There are a lot of behaviours cats seem to like to do across the board. These behaviours often seem like the type of thing just one especially quirky cat might like to do, but the more you exchange stories with other cat owners, or adopt in new cats to your household, the more these behaviours reveal themselves to be things many cats typically do.
They include some pretty odd sounding behaviours, like obsessively sitting on paper, not being able to resist chewing plastic, staring with an unwavering gaze at their humans – heck, even following their people into the bathroom. Although these behaviours are definitely weird from the perspective of a human, they seem to be very normal from the perspective of a cat.
Obviously, I believe sleeping at the foot of the bed is one of these odd behaviours that quite a lot of cats do. I’ve heard so many different pet owners say their cats sleep at the foot of their bed, and my first cat Avery has done this for years. When we first took in cat #2, Bjorn, he slept snugly under the blankets for months. Now, as the weather’s beginning to pick up for the warmer (here in Portugal it’s hitting 20 degrees most days!), Bjorn’s begun to join Avery on top of the bed sheets, and often sits right in the corner at the foot of the bed, falling asleep in loaf-of-bread position.
I love talking about these quirks with other cat owners and getting that all-too-common response, “Yeah, mine does that, too!” It opens up the conversation to a discussion about why these little oddballs might all do something so seemingly weird to us humans. So let’s take that conversation here. These are the theories I’ve come up with or searched around to find – explaining why cats might like sleeping at the foot of the bed – can you think of any more?
7 Theories That May Explain Why Cats Sleep at the Foot of the Bed
1. There’s less movement at the foot of the bed; sleeping there means they get woken up less.
There’s one heck of a lot less movement going on down at the foot of the bed then there is at the head. Cats are pretty light sleepers – it doesn’t take much to disturb them from their sleep, and many aren’t big fans of being woken up – at least if it happens repeatedly/too often.
2. At the foot of the bed, there’s chance of getting hit in the face by a human limb.
Let’s be honest, not a lot of us are good at keeping still while we’re sleeping. If your cats aren’t big fans of being hit in the face by a human limb – an arm, an elbow, a knee – chances are your cats are going to head straight to the section of the bed where your restlessness while sleeping isn’t going to be felt so much – the foot of the bed!
A lot of us aren’t tall enough to reach the foot of the bed while we’re sleeping in the first place, but even when we are, we’re a lot more likely to move around at the head or in the middle of the bed than we are at the foot of the bed.
In my household, I find the cats stick to my side of the bed – at least later in the night – rather than sleeping on my husband’s. It’s pretty obvious why considering how much he moves when he sleeps. Is the same true in your home?
3. It’s cooler down there; much more comfortable if the room temperature is warm or hot.
Humans generate a lot of body heat, even while we’re asleep. As I mentioned in the intro, my new cat Bjorn spent nights under the blankets with us his first couple months here. Now that the weather’s gotten hotter, he spends his time on top of the blanket, sometimes in the middle of the bed and sometimes at the foot of the bed. I have a feeling once things get real hot in the summer, he’ll always be at the foot of the bed.
Avery’s much the same, though he’s not willing to sleep under the covers ever. He’s happy to sleep next to me during winter months, but when the room temperature gets too hot, he does move down to the foot of the bed. Even though he really enjoys cuddling, keeping his body temperature cool while it’s hot outside is a definite priority in the hot summer months.
4. There’s typically a flatter surface to lie on down there – less jumbled up bedding.
A lot of times, Avery won’t be a fan of sleeping next to me unless I flatten out the surface for him. He’s quite a big cat, so I can see why it’s not easy for him to simply find a wrinkle-free spot to snuggle up in, and I absolutely why he’d want a flat surface to rest on rather than a bumpy, messy one. After all, it’s even uncomfortable for us humans if we lie down on surfaces that feel lumpy due to big folds in sheets and blankets.
Typically at the foot of the bed there’s a lot more neat and tidy flat bedding to lie on – either in the form of sheets that haven’t been tossed about too much, or in the form of an exposed fitted sheet that’s right on the mattress. Both are things Avery’s happy to lie on, while the mess I make up top while tossing and turning at night – not so much.
5. There’s also more room to sprawl and spread out at the foot of the bed.
Many of us take up a lot of room at the top of the bed. Yes, ads and TV shows may depict people sleeping taking up the least amount of space possible – arms folded in and resting right next to a person’s body – but I sure as hell don’t sleep like that and I’d be surprised if you did.
My arms can be anywhere stretching out under the pillows completely to flailing out in random directions so they don’t end up hurting the next morning. I try to keep my legs still at night so the cats can sleep on them (they often do if I’m still enough), but typically in the middle of the night, I won’t be able to withstand the pressure and the lack of stretching/movement in my legs either, and as soon as those are stretched, off come the cats and they’re typically headed straight down for the foot of the bed where there’s plenty of room for them to sprawl out themselves without being disturbed.
I certainly don’t blame them for moving!
6. Cats often like feet; sleeping at the foot of the bed could be a preference for sleeping at your feet.
I need to do an article on cats and their obsession with feet – or maybe a short series of different articles on the topic even – because it sure is a thing in the cat world! Off the top of my head, I think it’s something to do with their attraction to different smells and their ability to learn things from those smells, but I’m sure that couldn’t be the whole story, so I will need to look into it for a few posts.
