head stays still.

Your cat may have learned that you move in your sleep. If you’re tossing and turning, their sleep next to your legs or back will get interrupted. Sleeping next to your feet could mean intermittent, accidental kicks in the middle of the night. To avoid all this, the cat finds the spot with the least movement: your head. There are no flailing limbs to worry about.

4. You smell good.

Cats are attracted to scents. Your scalp is covered in sebaceous glands that secrete oils that your cat can smell. They enjoy your scent, and in turn, they want to mark you with theirs. By rubbing their mouths on your head, they claim you as their own.

Any shampoos or hair products that you use might make your hair irresistible to your cat. Face cream and toothpaste scents are more reasons for your cat to settle in on your head. The better your head smells, the more your cat may be attracted to it.

Cat sleeping near woman's head
Image Credit: Marina mrs_brooke, Shutterstock

5. Your head is comfortable.

You rest your head on a pillow, and your cat may want to be on the pillow too, especially if it’s warm and smells like you! If your cat is draped across your head, it may not seem like the most comfortable spot that the cat could’ve picked. When you factor in the other reasons that your cat likes your head, though, it starts to make more sense.

6. Your cat loves you.

Sometimes lying on your head is just a sign of affection. If your cat wants to be close to you in bed and you’re covered up, the only part of you that’s exposed is your head. This leaves the cat little choice in the matter. If they want to be near you, your head is the place to be. An affectionate cat will want to be as close as they can to you at all times.

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What If It’s None of These?

Cats change their behavior sometimes without warning. All of a sudden, a place that they’ve always avoided in the past now becomes their new favorite spot to sleep. Usually, this is not a cause for concern. However, sometimes, cats do new things to tell us something is wrong. Your cat suddenly choosing to hide when they’ve always been social before could be a sign that they’re ill. If your cat is suddenly choosing to sleep on your head when they’ve never done that before and you’ve ruled out any other reasons for why this could be the case, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. See if you notice this behavior combined with any other symptoms, such as reduced appetite, lethargy, and a lack of interest in playing. Any abnormal behavior should be addressed with your vet to rule out any health concerns.

How to Stop This

If you don’t mind your cat sleeping on your head, great! Nothing needs to be done. If you would rather stop this from happening, there are a few things that you can try to make your head seem less inviting.

  • Provide a cozy place. Your cat wants a warm, comfy place to sleep even if it can’t be your head. Self-warming beds are a good way to give your cat their own warm, soft space without worrying about electric cords or plugs. Your cat’s body will heat the bed. You could even put this bed on top of your own. That way, your cat is still next to you and warm but doesn’t need to be using your head as a mattress.
  • Entice them with catnip, treats, or toys to get them to go in the bed. Once in it, praise them. Let your cat know that this is their place and it makes you happy when they’re using it.
  • Close the bedroom door. It might be the hardest step because your cat could put up quite a fuss about this one. If they take to their new bed right away and you stop waking up with a cat on your head, then closing the door isn’t necessary. If you do close it, though, don’t open it because of meowing or scratching at the door. If your cat is vocally opposing the door being closed and you open it just once, they won’t stop. After a while, they should become used to the new routine and stop their protests.
  • Since your cat likes the way that you smell, putting an old t-shirt or towel that you’ve used in their new bed will provide the comfort that they’re craving.
  • Remember that your cat has a much different sleeping schedule than yours. They’re usually up at night after napping for most of the day. Before you head to bed, try to tire them out. If you engage your cat in an active play session with running and chasing, they will be more likely to want another nap when you’re ready to go to sleep. Continuing this routine will get your cat in the habit of settling in for sleep when you do.
ginger cat sleeping in its bed
Image Credit: Alena Ozerova, Shutterstock

Outside of Bed

If your cat is trying to lie on your head when you’re awake and not even in your bed, you can use positive distractions to try to curb this behavior if you don’t like it. Physically picking up and moving your cat shows them that this is not a place where they can sleep at the moment. Do this gently and put your cat in an acceptable place, like their own bed, cat tree, or another piece of furniture. Reward your cat with a treat or a toy to show them that this is a place that they can stay. Keep this positive, and remember the reasons that your cat likes to do this. They view you as their safety. Getting upset and disciplining your cat for this behavior can damage that view. Positive redirection and reinforcement will help your cat understand that your head is off-limits.

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Conclusion

There are many reasons that your cat enjoys sleeping on your head and many reasons that you may not enjoy this as much as they do. Warmth, your scent, and feeling bonded to you are a few major factors behind this behavior. With patience and positive reinforcement, you can train your cat to know that your head is not a place for them. They can enjoy their beds and have their own space while still feeling bonded to and cared for by you. If you don’t mind your cat sleeping on your head, then we hope that you enjoyed the reasons that this behavior may occur. There’s no need to put a stop to this if it doesn’t bother you.


Featured Image Credit: Carlos G. Lopez, Shutterstock