Cats love to sleep; there is no denying that. As a cat owner, you will often find them in the most interesting of places, sleeping in the most peculiar of positions at the most random of times. One such location that they may take a liking to is your pillow. But why do they want to sleep here and what does it mean? Is there anything in which we need to be aware of? Intrigued, I decided to research this behavior to find out for good what it means and if we can or even should look to stop it.
So, why does my cat sleep on my pillow? The main reason your cat will sleep on your pillow is to retain heat and maintain a higher body temperature. Other common reasons may include: your cat is trying to assert their dominance, they are trying to display their affection, or are looking out for you in an attempt to keep your safe. Either way, this is not a behavior that you should be looking to accept and promote – primarily due to sleep disruption and hygiene reasons.
One of the best things about having a cat is how cuddly they can be. Granted, their cuddles will often come only when they’re in the mood for them.
This is not always when we want or are able to provide them. One such example is at night, when we head to our beds for some much needed rest and shut-eye.
While it is always nice to cuddle up with our cats in bed, we should always consider that there is a reason why they often relocate here during the latter hours of the day.
Just as we want to curl up with a person to keep warm, cats are very much like this as well. This is why you may even go to sleep to only later find out your cat is trying to share your pillow!
During the night, the pillows are the warmest parts in the bed – we lose heat through our heads which our cats have great demand for! But there can be other reasons too, which we will shortly outline below.
We will then explore if we should stop our cats from doing this, if we can wake them while they sleep and other practical things to help your cat sleep better without necessarily needing to be on your pillow!
Why Is My Cat Suddenly Sleeping On My Pillow?
If your cat has suddenly began sleeping on your pillow, then it is important that you first try to identify any changes in the environment.
Has there been a change in season, has the temperature plummeted? Have you moved your cats bed or moved some furniture around?
These are just some things to consider; usually a small change is enough to invoke this kind of behavior.
Otherwise, has your cat recently discovered your bedroom; has it recently became available to them or do they have a new way to access it?
Either way, there are four reasons why your cat wants to be on your pillow.
The first is warmth. Did you know that a cats normal temperature is higher than in us humans? They need to be between 100.4º-102.5º Fahrenheit or 38-39 Degrees Celsius.
As you can imagine, they will do all they can to seek out areas that can keep them at this higher temperature.
Beds, pillows, blankets and the like are all commonly sought out. As is the bedroom which is usually on the second or even third floor of the home. And we all know heat rises.
In addition to wanting the warmth, there could be a few other reasons that your cat may be suddenly sleeping on your pillow.
- Dominance – Cats live in a hierarchy system and when it comes to sleeping, the higher up in the hierarchy you are, the higher up in the sleeping position you get. A more submissive cat may be found sleeping towards your feet. So, your cat may be trying to fight you for dominance.
- Affection – Cats love to show affection and one way they do that is by wanting to be close to us. By sleeping on our pillows, they can be close to us while we sleep, instead of alone in another part of the house. You may notice that they will sometimes extend their paw out to softly touch your face.
- Safety and Security – If your cat sleeps on your pillow it is showing two ultimate behaviors towards you,
- Your cat trusts you, because more than likely they will be faced away from you.
- They are situated that way because they are trying to protect you and are on watch. They are making sure that nothing comes through the door that could be a threat to you.
Of course, finding out what the reason is will depend largely on your cat. Their age, how long they have been with you and their own individual personality. Then there are the outside factors as mentioned before.
Should You Stop A Cat Sleeping On Your Pillow?
As comforting and warm as it may be to have your cat on your pillow with you while you sleep, or even to allow them to sleep on there when you’re not there, it’s not really a good idea.
There are several different reasons for this, including:
- Sleep Disruption – Sharing your pillow with anyone, or anything, is going to cause sleep disruptions as you naturally turn throughout the night. While you might not fully wake up, it will still have an effect on your overall sleep quality. Not only that, cats have a different sleep schedule and cycle than we do and have a habit of getting a burst of energy around 2am, which can be a problem if you have to get up early for work in the morning!
- Litter Box Debris – As gross as it may sound this is definitely one that needs to be talked about. Cats have a habit of carrying litter box debris in between their paws, and even though rubber mats placed in the surrounding area can help, it doesn’t eliminate it all together. The last thing you want is to turn over in bed and see some waste or litter on your pillow next to you!
- Allergies – Many people have allergies to cats. Depending on the level of the reactions, some people can have them in the house, but need cat-free zones, and generally those are the bedrooms. Also, if you have asthma, even without a cat allergy, having a cat sleep on your pillow next to you can cause issues.
