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Why Does My Cat Sleep on Me? 5 Likely Reasons

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

tabby cat sleeping on owner's lap

Cats often seem to live by the motto “If I fit, I sit.” This is especially true when it comes to choosing the perfect spot for a snooze. Since they spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping, it makes sense that cats can make themself comfortable in what we would consider cramped or unusual locations. However, even with so many potential nap spots available to them, many cats still choose to sleep on their owners.

Whether you enjoy serving as a human mattress or not, have you ever wondered why your cat sleeps on you? Cats sleep on their owners for reasons both practical and emotional. Here are 5 reasons your cat might sleep on you, as well as some suggestions on how to make sure you and your cat get the rest you both need.

The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Sleeps on You

1. Warmth

Your cat may choose to snuggle on top of you to take advantage of your body heat. A cat’s ideal temperature range is about 20 degrees higher than yours, between 86-97 degrees F (30-38 C), meaning if you keep your house at say, 72 degrees, that is at least 14 degrees too cold for your cat’s taste. Because of this, your cat is constantly looking for ways to get warmer, including sleeping on you.

cat sleeping in owner's arms
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

2. Security

Even though cats spend many hours out of their day sleeping, only a small portion of that time is spent in deep sleep. Most of a cat’s sleep cycle is light, allowing them to quickly wake up and be on the alert if necessary. This defense mechanism developed in the wild ancestors of our modern pets.

Sleep is a vulnerable time for a cat. When yours sleeps on you, they are indicating that they feel safe and secure in your presence. They can feel comfortable resting because they know you’re there to protect them. And let’s be honest, some cats probably assume they’re the ones protecting you!

3. To Bond With You

Your cat might also choose to sleep on you as a way to bond and spend time with you. This is especially the case if you lead a busy life and your cat spends a good part of the day alone. Unlike dogs, cats often have a reputation for being cold and standoffish creatures who think humans are only useful for filling their food bowls.

The truth is many cats get attached to their owners to the point that they develop behavior problems when they don’t get enough attention. Sleeping on you is one way your cat can spend time with you, even if you both snooze through it! This reason could also explain why a cat may choose to sleep with one human family member versus another, usually opting for the one with whom they have the strongest bond.

Image Credit: karpova, Shutterstock

4. It’s Soothing

Most cats spend the first weeks and even months of their lives surrounded by their littermates. They eat and play together and when it’s time to nap, they usually end up sleeping all piled up together. The kittens keep each other warm and are soothed by their family’s heartbeats and scents as they sleep. As they grow, cats continue to find it soothing to sleep with family members.

If you have multiple cats who get along, you may notice them napping together. But you are your cat’s family too and when they sleep on you, they may be soothed by your scent and your heartbeat, just as they were by their siblings as kittens. This is why your cat may choose to sleep on your chest, near your heart, or on your head, locations that tend to have a strong scent.

5. To Mark Their Territory (Spoiler Alert: It’s You!)

Cats are extremely territorial, especially in the presence of other felines. One way that they communicate their claim on something is through scent. Cats have scent glands on their face, under their tail, and on their feet.

When your cat sleeps on you, especially if they knead or head butt you first, they’re telling anyone who cares that you’re their territory. If you have more than one cat competing for your attention, sleeping on you could be one more skirmish in the battle to claim you for their own.

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Are There Reasons Your Cat Shouldn’t Sleep With You?

Now that you know these five reasons why your cat might be sleeping on you, are there any reasons that you shouldn’t let them? In general, whether you let your cat sleep with you or not is purely a matter of personal preference—yours and your cat’s! However, there are a couple of points to consider before you snuggle up.

Letting your cat into your bed means accepting a certain amount of mess, whether it be cat hair on the comforter or stray litter tracked among your sheets. Worst case scenario, if your cat picks up a flea infestation, the itchy parasites could end up in your bed, too.

If you’re a cat owner who also lives with mild to moderate allergies, one suggestion for helping to control your symptoms is to keep your bedroom a feline-free zone. In this case, you may need to sacrifice the pleasure of your cat sleeping with you to tolerate living with them at all.

In some cases, you may really want your cat to sleep with you but find that it’s impacting the quality of your sleep. It could be that the weight of your cat snoozing on your chest keeps waking you up or that your hyper young cat won’t settle down and stop jumping on and off the bed. Whatever the reason, for the sake of your own rest, you might not be able to let your cat sleep on you.

How To Help You and Your Cat Sleep In Harmony

If you don’t want your cat sleeping on you at night, the simplest solution is to keep them out of your bedroom entirely. Some cats won’t argue, but others may express their displeasure by vocalizing or rattling your bedroom door with their paws. Obviously, you won’t get much sleep either if that happens! If you stand firm, your cat should get the message, especially if you provide them a comfortable alternative bed.

Try getting your cat a heated kitty bed to coax them out of your own sleep space. Make it more attractive to your cat by placing something that smells like you, such as a piece of clothing, in their new bed.

To help your active cat sleep more soundly at night, make sure they get plenty of exercise during the day. If you’re out of the house for long hours, provide your cat with plenty of interactive toys they can use on their own. A vigorous play session right before bed isn’t a bad idea either.

Cats instinctively want to sleep after a meal. Feeding your cat right before bedtime can take advantage of this natural tendency and help your cat sleep more soundly.

Final Thoughts

Your cat may find it soothing to sleep on you, but chances are you’ll find the sound and feel of a purring cat cuddled up with you an effective lullaby as well. Now that you know some of the reasons your cat wants to sleep on you, hopefully, you feel more honored than used the next time you serve as a living cat bed!

Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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