Why Does My Cat Sleep Above My Head?

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As a cat parent, you might sometimes wake up to find your cat sleeping comfortably snoozing away on top of your head. We may never fully understand cat behavior, but affectionate cats tend to spend as much time with their pet parents as possible. If you've ever woken up in the middle of the night to find your cat sleeping on your head, you're not alone. But, you might wonder, "Why does my cat sleep above my head?"

There are many reasons why your cat sleeps above or on top of your head, ranging from seeking warmth to showing you affection. If you don't mind sharing the pillow with your cat, there's no reason to change their behavior. However, if your cat is disrupting your sleep, there are a few ways you can prevent them from sleeping on your head. As a pet parent, you might often wonder about all your cat's strange behaviors, so why is your cat sleeping on your head? Keep reading to find out. 

Reasons Why Your Cat Sleeps Above Your Head

Pet parents love showing their cats affection, and affectionate cats spend much of their time touching their owners, whether it's kneading them like a blanket, rubbing up against them to mix scents, or sleeping next to them. Wondering, "why does my cat lay above my head?" Check out these reasons: 

They are seeking warmth

Your body heat, particularly your head, is warm. Heat escapes through your head, making your pillow one of the warmest places in your bed.1 Cats love being warm, so they often find warm spots to sleep, which is why they spend most of their day finding sunny areas around your home to nap in. 

Cats have a warmer body temperature than humans, ranging from 100.4º to 102.5º Fahrenheit,2 so they enjoy warm environments. In addition, as they get older, cats seek warmer places to spend their time. When you sleep, some of your body heat is expelled through your head, and unless your cat can easily get under the covers with you, they may find that your head is the warmest place to get some rest. 

In addition, cats might prefer to sleep near your head even when they can get under the covers because it's warm, and your head is less likely to move throughout the night than other extremities like your legs which may accidentally push your cat out of bed.1

They find your scent comforting

Your cat can recognize you by scent, and your scent can be comforting to them.3 Cats have a great sense of smell, and they use scent marking to mix their scent with yours. Still, you might ask, "why does my cat sleep above my head every night?" When cats sleep on your head, they might be trying to mark their territory and be affectionate with you. Your scalp secretes oils that cats can smell, and since your pillow, head, and hair smell like you, they might sleep next to above or next to your head because your scent relaxes them. 

They love you

Cats show affection in many ways. They mix their scent with yours to mark their territory, knead you, and groom you from time to time. Cats may sleep by your head as a way of getting close to you to show you affection. When cats sleep with you, it shows that they trust you.1 Wild cats often sleep where they feel safest, so if your cat is sleeping next to you, it's likely because they feel safe with you.

Kittens cuddle their mothers when they're young, and their mothers groom them, so they may believe your hair is fur and are trying to groom you and take care of you like their mother did for them. In addition, the head may be the safest place for your cat if you toss and turn in your sleep because they won't need to move as often. 

They are stressed

Stressed cats need to be comforted, and snuggling up with their favorite person is a good way to soothe themselves. Unfortunately, anything can cause stress and anxiety in cats, including moving, new pets in the home, or a new baby. Cats may also have separation anxiety in which they want to spend as much time with you as possible because they get anxious when you're away. 

In addition, cats that are sick may snuggle up next to your head to make themselves feel better by reducing stress. But, you might be asking, "Why does my cat like to sleep above my head when they're stressed?" When cats are stressed, they'll seek out safe places. For example, if your cat is afraid of strangers and someone new comes into your home, they may hide under the bed. When your cat feels uneasy about something, they'll go to where they feel safest, which might be right by your side or above your head. 

Benefits Of Sharing A Bed With Your Cat

Benefits of sharing a bed with your cat

Many famous historical figures slept with their pets, including Alexander the Great and Mary Queen of Scots.4 Whether to sleep with your pet or not to sleep with your pet is an age-old question. Around 50% of cat parents share the bed with their pets.4 Some sleep experts believe that pets can disrupt your sleep, while others believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Here are a few benefits of sharing a bed with your cat: 

  • Better for your health: Sleeping with your pet may improve your health. A 10-year-long study conducted by Minnesota University demonstrated that sleeping with your cat may reduce the risk of heart attacks.4 In addition, because your pet's scent and warmth can prevent stress, sleeping with your cat may improve your sleep quality, ultimately improving your overall physical and mental health. 
  • Comforting: Sleeping with your pet can reduce stress. A cat purring can help you fall asleep, while the weight of their bodies up against yours can offer additional comfort.4 In addition, you love your pet, so being close to them may help you relax. 
  • Improved immunity: Sleeping with pets from a young age may reduce allergies in adulthood by introducing you to allergens.4 While it's unclear whether it has the same impact on adults, sleeping with your cat can improve your immunity in other ways because it can help you get better quality sleep to support your health. 
  • Bonding: Bonding with your cat is important because it develops trust and can prevent behavioral issues. Sleeping next to your cat is just one way you can bond with your cat to enhance your relationship. 

