Cats look adorable while sleeping, so it’s understandably tempting to want to pet and stroke them. Do cats like being petted while they sleep? If so, how can you tell? Should you pet your cat while they sleep? What other things should you consider when petting your sleeping cat? Here are the answers to all of these questions and more.
So, do cats like to be petted while sleeping? Some cats enjoy being petted while sleeping, and others don’t: it depends on your individual cat’s temperament and state of health. However, even if your cat seems to enjoy it, it’s best not to pet her for too long so that they can get the sleep they need.
Let’s now take a look at the signs that show a cat does like being petted before turning to signs they don’t.
That way, you’ll know whether this is something you can do with your cat.
Signs Your Cat Likes Being Petted While Sleeping
It’s worth knowing the signs that your cat likes being petted while sleeping. Fortunately, there are several ways your kitty can show you they enjoy the attention.
Here’s how you can tell your cat likes being petted while sleeping. Once you start petting your cat, they will:
- Stretch out her paw to try and reach your finger or hand
- Start purring (a soft purr, as opposed to a loud purr that can signify distress)
- Start kneading (kittens do this when they crave love and affection from their mothers)
- Rub her cheeks or her head on you
- Move to get closer to you
- Head butt you or push part of her body against you as if to say, “Here, please!”
- Arch her back or otherwise stretch out her body
- Roll on the floor, often back and forth on her back
- Make a chirping sound (like a happy meowing sound, also called a trill)
Note: Some cats won’t do any of these things, but they still won’t necessarily mind being petted. Your cat might open one eye and then decide to keep sleeping, which is more a sign of indifference than pleasure. In those cases, you won’t want to pet her too much more, as they is most likely tolerating it for your sake.
Signs Your Cat Doesn’t Like Being Petted While Sleeping
Your cat will send clear signals to you to let you know when they doesn’t like being petted, and that includes while they’s sleeping.
Here are some signs to look out for while petting your cat at any time, whether they’re sleeping or not.
These signs indicate they’re not happy, and you might need to either stop petting her or change what you’re doing.
Common signals of displeasure are:
- Thumping or twitching her tail. Usually, this means your cat is irritated or angry, and if you keep petting her, they might bite or scratch you
- Tensing her body. If her whole body tenses – not in a stretch of pleasure – stop petting her, as they doesn’t like it
- They stops purring. If you started petting her while they was purring softly and then they stops, they isn’t happy anymore
- They turns and looks at you. Often her ears will be back, and you’ll be able to see in her eyes that they’s not happy
- They moves away. Some cats will jump up and run away rather than lash out at their owners when they aren’t happy, so if your cat does this, let her be
- They latheys out. Your cat may hiss or growl as a warning sign to keep away. If they is very angry, they might even bite or scratch you
Note: If you are in doubt as to whether your cat enjoys being petted while sleeping or not, stop. It’s always best to be cautious, especially as you are building your bond with your cat.
Should You Pet Your Cat While They Sleep?
If your cat enjoys it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pet your cat while they sleep. However, be aware of the signs your cat has had enough – too much petting while sleeping will irritate most cats.
When To Pet Your Cat While They Sleeps
The best time to pet your cat while they sleeps is when they is in a position that indicates full relaxation.
Here are some sleeping poses that could indicate your cat is open to being petted:
- On her back. Cats who sleep with their bellies exposed are showing their relaxation and trust in you. If you do choose to pet your cat while they’re in this position, though, go for her face rather than her belly. Most cats don’t like belly rubs, and those claws will come out automatically if they’re surprised in her sleep by an unwanted tummy rub!
- On her side. Cats sleeping on their sides are also exposing their bellies to some degree, but they tend to be more amenable to a soft stroke on their backs or faces.
- In a loaf shape. Cats who sleep in a loaf shape are often having a light cat nap. You can try gently stroking her head or her back in this position.
- On you. When your cat is sleeping on you, that’s an open invitation for love, as they is showing you affection and trust.
No matter what position your cat is in, though, remember not to pet her for too long.
They needs their rest – as much as 12 to 16 hours a day.
Some cats will fall asleep while you pet them because it’s so relaxing.
If this is your kitty, know that however you are petting her at the time they falls asleep, you are pleasing her – enough so they feels safe and comfortable and can rest easy.
To have the best chance of pleasing your cat, it’s worth knowing the common places cats enjoy being petted and how they like to be touched.
Your cat will probably show you what they likes by moving to get you to pet certain places.
Sometimes you can hold out your hand or a finger to your cat and they will approach you and rub you where they wants to be petted or scratched.
