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Why Does My Cat Sleep on Me? Top Reasons and Theories

First published:  October 27, 2021
Last updated: April 13, 2024
Why Does My Cat Sleep on Me? Top Reasons and Theories
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  • Cats may sleep on their owners as an expression of love and affection.
  • They seek security by being close to their human's scent, finding comfort and safety.
  • Cats may sleep on their owners to assert dominance and mark them as their territory.
  • Sleeping together strengthens the bond between cat and owner, with physical contact being essential to cats.
  • Cats leave their scent on their owners, marking them as their property.
  • Physical contact is a common way for cats to show their affection.
  • Cats may sleep on their owners to stay warm, especially during cold weather.
  • Cats may be attracted to their owner's scent, leading them to sleep nearby.
  • Some cats prefer to sleep on their owner's chest due to the soothing sound of the owner's heartbeat, which provides a sense of security and peace.

Cats are lovely creatures; they are excellent companions to keep with you at home. However, they are not the easiest pets to understand. Sometimes, as a cat owner, you are unable to understand why your feline friend is behaving the way it is, or what it wants exactly.

For example, a lot of pet owners do not understand why their cats love lying and sleeping on their chests. There have been many theories trying to explain why cats love curling around on their owners' chests; many of those are simply erroneous though.

In the following article, we will try to shed some light on this issue by explaining how cats sleep and why they like to curl up in certain positions.

We will also explain why cats prefer to be near humans rather than in any other place. We will be providing some sensible theories that could be potential explanations for the issue at hand.

Happy reading!

A Cat's Sleeping Behavior Is Different from Humans

A woman laying down on a mattress beside a cat

Let's get started with a little comparison between cats' and humans' sleeping behaviors. While humans are diurnal, usually awake during the day and asleep at night, cats are Crepuscular creatures. In other words, their circadian rhythms tell them to be more active during the periods of twilight, mainly during dusk and dawn. They prefer to sleep for the rest of the time (be it at night or daytime).

This means that when you wake up early in the morning, the chances are high that your cat has already gone to bed. It may be very difficult for you to go back to sleep after waking up. You may find yourself having to wait until late afternoon before being able to fall into another deep slumber. However, this is not an issue for your cat.

On top of that, reasons for sleeping differ between humans and cats. Most people tend to associate "sleeping" with being inactive. Cats, however, don't see it that way.

For them, sleeping is an important part of their daily routine. It helps them recharge themselves so that they can continue doing all sorts of activities throughout the day.

So while you might think that your cat sleeps because it doesn't feel energetic anymore, there are actually other reasons behind its behavior.

Sleeping is part of cats' evolution. It can be traced back to wild cats that tend to sleep for long periods of time during the day and preserve energy to hunt and kill their next meal. Even though house cats do not need to do so anymore, it's simply in their instinct to get ready for the next hunt.

Top Reasons Why Your Cat Likes to Sleep on You

In this section, we will try to provide some plausible theories to explain why your cat simply loves to sleep on you. We will cover the most sensible explanations for the issue. Let us now look deeper into each theory one by one:

Beautiful cat staring with love on woman owner

Your Cat Loves You

This may sound too simple, but your cat is probably behaving the way it is simply because it loves you—no need to keep looking for any other complicated theories. You are a beloved cat parent!

By sleeping on you or laying next to you, your feline companion is trying to express their feelings for you. That's their own way of showing how much they love you. One way to think of it is as if your cat is trying to give you a big hug. 

They Seek Security

Another explanation could be the cat's constant search for security. It's part of their instincts to always be alert for predators and look for safety. Your cat may feel more secure when it's around you or anything that belongs to you.

How can the two things be related? You may ask yourself. Cats rely greatly on their advanced sense of smell, and a familiar scent would make them feel more secure. That's one reason why your cat likes to lay on you or on a pile of your clothes.

