Why Cats Cover their Faces During Sleep

Cats are known for many things, but one of their most endearing features is the way they sleep.

As well as choosing some rather odd locations in which to nap, our feline friends hunker down in all kinds of positions.

Some prefer to sleep on their backs, others like to slumber on their stomach.

And pretty much all cats will curl up into a ball to rest at some point.

While you cat is copping some zzzs, you may observe him placing his paws and tail of his face. So why is this?

Why do cats bury their heads when they sleep?

The reasons are not fully understood. But there are plenty of likely causes.

It may be that your cat is trying to keep himself warm or shield his eyes from the light. Alternatively, he might be trying to make himself feel more secure during downtime.

Then there’s the possibility that he fell asleep in the middle of a grooming session.

Let’s take a more detailed look at these and other potential reasons why cats cover their faces when they’re asleep.

Siamese Cat Sleeping

Comfort and Security

One of the most obvious reasons that cats cover their faces during sleep is because they’re comfortable and cosy.

Curling up in a ball with his face covered or buried is often a sign that’s he’s in a blissful slumber. This means that he trusts you and his environment

This should be considered a big compliment. Cats are after all highly responsive to their surroundings and are thus, very careful sleepers.

So if you’re cat has reached such a level of unconscious rapture, chances are that you’ve provided a safe and secure space that puts him at ease. Nice work!

Heat Retention

Cats are highly sensitive to changes in temperature, especially when cold. This is why they’ve become so adept at finding warm places to rest.

They’re also skilled at regulating their body temperature.

Therefore, a typical cat will get into a resting position that prevents heat loss, such as curling into a ball.

As an extra measure, your feline may also cover his face with his paws/tail or bury his face in his fur. This prevents heat from being lost through the paws, nose and ears.

Such feline behavior is most prevalent in the winter.

During the summer months however, it won’t be uncommon for you to see your cat sprawling in various locations around your house in an effort to expel body heat.

But when you cat covers his face while asleep, it may be that he’s a bit chilly. According to experts, the room temperature of your home should be at least 21 degrees Celsius.

Anything less and your cat might start feeling the cold. So, make sure to check that thermostat!

Additionally, provide a blanket and warm bed for your cat if your home gets draughty or cold.

How do I Know If My Cat is Cold?

As well as obvious signs such as shivering, one way to check if your cat is cold is by touching his nose or paws. If they’re cold to touch you’ve got your answer.

Bear in mind too that cats have similar body temperatures to humans (about 37 degree Celsius). It follows then that if you feel the cold, your cat probably will as well.

Cat Sleeping

Blocking the Light Out

Sometimes cats cover their face when they sleep to block out light. If your eyes were as sensitive to light as theirs, you’d probably do the same!

Cats’ eyes are thought to be seven times more sensitive than humans. This is because of the tapetum lucidum.

The tapetum lucidum allows cats to see better in the dark, by reflecting light back into the retina. But it also increases a cat’s sensitivity of vision by 44%, allowing him to see light that human beings can’t.

Not all that useful when you’re looking to get some shut-eye during the day. Covering the face is therefore the perfect solution.

If you’re a really attentive owner who’s determined to get the lighting just right for your cat, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

First of all, avoid leaving your cat in the pitch black. Some owners turn the room light off at night thinking that this will help the cat to relax or get rest.

Don’t do this. Although your cat’s vision is very good, it works best in semi-darkness – your cat needs a source of light to help him see. Leaving him in total darkness may cause anxiety and stress.

Conversely, don’t leave a light on for your cat during the night. Given feline sensitivity to light, this is not going to encourage sleep or relaxation.

This will only distract your cat and keep him awake. And the chances are, he’ll go and look for a darker place to sleep.

The best solution is to find a happy medium. Dimming the lights as opposed to turning them off is a better idea. Consider using calming colours such as blue violet. A lot of owners also swear by LED lighting.


It may be that your cat is just very tired. In addition to leading very active life, healthy felines also spend a great deal of time grooming – in fact, some studies indicate that it takes up to 50% of their day.

That’s a lot of grooming! If you couple tiredness with such an intensive cleaning regimen, there’s a fair chance that your cat fell asleep during one such session.

Remember also that cats often groom while lying in a comfortable position, thereby increasing the likelihood of them drifting off.

Final Thoughts

It has been suggested by some online sources that face covering might be the result of blocking out noise. This is a bit silly.

For instance, if a cat finds his environment to be too noisy, he’s hardly going to cover his ears to help insulate against the noise! Instead, he’ll move to a quieter spot. As mentioned, the most likely reasons that cats cover their faces are as follows:

  • He’s comfortable
  • To keep warm
  • To block out the light
  • Because he’s tired
  • A combination of all four

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