It is common for cats to love getting in their owners’ faces, especially while we sleep. My cat always snuggles close to my face in the night! It can be a little disruptive and constantly wakes me up, but it is also extremely cute and endearing too.
This strange behavior got me thinking though: Is your cat trying to tell you something? Why do cats get in your face when you sleep? It turns out, it’s actually a great sign that you’re being an excellent cat parent! They seek our warmth, security, and attention. They’re basically doing this as a sign of affection.
In this article, I’ll go into more detail about the reasons why cats get in your face while you sleep. This way, next time you’re annoyed at your cat for waking you up, you can be reminded of the positives instead. You’ll start to see the cuteness in their behavior rather than the annoyances.
Why Do Cats Sleep On Your Face?
There are many reasons why cats sleep on your face or rub against it when you’re sleeping. They could be seeking warmth and comfort, are marking their territory, or showing you that they love you. They could also be after your protection, or be trying to protect you as you snooze. It is also possible they’re just curious, or even that it is a learned habit from being a kitten.
Let’s look into each of these possibilities in a little more detail.
According to cat behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger, otherwise known as The Cat Coach, cats likely sleep on our heads for warmth. Our heads are one of the warmest parts of our bodies and lots of heat escapes from here into the environment. If your cat is sleeping on your face, this heat will escape to them instead!
Why do cats like the warmth? Well, a cat’s core body temperature is actually several degrees higher than humans, averaging around 102 degrees Fahrenheit compared to a human’s 98 degrees. This means they prefer a warmer environment than us and are naturally drawn to warmer places, such as our faces! This also explains why you may find your cat lounging in a sunny spot or next to the radiator.
Cats are especially drawn to warmth when they are resting. When awake and alert, cats can heat their bodies through exercise and activity, and their metabolism will be more active and release heat as a byproduct. Sleeping on your head when you’re asleep gives your cat an external heat source and allows them to stay at a comfortable temperature through the night.
2. Less Disruption
Alongside being warm, sleeping up towards the head of the bed could also be for added comfort if you’re a restless sleeper. Think about it, you may be tossing, turning, and kicking in the night, but all of this movement will be happening down the end of your bed. Up on your pillows is a safe space out of harm’s way.
If your cat wants to sleep with you but wants to avoid being accidentally booted off the foot of the bed in the middle of the night, sleeping on your head seems like a safer and more comfortable option with less disruption.
3. You Smell Nice
Cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, with an incredible 200 million sense receptors in their noses. They use this incredible sense of smell to identify cats and people, and scent marking is an important part of cat communication. Their sense of smell is so strong they can even identify where you have been and where you spent the majority of your time.
Our hair is one of the areas on our bodies that retains our scent well, and so your cat wants to be as close to it as possible. Your cat likes your scent as they trust and love you, and so sleeping on your head can bring them lots of comfort and reassurance.
4. Claiming Ownership
Cats use their amazing sense of smell not only to sniff us out but also to identify territory. In the wild, cats will spread their scent around their vicinity and other objects they want to claim as their own to let all the other cats in the area know that it belongs to them. It’s a signal to the other cats that this area or objects is taken.
The scent that cats spread is through chemicals called pheromones which are produced and released by the scent glands in their bodies. These pheromone-releasing scent glands are concentrated on your cat’s paw pads and on their face, specifically on the chin, ears, cheeks, and around their mouth.
To spread these pheromones and mark their territory, all a cat has to do is rub these scent glands on the object they are trying to claim, which is one of the main reasons why cats rub their faces on things. This could be furniture, doorways, your couch, or if your cat is getting in your face when you sleep, they could be trying to claim you!
This may sound strange, but if your cat is trying to claim ownership of you it means they love you and don’t want any other cats stealing their owner! When you’re sleeping, it is the ideal time for cats to rub their faces on you as you’re lying still, so they often take advantage of it.
5. Showing Love & Affection
Sleeping on your head or getting in your face while you sleep is also seen as a sign of love and affection. If we again turn our attention to how cats behave towards each other in the wild, you will often see two cats headbutting. It is similar to how people will give others a hug or a kiss.
For the majority of the day, it is near-impossible for their cat to rub their head on yours. Cats are much lower to the ground and so may compromise by rubbing up against your legs. This is another sign that they love you! However, getting in your face when you sleep and rubbing up against you is much easier, and they’re just trying to let you know they care!
It is also possible that your cat is getting in your face when they sleep as they are curious. Cats are known for their inquisitive nature and it is what has helped these curious creatures survive in nature, so this instinctive behavior isn’t going to go anywhere.
As just mentioned, cats obviously are much lower to the ground than we are, and seeing our faces up close and personal is not something they can do often. When you’re peacefully sleeping, it is the perfect opportunity for them to properly examine your face. Their curiosity could have gotten the better of them!
7. Seeking Attention
It could be that your cat is getting in your face when you sleep as they are after attention. Both cats and humans have different natural sleep cycles. We like sleeping at night-time, but cats are crepuscular creatures, meaning they are most alert during the hours of dusk and dawn. If they’re after attention, they’ll likely be meowing and trying to wake you up!
