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Cats are not only adorable creatures. They’re also some of the most mysterious pets ever to be domesticated by humans.
Although cats have lived with us for thousands of years, there are still numerous feline behaviors that are yet to be understood. One such behavior is their quirky sleeping positions.
You don’t need to be a keen observer to have noticed that your cat often covers his face while asleep. While this behavior is cute to watch, there are several reasons behind it.
Read on for more insights into why sleeping cats tend to cover their faces.
8 Reasons Sleeping Cats Cover Their Faces
1. It Offers a Sense of Security
Cats are both predator and prey. As prey, a cat is probably most insecure while asleep. And the animal’s face happens to be the most vulnerable part of his body.
Therefore, not only will a cat seek out a safe spot to sleep. He will also cover his head using his paws, ostensibly to shield his vulnerable face from attack by potential predators or other rival cats.
Besides covering their faces, most cats also sleep by curling up. This helps protect their tender bellies from sudden attacks by perceived enemies.
2. An Act of Territoriality
All felines, wild and domesticated, are fiercely territorial. Cats have a way of laying claim to anything in their territory. These range from their toys and scratching posts to their food bowls, bedding, and even their owners.
Now, there are several ways a cat may choose to lay claim to an object in his territory. One such method is by burying his head in the object.
It’s unlikely that your cat is marking his territory in sleep. But he may have been doing it before dozing off, which explains his quirky sleeping position.
Note that when a sleeping cat is covering his face out of territorial instincts, the animal will usually bury his head in an object as opposed to using his paws and tail.
But why do cats mark their territories using their faces?
Cats have scent glands on their faces. These glands release chemicals known as pheromones, which are unique to every cat. When a cat buries his head in or rubs his face on an object, he releases his pheromones onto the object. Any potential rival cat who stumbles upon the object will immediately pick up the pheromones and know that the territory is taken.
3. An Unfinished Round of Grooming
Cats are devoted groomers. These animals spend much of their waking hours cleaning themselves off.
But while grooming is part and parcel of a cat’s personality, it’s also known to drain their energy.
A cat may easily drift off to sleep during a grooming session. And if the animal dozed off while grooming his face, you’ll notice that his paws rest upon his head during sleep.
4. It Provides Comfort
Humans have preferred sleeping positions. You can choose to sleep on your side, back, or belly. It all depends on the position that makes you feel comfortable.
Cats have preferred sleeping positions too. And just like humans, these animals will opt for a position that guarantees maximum comfort.
Covering their faces while napping allows cats to enjoy a peaceful and comfortable sleep.
5. It Keeps the Nose Warm
Not only will a cat snuggle into a comfortable position to sleep. The animal will also cover his face using his paws as a way of keeping his nose and body warm.
Cats may not come any close to humans in terms of intelligence quotient. But they’re smart enough to know that curling into a ball shape and covering their faces while asleep improves heat retention, especially during cold weather.
6. A Warning to Keep Off
Some cats may cover their faces while asleep as a warning signal to their owners and other household members to keep off. The animal is simply asking to be left alone.
Perhaps your cat is annoyed, bored, or fatigued. Whatever the reason may be, the best thing to do is let the animal enjoy his naptime. Attempting to wake him up could have him lash out, inflicting vicious bites and scratches.
7. It Blocks Out the Light
Cats are crepuscular creatures, which implies that they’re generally active at dawn and dusk.
Like most crepuscular animals, cats spend much of the day sleeping. But that also means they have to sleep during the most lit conditions. If your cat cannot find a dark room to nap in during the day, he’ll choose to cover his face with his paws as a way of blocking direct light.
Interestingly, cats love to sleep in the sunshine. This may sound counterintuitive considering that sleeping in the dark would be more comfortable.
However, many cats prefer to sleep in the sun to keep their bodies warm. The animal would rather sleep in a sunny spot and enjoy the warmth provided that he can cover his face from direct sunlight.
8. It Blocks Out the Noise
Light isn’t the only thing that cats try to block out while sleeping. These animals will also bury their heads in their paws to block out ambient noise.
However, cats are never deep asleep and will be awakened by the slightest sound. This is a survival instinct that the domestic cat shares with his wild cousins, such as leopards and tigers.
Note that before domestication by humans, a cat needed to be on constant watch for danger. And sleeping with their ears out was one way these animals stayed on top of the predator-prey game.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Feline Sleeping Behaviors
When do cats sleep?
As we’ve already indicated, cats are crepuscular creatures. They’re more active at dawn and dusk, preferring to sleep during the day.
Where do cats sleep?
Cats are known to sleep in some of the oddest places. Common areas your feline housemate may choose to nap include high perches, enclosed spaces, your lap, your bed, and under blankets. The choice of the perfect sleeping spot depends primarily on two factors – safety and comfort.
How do cats sleep?
Cats have several sleeping positions. The most common one is the crescent roll, where a cat lays in what appears to be a half-moon shape and then covers his eyes with his paws and/or tails.
There’s also the bread loaf position whereby a cat sleeps with his feet curled underneath his belly. Most cats in this sleeping position will also have their head down and their tails covering their face.
Last but not least, there’s the side sleep which usually happens while hunting or playing.
How long do cats sleep?
Cats are serious sleepers who’re known to nap for 16 hours or more in a day. That’s more than two-thirds of their time. The remaining 8 hours or so are dedicated to grooming, playing, and hunting.
Do cats dream?
Cats experience the same sleep stages as humans. That means they also go through rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the sleep phase marked by intense dreaming.
Common signs that your cat is dreaming include tail twitching, whisker movements, and pawing into the air.
Cats are hard-wired to cover their faces while sleeping. The reasons can be summed up to a desire for maximum safety and comfort.
So, there’s no reason to be alarmed if you find your feline companion napping with his paws and tails over his face.