Sometimes, you may even find yourself obliged to give up some of your favorite clothes for your cat's constant use! It's your smell that makes the cat feel more secure.

Your Cat Is Trying to Claim You

Believe it or not, by sleeping on you, your cat may be trying to claim you! It is simply trying to show that you are its own Human!

By nature, cats are territorial animals. That is why they like to stay close to home. They want to protect what they consider theirs. If you have ever seen a cat chase away another cat or even a dog from its territory, then you know exactly what I mean.

By claiming you as its own, your cat wants to tell everyone else that it owns you. It also wants to let others know that it considers itself superior to you. This is just one of many ways that cats communicate with each other.

The thought of your feline friend trying to show that it owns you may be scary to some people, but actually, it is cute! The cat is showing that it likes what it has and wants to keep and protect it!

Beautiful woman hugging a cat

They Want to Bond

Bonding and creating a stronger relationship is another potential reason why your cat keeps sleeping on you or next to you.

Touch is a major way for cats to express themselves. After all, you are the one that feeds and takes care of the cat every day. This is of utmost importance to cats because they are social creatures in constant need of attention and affection from the owner. 

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By sleeping with you, your cat may probably be trying to strengthen the bond that exists between the two of you and express its love!

They're Marking Their Territory

We have mentioned this before: Cats are territorial creatures. They try to claim and protect their territory, and everything in it belongs to them!

When your cat sleeps on you for a long period of time, it leaves its own distinctive scent on you, and any other animals will know that you have been marked as the cat's property.

As Humans, our sense of scent is not as developed as those of animals; that's why we don't notice any odors that are easily detected by animals. We also don't understand why our pets seem to get nervous while sniffing at a specific corner near the house. They may have detected a potential threat and be thinking about the need to protect their belongings against those opponents.

So, the next time your cat leaves after a session of rubbing its body and head against your legs or spending some time sleeping on or next to you, it may be thinking something like "Successfully marked! Now that Human is mine!!!"

Woman and cute cat sitting on rocking chair in the front of the fireplace

To Show Affection

Cats can recognize Humans either by voice or by scent. Moreover, for them, physical contact is a common way of communicating with Humans or other cats (and animals). 

When your cat touches you or rubs its scent on you, it marks you as safe for future reference. Sleeping on or next to you is a way for your cat to exhibit different positive feelings for you, including love and affection.

They're Seeking Warmth

During cold days, your cat may resort to sleeping next to you to get some extra warmth. 

Cats love warmth; that's why they usually love to have a sunray bath in the window or under a sunny warm spot in the house. They even like to lie near the fireplace and enjoy the warmest spot around the house.

Regardless of having a thick furry coat, your cat will never say no to an opportunity to get some extra warmth. Your bed or couch will surely make your cat feel more comfortable because of the heat generated by your body and any covers or sheets you are using.

Maybe They Like Your Smell (Hormonal Reasons) 

The last possible explanation to be discussed in this section can be related to hormones. Your cat may be attracted to your smell, and consequently loves being around you as often as possible. This could explain why your cat spends so much time lying down next to you when you sleep. 

In fact, if you think back to how kittens behave, you'll realize that they spend most of their time napping right beside mommy or daddy.

If you've noticed that your cat seems to prefer staying close to you during the night, maybe it's because it enjoys smelling your skin.

Why Does My Cat Lay on My Chest Specifically? 

Close up portrait of young lady dozing with a sphinx cat lying on her chest

You may have noticed that your cat loves to sleep on your chest especially. If you have ever wondered why it opts for the chest specifically, then the answer may be: it's because your heart is in there.

This is by no means a romantic answer! It's more of a scientific explanation. Your regular heartbeat can be very interesting for your cat. As it keeps focusing on the heartbeat, it doesn't pay attention to other possible external disturbances and feels more secure, calm, and peaceful.

Your heartbeat has been proven to help reduce stress levels in humans, which makes it perfect for calming down feline hearts. It's very common for any cat to occasionally switch back to their 'kitty' behavior and start to be very playful and active.