- Hard to Evict – This is a reason to not let your cat start to sleep on your pillow to begin with. If you already have your cat sleeping with you, you may find that you’re having trouble getting them to stop. Cats don’t like change and will be reluctant to move out so don’t be surprised if you’re up for a fight. It’s best if you don’t get them used to it at all.
- Infections – There are several infections that cats can bring into your bed, and while not all can live on you, they can still make your lives miserable. Fleas, for example, can’t live on people but they can bite you and make you itch. You’re increasing your exposure to things like fungal, parasitic, bacterial, and protozoal infections, which can cause people to become pretty sick.
Stopping your cat having access to your bedroom is perhaps the most effective approach here. Or, never letting them have access to begin with.
Is It Okay To Wake Up A Sleeping Cat?
It is best to leave a sleeping cat alone to continue sleeping. This is especially true of kittens, as they need to sleep even more for their overall growth along with their muscles and bones.
If you do need to wake a cat, or kitten, it’s best to do it gently and slowly so that they aren’t startled awake.
They are more likely to stretch, and yawn awake, before becoming fully awake, but they will be much happier.
Speaking of yawning and stretching, if you notice your cat performing these movements, it’s a good time to wake them as they are not in REM (or deep sleep.)
It’s not good for any living creature to be startled awake. When cats are startled awake, they are more likely to attack in self defense, and could cause some serious damage.
What Does It Mean When Your Cat Sleeps with You?
Cats love to be close to their owners to show them that they love them and that they would rather spend time with them than be alone.
One of the biggest reasons that your cat might cuddle into you to go to sleep is that they are vulnerable and trust you completely.
They trust that you will not hurt them as they sleep and that you will keep them safe from any threats that may arise.
Things You Can Do to Help Your Cat Sleep Better
Helping your cat sleep better is one of the best things you can do for them and their health. Sleep is important to any animal, and cats are especially fond of it!
One thing we do need to consider however is that cats do not sleep like us. Fore starters, they sleep on a different schedule than we do. So, you can expect them to wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, full of energy and running around.
There are a couple of things that you can do to help your cat sleep better at night.
One way is to tire them out more during the evening by having several play sessions with them.
At the same time, give them more mentally stimulating activities to do during the day.
These two activities will tire your cat both physically and mentally, helping them sleep.
Another thing to do to help your cat sleep better, especially overnight, is to feed them before you go to bed.
Cats like to sleep after having a big meal.
If you don’t want to feed them all at once, get a timed feeder for them that will dispense food throughout the night.
If you still find that your cat is having trouble getting a good sleep, consult your veterinarian to ensure that there isn’t something more severe going on.
Otherwise, be sure to invest in a good cat bed for them and ensure that their environment is fully comfortable. Get them plenty of blankets, cushions and other nice things to sleep on.
Ensure there are no bright lights, noises or distractions, and make sure that the room in which they sleep is sufficiently warm.
There should be no draughts from windows or doors, nor anything that could keep your cat awake during the night.
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There are several reasons that cats like to sleep on your pillow with you. Whether they choose to sleep with us for warmth or because they’re showing their love for you, it is nice that our cats want to spend time and be close to us as well.
Just because we generally like to have them with us doesn’t mean we should let them sleep on our pillows, or perhaps in our rooms with us at all.
There are a few good reasons why we shouldn’t allow them in bed, but it’s still hard to say no, and keep them out of the room.
Cats like sleeping around us for warmth and they are most vulnerable when they are asleep, so they trust us when they’re in these situations to protect them. Your cat loves and trusts you implicitly and wants to be around you as much as possible.
When they sleep on our pillows it’s for almost the opposite reason, they’re up there for the warmth, but they’re also protecting us.
When it comes to waking a sleeping cat, it’s best if you don’t, but if you must, do it when they aren’t in REM or if they are, do it in a soft and gentle manner.
Startling them awake is not advisable, for a couple of reasons, one of them being that they can attack you upon waking. This isn’t nice for anyone and we do not want our relationship with our cat to suffer unnecessarily.
Ultimately, one of the best things we can do is to set up a nice sleeping environment that enables them to keep warm and get the rest they need. Investing in a high quality cat bed is one of the best things you can do.
Why do cats get in your face while you sleep? Your cat may get in your face while you sleep for several reasons. They may be trying to stay warm, trying to scent you to mark you as their own or to get your attention.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.