Drawbacks Of Sharing A Bed With Your Cat

Drawbacks of sharing a bed with your cat

Unfortunately, even though you may love sleeping with your cat, there are some drawbacks, including: 

Sharing your bed with a pet has been associated with lower sleep quality because it may cause you to wake more throughout the night.4 For example, since cats prefer to wake up around dawn, they may become playful and wake you up by moving around the bed in the early morning hours. 

If you have allergies, sharing a bed with your cat might exacerbate your symptoms. Those with sensitivities to pollen or dander or suffer from asthma may have worsened allergy symptoms when sleeping with their pet.4

In addition, pets often track dirt, fleas, parasites, and litter box particles into your bed. Luckily, if you have a strictly indoor cat, you don't have to worry about them bringing common allergens like pollen. However, since cats urinate and defecate in a litter box, it's likely they could bring fecal particles into your bed. Cats are clean animals who spend most of the day grooming themselves, so sleeping with them is cleaner than sleeping with other types of animals like dogs, who track dirt into the home. As long as your cat is flea and parasite free, sleeping with them shouldn't make you ill. 

When sleeping with your cat, you should also consider disease transmission. While many common cat illnesses cannot be passed to humans, some can. Roundworms, rabies, salmonellosis, and cat scratch disease are transferable from cats to humans.5 When you sleep with your cat next to your face, you may increase your risk of contracting these illnesses. 

How To Stop Your Cat From Sleeping Above Your Head

Sleeping with your cat above your head can be uncomfortable and prevent you from getting quality sleep. Some people love waking up near their pets, but others would prefer a full night's sleep. Luckily, there are a few ways to prevent them from sleeping there if it bothers you. Here are a few ways you can stop your cat from sleeping above your head:

  • Close the door: Keep your cat out of your bedroom when you're going to sleep. Of course, this is easier said than done when your feline friend loves to snuggle. 
  • Give them a comfortable spot: Give your cat their own bed on the floor to give them a comfortable spot to sleep. 
  • Give them a shirt with your scent: Since cats may sleep above your head because they like your scent, giving them something with your scent on it can allow them to feel safe and secure without sleeping on top of you. 
  • Change their schedule: A change in a cat's schedule can cause anxiety and behavioral problems, but if you can change their schedule gradually, you may be able to tire your cat before bed with toys, catnip, exercise, and training. 

Other Signs Your Cat Loves You

Cats communicate in many different ways. Here are just a few ways cats tell you they love you: 

  • Slow blink
  • Purring
  • Making biscuits on you
  • Wanting to be around you all the time
  • Headbutting you
  • Licking you
  • Showing you their belly
  • Following you around
  • Welcoming you home6

Other signs that indicate your cat loves you

Why Does My Cat Sleep Above My Head?: FAQs

Should I let my cat sleep on my pillow?

There's nothing wrong with letting your cat sleep on your pillow, especially if they're not disturbing your sleep. Since cats enjoy being close to you, it's a great way to bond with them and show them you love them. However, if you have difficulty sleeping with your cat on your pillow, you can try to train them to sleep somewhere else on the bed. 

How much sleep do cats need?

Cats love to sleep and spend about 16-20 hours sleeping every day.7 Of course, how much your cat sleep depends on their activity level, but most cats tend to sleep throughout the day and wake up at dusk and dawn. 

When do cats usually sleep?

Cats are crepuscular and most active during dusk and dawn.7 You may notice that your cat likes to sleep a lot during the day, but that's normal behavior. Cats may nap the afternoon away and wake up when the sun goes down, so don't be surprised if your cat gets more active when you're winding down for bed. Luckily, cats can adjust their sleeping habits based on any schedule you set for them. 

Cat sleeping on pillow in bed

Final Notes

Now you know many popular theories to answer your question, "Why does my cat like to sleep above my head?" Your cat loves you, and you make them feel safe and secure, so it's no surprise they want to sleep next to you. 

Of course, there are some situations in which you may choose not to share your bed with your cat; it's all a matter of preference. Since cats may sleep next to you and disrupt your sleep because they're feeling anxious, you should always consult a vet if you notice strange changes in their behavior. Wondering about cat behavior or health? Try Dutch's online vet care

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References

  1. “Strange Cat Facts: 'Why Does My Cat Sleep on My Head?'.” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/cat/care/evr_ct_why-does-my-cat-sleep-on-my-head.

  2. “Fever in Cats: Symptoms and Treatments.” WebMD, https://pets.webmd.com/cats/fevers-in-cats.

  3. Behnke, Alexandra C., et al. “The Effect of Owner Presence and Scent on Stress Resilience in Cats.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Elsevier, 8 Sept. 2021, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159121002318.

  4. Andre, Chloe J, et al. “The Effects of Bed Sharing on Sleep: From Partners to Pets.” Sleep Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8205933/.

  5. “Cats.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Jan. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/cats.html.

  6. “Does My Cat Love Me?” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/cat/behavior/does-my-cat-love-me.

  7. “Why Do Cats Sleep so Much?” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/cat/behavior/evr_ct_why_do_cats_sleep_so_much.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

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The Dutch membership starts at $15/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.