While you’re happy sleeping all night long, your cat might be getting bored. Them getting in your face when you sleep could be them begging for attention. They may want you to play with them, give them some affection, or they could even be hungry and are after a midnight snack! They’re not meaning to be disruptive, they simply want to wake you up to have some quality time with you.
8. Safety & Security
Cats feel comfortable and safe when next to their owners, and your cat could also be sleeping on your face as they’re looking to feel secure. The closer they are to you, the more protected they feel. If anything dangerous was to enter the room, they know you’d be there to help keep them safe. When cats are sleeping, they are at their most vulnerable and so seek the most protection during this time.
What about the other side of the coin? Do cats protect you while you sleep? Yes! It is also possible that your cat has acknowledged that you’re sleeping and need protection. They will then sleep on your head or chest, acting as the first line of defense. I let my cat sleep on my chest having found this out as I think it’s so adorable!
If your cat is protecting you, they will often sit with their rear to your face. While this may seem less than ideal, it is a sign that they trust you and are looking out for anything oncoming. Notice their body position too. Sometimes, my cat sits on me in loaf position, meaning she’s relaxed and not planning on using her claws for protection any time soon, whereas a more alert position could mean she’s on the lookout.
If you have been letting your cat sleep on your bed and get in your face since they’ve been a little kitten, it could also simply be a habit. They see your face as the place they are supposed to sleep, and don’t realize they’re being an annoyance! Yet, while having your new kitten surprise you in the night could be adorable, being woken up every night by a fully-grown cat can be less endearing.
If your cat is only a kitten now, it is best to teach them from a young age that they cannot wake you up in the night. Give them their own bed and, if they do get in your face as they sleep, give them a little scratch before rolling over, ignoring them, and going back to sleep. This won’t guarantee your adult cat won’t sleep on your face, but it will prevent them from doing it as a learned behavior.
Should My Cat Sleep With Me?
Whether you let your cat sleep with you or not is down to personal preference as there are both advantages and disadvantages. However, who your cat sleeps with is equally important.
For example, cats should never sleep in bed with babies or children under the age of five as they could suffocate if your cat sleeps on their head. Plus, if your cat gets anxious or spooked in the night, such as by your baby screaming, they could lash out and injure your child.
That being said, for adults there are no major concerns like this, and letting your cat sleep with you is safe. Below are the positives and negatives so you can decide what works best for you.
Various studies have shown that the happy hormone oxytocin is released when we pet our cats and dogs, and so waking up and having your feline there works the same way. It is thought that sleeping with your cat can help to reduce stress and make you happier.
Sleeping with your cat is also often much cozier and warmer, especially if you sleep in your bed alone or live in a cold climate. Having some extra warmth and kitty cuddles is a lovely way to drift off! Plus, it helps with bonding and ensures the bond between the two of you is unbreakable.
The obvious disadvantage of letting your cat sleep with you is the disturbance during the night. Although you won’t hear a peep from some cats all night, this is nearly unheard of. Cats will often get in their owners’ faces as they sleep and disturb their slumber.
Where they sleep can also be problematic. If your cat curls up at the foot of your bed, you will hardly notice they’re there. However, if your cat is sleeping on your face or chest it can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if you have an overweight feline! Even a cat that sleeps next to you can prevent you from sleeping in some positions and can become a bit of a nuisance.
There are also hygiene concerns as although cats are extremely clean creatures and frequently self-groom, they can bring some dirt to your bed. Examples include litter dust or particles or even feces. Outdoor cats are also more likely to pick up dirt, mud, or even parasites and disease.
If you let your cat sleep on your bed, their fur will also get everywhere. This may not bother you at all, but any allergy sufferer should take this disadvantage seriously. Your bedroom should be a peaceful sanctuary, not a place that triggers an allergic response while you’re trying to sleep!
How To Deal With Your Cat Disrupting Your Sleep
If you do decide to let your cat sleep in your bed, there are a few things you can do to limit the disturbance they cause in the night.
Firstly, you should be as active as possible with your cat just before bed by engaging in playtime. This will help them to use up some of their energy and makes it more likely they won’t come to disturb you in the night because they want attention. To help with their need for warmth, a heated pet bed is also a great buy. Place this pet bed next to yours and your cat will likely prefer it over your face!
You should also feed your cat later on in the evening, especially if they get in your face in the early hours of the morning because they want their breakfast. Investing in an automatic cat feeder is a great idea as they can get their breakfast on time, just without you having to get out of bed! An automatic feeder that drops small quantities of food throughout the night is another option.
In some cases, keeping your cat out of your bedroom entirely is the best solution. They may claw or meow at the door initially, but eventually, they will learn that this is time they need to spend away from their human.
So, why do cats get in your face while you sleep? If they’re meowing in your face, they likely want some love and attention. However, when cats sleep on your face they could be doing so for warmth, comfort, security, or even curiosity. They may also love your scent or be trying to mark you with theirs!
No matter what the reason, it is important you don’t allow your cat to be too disruptive at night. Hopefully, understanding the reasoning behind this behavior will help you see it in a new light! If not, try playing with your cat before bed, feeding them later in the evening, or getting a heated pet bed to help deter them from being a nuisance.
If all else fails, you may need to shut your cat out of your bedroom at night and have this room as a cat-free zone. Each situation is unique, so do what is best for you and your cat.