Cats do some pretty strange things, and of those, sleeping next to their humans’ heads is probably one of the least strange feline behaviours.
That being said, it is a little peculiar, especially when we’re trying to get some shut-eye and our cat just so happens to be a little in the way.
For me – a cat sleeping next to my head often ends up with me having a tail to the face, over and over and over again because my cats often wag their tails when they are happy (yes, they’re a little like dogs!).
But I know they really like doing this, so when I wake up in the morning and find one has been sleeping next to my head for who knows how many hours, I’m not fussed.
It’s just when I am trying to sleep at night that this is typically an issue, especially if they’re not positioned so their tails are out of my face and they haven’t settled down to sleep and want to be pet a considerable amount before they settle in for the night.
Still – why here? I mean obviously cats like to be near us and like to snuggle with us, and love us. But by our heads specifically? Why in this particular location?
And why is it that my cat who used to only sleep at the foot of my bed now tries to sleep up by my head? Why did my cats who used to sleep by my side seem to migrate up to sleep next to my head now?
I have a lot of theories, and I think no answer is complete without some combination of at least a few of them. Because in my opinion, cat behaviour is rarely ever a one-reason type of thing you can explain away. It needs a few combined reasons to explain it.
Let me know if these ring true for you, if you can think of more, and if there are reasons that you think your particular cat happens to sleep by your head. I’ll go in the order that I think my cats are most likely sleeping next to my head nowadays…
Reasons That Might Explain Why Cats Sleep by Their Humans’ Head at Night
1. You don’t move around much up there.
I think this is a very big factor for cats sleeping next to your head, especially if you’re the type of person who moves around a lot either while you are sleeping or while you are trying to fall asleep.
Cats don’t like a whole lot of movement around them when they are trying to settle in for some shut-eye of their own, and most of the time, we don’t move our heads all that much, even if we move the remainder of our bodies quite a lot to try to get comfortable when attempting to fall asleep.
2. There’s likely more space for them up at the top of the bed than at the bottom.
I don’t know what it is about sleeping on a bed when you’re shorter than the bed itself, but it always feels like you’re dragging your pillow down.
Maybe it’s because I can dangle my feet off the side of the bed or the bottom of the bed all night long, but if my head hits the headboard for even a second I am really uncomfortable and annoyed, so drag that pillow down it is, which makes a considerable amount of space for my little furries to nestle in!
I definitely love them being closer to me so I can pet them and I actually quite like the warmth of having them sleep by my side, but I can completely understand how from their perspective, why would they not take advantage of all that space near my head? It’s free and open up there, so makes sense.
3. Cats can be pretty obsessed with faces.
Even ignoring the fact that cats have so much room – and without competition since we move around less up by our heads, some cats are obsessed with faces and I think this is an overlap that’s likely to carry over to cats-sleeping-next-to-your-head.
So biting/nibbling your nose? Yup, common cat thing. Licking your face? Some cats do this quite often. Touching your face with their paws? Yup, cats will often do this too, even if it’s not in the wee hours of the morning to wake you up for some grub (which, let’s be honest, is a pretty effective way of getting a human to wake up!).
Their obsession with faces seems to spill over in this way as I find one of my cats (the one who used to sleep by my feet) will start by scenting my nose and then flop down near my face where he was standing. And then I’m guessing he clued in to how nice a spot it was to be up there so he went ’round more often?
But there’s a bit more to it, I feel than even that.
4. You’re not the only one who thinks pillows are comfy!
Cats also realize pillows are super comfy. My cats will often prop up their naps on my pillows, or even sleep on top of my pillows, whether they’re napping alone or sleeping with me at night.
So maybe your cat loves pillows! And maybe if you’d prefer he or she slept next to you, you could provide a pillow for him or her in the spot you want and magic your cat into the placement you prefer at night.
I used to do this with a blanket, especially in the colder months. And it worked like a charm.
My cats would prefer to sleep on the blanket and thus I could somewhat control where they slept, which I prefer to be right by my side, what a perfect place for a snuggle.
As a heads up, lining your lap with a blanket also makes your lap far more comfy for kitties, in my experience! So you might wanna use that as a trick to get your cats to be happier sitting in your lap as well!
5. Your cat may be trying to avoid other pets, and think just by your head is the perfect place.
When it’s the middle of the winter and it’s really chilly inside because we get a draft, there’s about a 9/10 chance my three cats are gonna huddle with each other and/or with me while they sleep.
Other times when it’s warmer, or in the thick of the summer? They usually want to avoid each other. Whether because having more room is comfortable or because having less heat is more comfortable.
Either way, they could be trying to avoid each other because I will often wake up to one cat being on my side, one cat being on the corner of my husband‘s side of the bed, and one cat being by my head. And it’s not always the same ones.
So maybe there’s something to the even spacing argument.
Your Thoughts on Cats Sleeping by Your Head?
Why do you think cats happen to sleep next to their humans’ heads at night a lot of times? Do you feel it’s different for different cats? I sure do.
Do you have a cat who does this? Why do you think your cat does this primarily? What other reasons do you think explain your cat’s behavour?
And is it constant or is it a sometimes-thing? What about seasons, does that change up where your cat sleeps?
Love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments section down below!