Why Do Cats Cover Their Face When They Sleep?

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Why do cats cover their face when they sleep?

For the past decade, I’ve witnessed my two feline friends sleeping in various funny positions, but none is more adorable than them covering their cute faces with paws.

I got curious. And I decided to dig deep to establish the reason behind this adorable behavior. I discussed the behavior with other cat owners, consulted some vets, and examined some research. 

And now, it’s time to share what I found out.

Keep reading to learn:

Why Do Cats Cover Their Face?

According to a study by Sleep Foundation, more than half of cats sleep between 12 and 18 hours a day. So, it is no surprise that your kitty has mastered the art of napping and curving in several cute sleeping positions.

However, I was intrigued by the question, “Why do cats cover their face when they sleep?”  

And I’ve heard it from many other cat owners. 

Is it a normal cat behavior?

Most cats hide their faces with paws or tails for three main reasons: to keep warm, get comfortable, or block light. But that isn’t a complete list.

Let’s get into the details for a better understanding.

1. Keeping warm or keeping their noses warm

My two cats usually curl in a ball and cover their faces with paws or tails when cold. According to sleep specialists from the Sleep Foundation, the behavior is an attempt of your cat to retain as much body heat as possible and conserve energy.

Felines avoid getting cold because their bodies have to burn off too much energy to maintain core temperature. Cats will do everything to keep warm.

That explains why you’ll see your cat:

  • Sunbathing in the garden
  • Cuddling next to you at night
  • Curling into a small ball
  • Sleep next to a heat source

Your cat will cover its face to prevent the nose, paws, and tail from losing heat. After all, the three body parts are the first to get cold. It makes sense for your cat to curl as much as possible and reserve the body heat when it’s cold.

You’re more likely to see your cat covering its face during winter than in summer. Covering the face during summer can make your cat too hot, so it avoids the behavior.

2. It Provides Them With a Sense of Security

Cats’ ancestors in the wild are both predators and prey. When not hunting but sleeping, cats in the wild must remain alert to avoid getting preyed on by larger animals.

While your kitty isn’t in the wild anymore, it’s hardwired to seek a secure and comfortable location to nap, where it can let its guard down.

When it curls, it reduces in size, making it less noticeable to predators. The small size also makes them fit into a small space predators can’t access.

Whichever case, the face is the most vulnerable body part of the cat. Your cat will cover it when sleeping as an extra security measure.

You might argue that domestic cats don’t have to look out for predators. However, sudden environmental changes in the house can make your cat anxious and afraid. Consequently, it might tap into its instinct and cover the face while sleeping as an extra security measure.

While covering the face when sleeping isn’t a sign of stress, check for behavior change to rule out the possibilities. Check if your kitty’s behavior is obsessive and is accompanied by:

  • Hiding
  • Crouching
  • Hissing
  • Growling
  • Other defensive posture

But you shouldn’t be concerned about your cat covering the face while sleeping. 

Your cat can also bury its head in a laundry basket or blankets. Even if their bodies are visible, they feel more secure when no one can see or reach their head.

3. They’re Blocking Out the Light or Sun

Like some people, some cats can’t sleep well with lights turned on. And while humans have several methods of blocking light while sleeping, cats lack the luxuries to deal with the discomfort.

Consequently, some kitties cover their face while sleeping to stop sun rays or other light sources from disturbing their sleep. Cats have sensitive vision and are more sensitive to light than humans, so they may seek darker, more sheltered places to sleep.

Covering their faces with paws or hiding against surfaces helps cats create a darker and cozier sleeping environment. You’ll mainly note the behavior when your cat naps during the daytime or in well-lit areas of the home.

When the paws and tails can’t shield the light enough, your cat may move to a darker location to achieve their desired comfort. You can help your cat sleep better by keeping the room dark and cozy.

4. It Feels Comfortable

Covering the face when sleeping is a comfortable sleeping position for most cats. Like humans, cats have a preferred sleeping position.

Your cat might love covering its face with paws and tail because it’s its most comfortable sleeping position. Generally, this sleeping position makes most cats feel safe, protected, and secure.

5. They’re Blocking Out Noise

Cats have sensitive hearing senses. According to PubMed, a cat is among the most accurate sound localizers and can hear even the lowest sound pitch.

For instance, your cat can hear small animals like mice at a distance. 

That means that even the slightest noise can disrupt your feline nap.

When your cat doesn’t want to check on the noise, it can cover its face when sleeping to block the noise.

6. They’re Over-Tired 

Felines are active beings. While your cat spends two-thirds of its life sleeping, the remaining one-third can be super active with activities such as:

  • Grooming
  • Stalking
  • Hunting
  • Playing

While you might think the above aren’t too hefty, they are too exhausting for your kitty. Sometimes, your cat can get exhausted and fall asleep amid grooming, unknowingly leaving its paws across the face.