If you don’t know where to start, you can try:
- Gently stroking your cat’s fur. Always remember to follow the direction of the fur
- Rubbing the sides of your cat’s face (her cheeks). Try using the back of your hand or the side of a finger. Cats have scent glands here, so this is prime ‘petting real estate’ and your cat may rub her face along your hand in response. Start stroking from near her nose to go alongside her face and finish below her ears. You can also rub the area around her mouth, as some cats enjoy this too
- Softly stroking the bridge of your cat’s nose. Do this without touching her nose. You can also softly rub the space in between her eyes
- Gently scratching your cat’s back. Some cats like long strokes along their backs – if your cat likes this, they may arch her back, lift her tail, or elevate her rear end. Many kitties will start to purr as their muscles relax
- Stroke or scratch the base of her tail. If your cat likes this, they may lift her tail and her rear end. Some cats have extra sensitivity in this area because of scent glands in their anal area, so make sure your cat enjoys it and doesn’t get annoyed or overstimulated
- Lightly scratching underneath your cat’s chin. Start at the front of her chin and gently rub or scratch along her jawline toward her neck
- Rubbing the fur at her forehead and the base of her ears. Cats will headbutt places where they want to leave their scent, and rubbing the base of your cat’s ears mimics this motion, which many cats love
Note: If your cat is ill, they may want more love and affection than usual, including stroking and petting. By all means, provide lots of love for your cat, but let her tell you when they’s had enough (see above).
When Not to Pet Your Cat While They Sleep
It’s best not to pet your cat if they’s in certain sleeping positions or is injured in the area you want to stroke.
Sleeping Positions Where Cats Usually Like Being Left Alone
If your cat is sleeping in a position that indicates they’s feeling vulnerable or insecure, you’re better off letting her sleep without disturbing her.
Here are some sleeping positions in which cats usually don’t like to be disturbed:
- Curled up in a ball. When cats sleep curled up (in the ‘crescent’ pose), they are protecting their vulnerable bellies, and this isn’t always the best time to pet them. A cat may choose to sleep this way if they’s feeling cold or otherwise vulnerable or insecure
- Inside a cardboard box or another enclosed space. Cats will seek out enclosed spaces for sleeping when they want to be left alone, perhaps from other pets or family members.
- With her paws across her face. This position allows your cat to sleep deeply and is her way of saying, “Do not disturb!” Cats will unconsciously put their paws across their face as a protective instinct, and they won’t appreciate being woken up, even with petting.
- In the ‘Superman’ position. This position also allows your cat to sleep deeply. They may or may not let you pet her – they’ll be deeply relaxed. They’ll be lying on her belly with her back paws behind her, and her front paws stretched ahead of her. It looks like they’s about to take off in flight.
If Your Cat is Injured
If your cat is injured, they’ll feel more vulnerable.
While cats who are sick can benefit from extra affection and love, take care not to pet an area that might be injured or sore.
Things To Consider When Petting A Cat While They Sleep
When petting your cat while they sleeps, remember not to startle her. You’ll also want to be gentle, as cats are highly sensitive creatures who have evolved to always be alert to potential danger in their environments. Some cats just don’t like being petted at any time, and that’s okay.
Don’t Startle Them
Don’t startle your cat, as you don’t want to frighten her.
Cats want to feel safe and secure when they sleep, so they will seek out places where they can rest in peace.
If you want to stroke your cat while they sleeps, do so with a light touch.
Don’t make any sudden noises, as cats are always on the alert for predators because of their instincts.
Some cat sleeping positions, such as the loaf position (see above), allow them to be able to spring up and run away quickly if they need to make a fast escape.
In the wild, cats are prey animals, so they have evolved to stay on alert at all times.
Many cats will sleep in certain positions that enable both ears to listen for danger (such as with their faces on the floor).
Cats prefer a gentle touch rather than rough handling, so be gentle. Teach young children how to stroke a cat properly so that the cat doesn’t become frightened.
Cats are highly sensitive creatures who thrive on routine and quiet environments.
Keep an Eye Out for Changes in Behavior
If your cat usually likes being petted while sleeping but suddenly doesn’t, there could be medical reasons for this.
Cats are usually experts at hiding when they’re sick or hurt, as they have been hardwired to appear strong in the face of other animals.
Conditions like arthritis or other types of pain can cause a cat who previously loved petting to suddenly appear irritated or even angry.
If you notice any sudden changes in your cat’s behavior, take her to the vet to make sure there are no underlying medical causes.
If Your Cat Never Seems to Like Being Petted
Some cats just don’t like being petted at any time, much less while they sleep, and that’s fine.
Perhaps your cat’s personality means they’re less sociable – it doesn’t mean they doesn’t love you.
Some cats have higher levels of anxiety and prefer to rest without being disturbed. If this is your cat, find other ways to give her attention and bond with her, such as:
- Extra playtime
As you can see, some cats like to be petted when they sleep. Others don’t.
And then there are times when it’s better to pet them than others.
Thankfully there are some signs to look out for to help guide you.
Either way, just remember that this is not something that you should ever do too long or too consistently. Your cat needs its shut-eye, after all.
Related cat sleeping guides you may want to see:
- Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Sleeping?
- Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open? [What Owners Should Know]
- Why Does My Cat Sleep on My Bed When I Am Away?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.