You are far into dreamland, the blue caterpillar smiling at the Cheshire cat, when suddenly you can’t breathe. You’re suffocating, and you don’t know why. You bat at your head, and your cat jumps away. Although you’re physically fine, this is quite the rude awakening for both you and your cat.
Why does your cat keep sleeping on your head? How can you stop them so you can get a good night’s sleep? Since this is behavior you definitely need to head off as soon as possible, we turned to expert Janet Cutler, Ph.D., one of our Certified Cat Behaviorists at Cat-World.com, for advice.
Some common reasons your cat might make your head into their bed
There are a lot of reasons your cat might be trying to sleep on your head. Some cats may not sleep directly on your head, but only close to it. This can still be troublesome, especially when your cat’s whiskers brush your cheek because they want to be nose to nose and watch your face while you sleep.
Cats love to sleep with us, even if not on the head. Dr. Cutler points out that, “Whether or not your cat sleeps on your bed could be dependent on many things, including the personality of your cat and your fondness for cats in the bed. In a study that looked at where cats sleep at night, 34% of people said that their cat slept on their bed.”
Still, you need to be able to sleep without being awoken rudely by whiskers or lack of air. Here are the most common reasons your cat might be sleeping on your head specifically during the night.
Your cat is showing affection.
Social cats like to be near their humans, and as such it is no wonder that your cat wants to sleep with you. Dr. Cutler explains why social cats sleep on their owners’ heads:
“If you have a very social cat, they may spend a lot of their time around their people. They would typically be in the same room as you or near you during the day, and then join you in bed at night.” Cats want that opportunity to be close to you and to learn about you through facial expressions while you sleep.
You provide a source of heat.
If you like to keep your bedroom cold, your cat could be seeking out a heat source. When you keep your body covered with blankets and you have warm breath, your head looks like a comfortable and warm pillow to your cat.
According to Dr. Cutler, this is one of the most common reasons cats sleep on or near the head. “Cats often like to sleep in areas that are warm, and your body, and perhaps even your breath, is warm. If you have a cat who can often be found sleeping in the sun, or if you set out a heating pad or blanket and they immediately jump on it, it’s possible they’re seeking warmth.”
Being close to your head feels safe.
If you have an anxious cat that feels safer when they are close to you, they might try to sleep on your head at night. Your cat reads your emotions and intent by looking at your facial features. Being close to or on your head lets them see your face and know that they are safe.
Again, Dr. Cutler chimes in:
“if you have an anxious cat, it’s possible that they want to be near you as a source of comfort. If your cat is a bit skittish but is comforted by petting or being near you, this could be a reason for their sleeping habits.”
They are getting closer to you by watching your face while you sleep.
Your cat gets most of their information about you from your facial features and expressions. Dr. Cutler explains: “Cats get a lot of information from our faces, so being near your face could make them feel closer to you.”
Your cat may also be using this opportunity to bond with you and become a better companion by learning your facial expressions while you sleep.
The Egyptians believed cats could keep bad dreams at bay.
The Egyptians worshipped cats and had many myths surrounding them, one of which was protection of dreams. Because cats were considered representations of Bastet, they were believed to be able to bring good dreams and keep bad dreams at bay. Meanwhile, if you dream about a cat it is supposed to be very lucky.
Some Egyptians, as well as other cultures, also believe that cats can heal their humans through contact. It is possible your cat is trying to heal you by laying on your head.
Is it safe to let your cat sleep on your head?
Yes, it is safe to let your cat sleep on your head, at least from a hygienic perspective. Our experts here at Cat World have already laid out all you need to know about whether or not it is healthy for your cat to sleep with you here. However, there are some times when it is unhealthy to let your cat sleep on or near your head.
People with asthma and other breathing problems shouldn’t have their cat sleeping in bed with them if they are going to sleep on your head. The bottom line is that the cat will further impede your ability to breathe, which decreases the effectiveness of sleep even if it doesn’t wake you up.
Individuals with cat allergies should also avoid having their cat sleep near their head, and in fact you may consider not allowing your cat to sleep with you at all. Even if your allergy symptoms are controlled with daily medication, having your cat in bed with you can still cause disrupted or uneven sleep.
How can I stop my cat from sleeping on my head?
There are many different things you can do to try to get your cat to stop sleeping on your head. You don’t necessarily have to kick them out of your bedroom, or even out of your bed.
If you like having your cat sleeping in bed with you, you can set up an area of the bed just for them. Get a soft pillow or cat bed to put on the bottom or top corner of your bed. This gives them a way to be close to you without having to resort to using your head as a cushion.
When you need to keep your cat from sleeping in your bedroom altogether, consider setting up a bed area with a nice cat bed or sleeping tower. If you have a hard time getting them to use it, start a new bedtime routine that includes leaving treats where you want them to sleep.