Cat owners often talk to me about the strange habits their kittens have developed. This week was no different with a friend from London explaining how her cats loves to sleep right on top of her in bed. My cat doesn’t do this to me, but I don’t think it’s actually that unusual.
In fact, once I started to look into the reasons why this happens, the more I thought you could view as being rather special, because most of the time it means your cat wants to be close and stay connected with you.
But it’s not always the case.
Here’s the short answer, followed by some more detailed analysis of when a feline sleeping on top of you could indicate a problem.
Why does my cat sleep on top of me? Your cat will sleep right on top of you for instinctive reasons relating to their pack mentality. But when a cat lies on you it can also point to behavioral issues including wanting to exert dominance and separation anxiety.
If you want to know about what I discovered, please do read on so you can differentiate between cute behavior and problematic ones.
Why your cat loves to sleep right on top of you
It doesn’t matter if you’re fast asleep or it’s the middle of the night. Your cat wants to be near you and feel loved (while being loving too!). That’s why, in the main, a cat wants to lay on top of you.
If you want my short and sweet opinion, it’s because they love you and want to feel loved back. But there’s a whole lot of other reasons why your feline companion insists on sleeping on top of you.
Here’s what it could mean if you believe your cat trying to sleep on you is becoming a problem, with some background on how some of the behavior is instinctive.
1. It’s an instinctive trait
While survival of your domestic cat might not be her main priority anymore as it was in days past, they still want to feel the warmth and comfort of laying up close with you.
What better way to warm up with their fellow pack members than your cat sleeping right on top of you at night?
It makes even more senses when you consider that cats are born into litters. From day one, kittens lie on top of each other for the sense of security and coziness they get from such behavior. Most cats won’t grow into adulthood with their siblings, so you’re the next best thing.
Handy Hint: I’ve previously written a guide which explains how you can potty train your kitten in 9 easy steps!
2. Your cat sleeps on top of you for protection
Your cat sleeps on top of your head as an intuitive behavior to protect you.
But it works both ways in the world of cat. Not only is your cat protecting you. But she wants protection from you too.
So, by laying or sleeping on top of you at night, she’s not only looking out for you. But she believes you’re protecting her too.
3. Your cat sleeps on top of you due to separation anxiety
Some cats suffer from separation anxiety. You may find this in young cats who have just left their litter. Or a rescue cat who has been traumatized in a previous home.
Other cats simply can’t bear being apart from their owners no matter how much love they get. I wrote about this recently with a lady who had a problem with her cat following her constantly, but never the husband!
Is your cat sleeping on top of you when you’re sleeping? Perhaps she lies on your lap and goes to sleep just before you leave for work. Either way, consider that she may be battling from a bit of separation anxiety.
4. Your cat sleeps on top of you for attention
We’re all familiar with the cat who’s always seeking attention. This could be in the form of dropping a ball at your feet to play a game with her. Or, staring at her leash while frantically wagging her tail as a sign she wants to go for her walk… now!
But another way a cat seeks out her owner’s attention is by sleeping on top on top of them, even by laying on top of an owner’s head! Small cats will happily leap up and sleep on your lap if you give them half a chance.
Bigger cats would love to do the same. But have to contend with laying their head on your feet as a way of sleeping on top of you.
All the same, they’re simply looking for some attention when they try to sleep on top of you at night, or at any point during the day for that matter.
5. Your cat sleep on top of you because she’s the boss
Sometimes a cat will lay on top of you because they’re asserting their dominance. If they see you as the leader of the pack, then they’re lying down on you as a sign of admiration. But, if they think they’re the leader, you may have a slight problem on your hand.
It’s important your cat knows their place in the home. If you allow them to take the role of the leader, you’ll have discipline problems down the line.
So, if your cat is sleeping on top of you ask yourself, ‘Who’s the boss here?”.
Handy Hint: Make sure to read my comprehensive guide about separation anxiety and learn how to socialize your kitten!
If you know for sure you’re the boss and your cat understands that too, then all is well. You will just have to accept he’s lying on you because she just wants your affection and love.
6. Your cat sleeps on top of you as a sign of affection
Which brings me back to my original theory as to why cats sleep on their owners at night. If your cat is sleeping on you it’s because they adore you. It’s one way of showing their affection for you. She wants to cuddle up as closely as she can and love you.
But it’s also a way your cat can get some affection back. If he’s sleeping on you, it normally guarantees a few strokes and cuddles back from you. It’s a win-win situation really. You’re getting a whole lot of love and so is your cat.
Handy Hint: It’s not unusual for cats to develop an affinity with just one person in the family, making them a favorite.
When laying on top of you become a problem
Sometimes, a cat constantly laying on top of you could be a problem. If you’re an owner of a large cat breed, this could become a seriously uncomfortable problem!
But jokes aside, your cat could be having some behavioral or other underlying issues you need to take note of.
Some of these issues could include the following:
- The need to dominate you: I’ve already mentioned this but if this is the reason you’re dealing with then consider getting a professional in to help you solve the problem. Your feline companion needs to know her rightful role in the home. And that means acknowledging you as the leader.
- Anxiety: Cats who are anxious can become clingy and desperate to be with you at all times. You can offer them a lot of love and affection when they’re sleeping on you. But it’s important to get to the cause of your cat’s anxiety. If you can’t pinpoint the cause (fireworks are a pretty good reason for any cat to feel anxious!), then consider calling in an expert.
- Not feeling well: Your cat may not be feeling well or has an underlying health condition you’re not aware of. She may choose to sleep on top of you for emotional support. A cat in pain sometimes doesn’t show it. If your cat has suddenly started sleeping on top of you, this could be one of the reasons.
Besides these issues, other problems could arise when your cat’s need to sleep on top of you becomes uncomfortable for you. You may enjoy the closeness while watching television or reading a book. That’s not a problem.
It does become a problem though when you’re trying to get a decent night’s sleep yourself. If your cat constantly wakes you up during the night as she tries to cuddle up to you, then you need to solve the problem.
You could consider putting her in another room at bed time. But that’s not likely to solve the underlying issue. Or you could train your cat to sleep in her own bed next to your bed.
Whatever the problem, solve it so you and your cat can continue to have a loving, comfortable and companionable relationship.
Handy Hint: If your cat is scared during a storm, here's how you can make her feel more comfortable!
I know of someone who’s kitty loves to nestle in her hair in the middle of the night. She says it’s one of the most amazing feelings when she settles down and nuzzles into her neck. Her cat is a small breed, thank goodness!
Most times, the reason your cat sleeps on top of you is because they love you. They’re showing their affection towards you and they want to be close. A cat will sleep on top of you to feel safe, warm and to have a sense of connection with you. They will also stare at you as you sleep, willing you to wake up again and play with them.
This is a wonderful way to bond with your cat and to show your love and affection back. And, by sleeping on top of you they’re showing how much they trust you.
Make sure they know you’re the pack leader. Lay down the rules when she sleeps on top of you. This way you’ll have a trusted companion for the rest of your life with her.
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