Either way, if your cat sleeps by your feet – maybe it’s not an attraction to the foot of the bed per say that’s what your cat truly likes. Maybe it’s just your feet themselves.
7. Many cats like to come and go during the night – it’s easier to do this when they sleep at the foot of the bed.
This is absolutely both my cats’ style – to come and go as they please during the night, sleeping for an hour or two with me, then going for a little stroll or to hit a self-play cat toy, then back to bed with me.
I know Avery stays sleeping a lot longer and leaves and comes back a lot less frequently than Bjorn, still I can tell he prefers to be in a space on the bed where he can easily leave if/when he wants to sometimes.
With Bjorn, I feel like he comes and goes more during the early hours of the morning than at night, so while he’ll typically start the night under the blankets or over the blankets in the middle of the bed, in the wee hours of the morning, he’s rarely ever in these spots, and is almost always in the corner of the foot of the bed or on the very edge of one of the sides of the bed.
Does your cat sleep in different spots on your bed depending on time of night too?
A Tip for Getting Cats to Sleep Where You’d Like
One tip I have for anyone wanting their cat to sleep in a specific spot – either on the bed with them in general, or right next to them, or at the foot or head of the bed – try grabbing a favourite blanket and placing it where you want your cat to sleep, flattening that spot out, then placing your cat on it and patting it to show you want your cat to sleep there.
It may take a little bit of time for your cat to try out and/or get used to sleeping on, but with Avery, this worked like a charm. I started with his blanket in the very corner of the bed where he typically sleeps anyway, and now move the blanket up to the middle of the bed so he sleeps next to me at night.
Avery also really genuinely loves to sleep on my legs, so often I’ll do my best to be very still so he can stay there resting as long as possible. I find even if you eventually move, if a cat can sleep undisturbed in a spot they like for a good chunk of time, he or she will be more likely to come back to that spot for the start of the night, then sleep the remainder elsewhere if/when you get tired of sleeping in the same position.
Just my 2c!
Thoughts on Cats Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed?
Do your cats sleep at the foot of the bed? Do some of your cats sleep in certain spots while others sleep in different spots?
Do your cats typically sleep in the same spots every night or move around depending on the time of night and/or different seasons?
Why do you think cats like to sleep at the foot of the bed versus other places?
Love to hear your ideas and stories in the comments down below!
Mary Bragg says
I don’t move much, mainly because I’ve injured both shoulders and can’t sleep on my side so basically wake up in the same position I was in when I went to sleep. My cat tends to sleep on the foot of my double bed since I only use about half of the bed When it’s cold, I’ve awakened to find her asleep in my “lap”. My caretaker’s dog also sleeps with me lying on my left side either on my legs or right up against them . So dogs do it too.
I used to have a calico that, when it was cold, in the middle of the night, she’d put her cold nose against the back of my neck so I’d lift the covers and under she’d scoot then curl up behind my knees for the night.
Elise Xavier says
That’s so sweet that dogs do it, too, and boy is that clever of the calico! Absolutely love how intuitive and communicative some pets can be, and how adorable their preferences and desire to snuggle many times are.
Christina H Carlee says
My cat likes to sleep at the foot of my bed. However, I am a very restless sleeper. I toss, turn and thrash around all night long. I’m always walking him up and I feel so bad about that. I’ve tried putting him to bed in the spare bedroom and then closing the door to my room when I go to bed, but he comes and cries at my door to let him in. So I do. He sleeps a lot during the day, maybe because he doesn’t get much sleep at night. Poor baby. I live in Florida, and we have air conditioning. So the interior temperature of my condo is never hot or cold. So, why does he want to sleep on my bed? Is it just because he loves me and wants to be with me?
Elise Xavier says
I definitely think it’s because he loves you and wants to be with you. Sounds like he’s okay being woken up so long as he gets to sleep by your side – and that he values being near you more than sleeping undisturbed 😉
Cats can typically fall asleep again pretty quickly anyway, so don’t worry about waking him up too much. They will naturally go find a calmer place to rest if they feel they need it. But about your cat sleeping a lot during the day – believe me, it’s not just yours! On average, domestic cats sleep 16-18 hours in a 24 hour period! Which is a crazy high number I know, but totally healthy for them. Sure beats our 6-9 hours a night – wish I could sleep that long!
This was really interesting. My cat loves to sleep either across my ankle (on the ankle) or between my legs. My theory has been that in the former case (across the ankle) he has me where he wants me. Since I don’t move my legs much at night, he seems to feel this is a good spot. In the latter case (between my legs), he seems to have a nice little nest where he feels safe.
And still, it’s pretty much at the foot of the bed. Of course, he tends to want to sleep just about wherever he’s in the same room with us, and the more comfy the spot, the better.
Elise Xavier says
That’s where Avery typically sleeps at night, too. Didn’t think about it but yes, on ankles is the particular place “by my feet” he does sleep.
I completely agree about sleeping between the legs being something like a little nest. Cats seem to love feeling cocooned or surrounded, so calling it a little nest feels very on point.
Thanks for the comment, Chuck!