By doing so, they also revert back to the feeling of safety they used to have while snuggling with their mother and listening to the sound of her heart beating.

This is the same for Humans when taking care of baby kittens, holding them under the chin and close to the chest. Somehow, at a very early age, your feline friend associated the sound of the heartbeats with a feeling of security and peace.

So, whenever you notice that your cat is anxious, try to treat it like a little child and hold it close to your heart. This will bring it back to a state of serenity. 

What if Your Cat Prefers to Sleep on Your Head? 

Sleeping tabby cat and human face

As annoying as it may sound, there are some pet parents that complain about their cats preferring to sleep on their heads.

Unfortunately, this can cause many problems such as breathing difficulties or even develop into something worse like allergies linked to inhaling cat hair or dead skin cells.

Still, there might be a few explanations for why your cat chooses to sleep on your head at night:

First, your head is warm, and we know how much cats love warmth. In fact, while you are sleeping, your body, and especially your head, dissipates some body heat that transfers mainly to your pillow. Once this happens, the pillow becomes an irresistible and comfortable spot for your cat. 

Second, your head is mostly stationary while sleeping; it doesn't move as often as other body parts like the legs or arms. For the cat, it means it can hit the hay and enjoy the extra heat without frequent disturbance from the owner's moving body. 

A cat's normal body temperature range is around 102° Fahrenheit. That's why it's always looking for an easy source of heat to maintain the average temperature without the need to make efforts to generate it. For your cat, your head simply seems like a heat generator that guarantees good sleeping conditions.

Here's an informative video (3 minutes 29 seconds) from Animal Wised that sums up why your cat likes to sleep with you.

Should I Let My Cat Sleep with Me?

If you're wondering whether letting your cat sleep with you is okay, here are some pros and cons of allowing your kitty to do just that.

Benefits of Letting Your Cat Sleep with You:

1. It Makes Your Bed More Comfortable: 

If you have a hard time falling asleep at night because the bed feels too cold or uncomfortable, or you find yourself waking up frequently during the middle of the night due to discomfort in your bed, then sleeping next to your feline friend may help keep you more comfortable than trying to get back into bed after each wake-up call! Going back to sleep is easier when your lovely pet is lying next to you.

2. You Can Get A Good Night's Sleep

Cats don't usually purr while they sleep, but they will often snore loudly as their bodies relax. This means that even though you won't hear them purring, you'll still likely feel like you're being lulled to sleep by their soft breathing.

The rhythmic breathing of your cat will guarantee you get a better sleep quality.

3. They Help Keep Insect Bites Away From Your Skin: 

When we think about how our pets protect us against insect bites, most people immediately imagine dogs who chase away mosquitoes, spiders, ticks, etc., but there are also many other ways that animals can help keep insects off of our skin. 

One way that cats help keep bugs away is by using their tongues to clean themselves before going to sleep. By licking their fur, they remove any dirt or debris that could potentially attract pests. 

Additionally, since cats' eyes are very sensitive, they can use their vision to detect potential threats lurking nearby. So not only do these little critters help keep us safe from bug bites, but they also provide us with a sense of security, knowing that they're watching over us.

4. They Make Us Feel Loved And Cared For: 

We all know that we Humans love cuddling with our furry friends. But did you ever stop to consider what kind of effect petting has on your own mood? Studies show that stroking a dog or cat can reduce stress levels and increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

Disadvantages of Letting Your Cat Sleep with You

Animal allergy concept. Beautiful woman with cat in bed

No matter how soothing or calming the experience of having your furry friend lying next to you while sleeping is, there are some problems that this practice can cause, especially if it becomes a habit. Let's cover some of these issues in more detail:

1. There May Be Health Risks Associated With Sleeping Together: 

While sharing a warm blanket together might seem harmless enough, there are certain health risks associated with sleeping close to your pet. These include spreading germs through shared blankets and pillows, which can lead to respiratory infections such as pneumonia. 