The exhaustion can make your cat feel like moving its paw downward is too much of a hassle when it starts to sleep.

7. Not Feeling Well

When sick, cats hide in tight spaces and curl into a ball. Felines feel vulnerable when ill and will want to avoid the attention of larger animals or their owners.

Covering their faces might be a way of saying, “I’m feeling unwell. Don’t disturb me anymore.”

However, covering the face isn’t always a sign of illness. But consult your vet if your kitty shows odd behavior and shies from your touch.

8. It’s a Cat’s “Do Not Disturb” Sign

Sometimes, when I want to relocate my kitty out of the couch, it will cover its face with its tail and paw, curl into a tight ball, and pretend to be in a deep sleep.

It’s like my cat is telling me, “Can’t you see that I’m sleeping? Do not disturb.” Covering the face, sometimes, is a cute trick for your cat to avoid disturbance.

Your feline might be hiding its face because you’re bothering it too much, and it wants you to leave it alone.

9. Storms Are On The Way

Cats have acute senses, and one of their sharpest is sound. Some cat parents have reported their cats covering their eyes when they hear a storm coming, and there are some reasons why they may do this.

  1. The cat might be trying to block out the flashing lightning that often accompanies thunderstorms. Feline eyes are more light-sensitive, and sudden lightning flashes can be uncomfortable and painful.
  2. Your feline may be trying to reduce its exposure to storm sounds. Thunders are loud, and the noises can overwhelm cats due to hypersensitivity to sound. When your cat covers its eye, it reduces the overall sensory input, calming it down.
  3. During a storm, your cat might try to find a dark, quiet place to hide until the storm passes. When it covers its face, it might create its litter refuge where it can feel safe and secure from the outside chaos.

All in all, every cat is unique, and their sleeping behavior can vary. While covering the face is not usually a cause of concern, if you notice other unusual behaviors or signs of distress accompanying the behavior,  consult your vet to rule out any underlying issue.

How Do Cats Sleep?

Cats cover their faces when sleeping for several reasons. To understand the behavior better, you should learn some interesting facts about how cats sleep.

Cats don’t sleep deeply.

While most kitties sleep upto 18 hours a day, they don’t sleep deeply. Instead, they switch between deep sleep and dozing.

Sleep specialists say a cat’s deep sleep lasts about five minutes and quickly switches to dozing. The pattern repeats until your cat is hungry and wakes up to eat.

Such a sleeping pattern keeps your cat ready to act when it senses something interesting happening in the surrounding area, such as a mouse squeak. The short naps allow your kitty to conserve energy because playing and hunting are energy-consuming.

While most cats use their tail and paws to hide their faces when sleeping, some bury their heads in a heap of blankets or the owner’s arm.

In Conclusion

Cats like to cover their faces when sleeping for several reasons. It can be for warmth, blocking light, a sense of security, or general comfort. 

However, the most common reason your cat will cover its face is that it’s an instinct from its ancestors in the wild. By hiding its face, your cat feels more safe and secure.

Whatever the reason, cats love to enjoy their privacy when sleeping, just like humans. If you catch your kitty covering its face, don’t get concerned. Your feline friend is just enjoying a good nap. 


Why does my cat put her paw over her eyes when she sleeps?

Cats prefer to sleep where it’s toasty and cozy. Covering her eyes suggests comfort and relaxation. Most cats put paws to cover their faces to shield their eyes from the sun’s rays or bring light rays. 
Cats have highly developed night vision, and their eyes are more sensitive to light change. Even a small amount of light, such as a glow from a nightlight or ambient light from outside, can disrupt their sleep. As a result, cats instinctively seek darkness and reduced sensory stimulation to ensure uninterrupted sleep.

Why does your cat sleep on your bed, and what it means?

When your cat sleeps on your bed at night and curls up next to you, it’s a sign of bonding and affection. Your cat sees you as a warm bundle of security, and sleeping with you might be more comfortable than other spots in the house. 
Other reasons your cat might be sleeping with you include:
Search for security
Scent and familiarity
Routine and habit
But generally, when your cat sleeps on your bed, it’s a sign that it feels comfortable, safe, and close to you.

What does it mean when your cat covers his eyes?

Cats can see in very low light because their eyes reflect light into the retina of the eye. Therefore, your cat can cover its eyes to keep the light out. 
You’ll likely see your cat covering its eye with its paws when in deep relaxation and comfort. The act is like pulling a blanket over our heads when we want to feel cozy and secure. Covering the eyes can help block out light and create a sense of security.

About Laura Martin

I'm Laura Martin. I get excited about all things cat related. I love my two cats - Dom and Kitty. When I'm not playing with my two feline friends, you can probably find me hiking. And yes, I have a 9 to 5 job. Although if you asked me I'd rather spend my time blogging and educating other cat moms and dads about what it takes to raise a healthy cat.

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