Other respiratory problems are usually caused by sensitivity to animal dander, dirt, or fur.

If you want to avoid getting sick, try keeping your distance from your companion animal so that it doesn't touch your face.

2. The Sharing Of Personal Items Is Not Recommended: 

One problem with letting your cat lie down beside you while you sleep is that it may end up taking personal items belonging to you. If your cat starts nuzzling into your pillowcase, for example, then it may begin to feel comfortable enough to take things out of your closet or pockets.

3. You may accidentally introduce undesired organisms to your sleeping area: 

These include ticks or fleas that the pet may have caught. These are very hard to get rid of, especially from your bed and bedroom. 

4. Potentially harmful to the pet: 

You may accidentally hurt your beloved pet when you move unconsciously from one side to another. Waking up next to the crushed, lifeless corpse of your furry friend can be a scarring experience.

5. Sheets will have to be washed more often: 

To be on the safe side and avoid any potential health issues, you may want to wash your sheets several times a week. It's more time and effort that needs to be devoted to hygiene to ensure your pet and yourself will be in good health. 

6. Sleeping with your cat may even be dangerous:

We all know that cats love to stretch, especially while sleeping. Cats always look cute regardless of what they are doing (even stretching their bodies). The problem is while stretching, the cat's claws are automatically deployed and constitute an injury hazard to the oblivious owner. The results can vary between a few minor scratches on the body to some more serious injuries to the face, especially the eyes.  

Can Your Cat Sleeping on You Ever Mean that Something Is Wrong?

As mentioned earlier, most of the time, your cat sleeping on you is absolutely normal and can be explained in terms of warmth, security, love, etc. Still, there are certain things that you need to pay attention to when it comes to feline behavior.

If you notice something unusual or feel worried about anything, then the best thing you should do is call your vet immediately.

According to Dr. Mikel Delgado, a P.H.D holder specializing in cats, as a pet parent, any sudden behavior changes should be considered a sign that something may be wrong.

First of all, if your cat never sleeps next to you but starts, all of a sudden, to do it, then a visit to the vet is mandatory, especially if you notice any other signs like the cat not looking very energetic or sleeping for much longer periods. This is because there may be some underlying health conditions causing the changes in the pet's behavior.

Also, if your cat doesn't like to play anymore, while it is usually an active and playful animal, then something may be causing the change and needs to be remedied immediately!

The bottom line is, that a veterinarian should preferably investigate any behavioral changes on your cat's part. These could be changes related to the cat's behavior or to other things such as how long it sleeps, how it breathes while sleeping, etc. It's always better to consult the vet as soon as you notice something abnormal. 

Final Thoughts

A lot of people choose cats as their home companions. They are playful and active creatures that never seem to grow old and occasionally switch back to their cute childish kitty behavior.

Having a feline friend that loves to sleep next to you just makes you feel better and sleep better at night. Usually, it's absolutely normal for a cat to choose the owner's bed as a favorite perfect spot to sleep. The reasons for doing so are varied; it could be a simple sign of affection or an attempt from the cat to be in control of everything in its territory. 

No matter the reason, most owners find it cute to have a curled furry friend lying next to them in bed at night. In fact, a study showed that sleeping with a pet can be very beneficial to both the pet and the owner. Most of the participants confessed that they enjoy sharing their beds with their pets even though around 20% of them reported the pets frequently interrupting their sleep.

However, there are potential problems that can be caused by that practice. It may be dangerous or cause some serious health issues to the pet and the parent alike. 

In this article, we tried to cover the topic at hand in detail. We also provided some possible explanations, benefits, and drawbacks of sleeping with your pet. Moreover, we tried to answer as many questions related to the topic as possible. 

If you still have other questions or comments about something(s) that we did not cover here, please feel free to leave us a comment down below or send an email. We will make sure we assist you the best we can!

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