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Why Do Cats Cover Their Face When They Sleep?

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: May 9, 2023 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: April 29, 2022  
Author:  Dexter Jones
Why do cats cover their face when they sleep

Just like humans, cats sleep in a variety of positions. While they choose some because they are comfortable, they pick others to solve specific issues.

One such position is when the feline covers its face with its front paws or tail - like a pair of sunglasses or eye mask!

Cats do it primarily to retain body temperature.

When they wrap their paws around their eyes and ears, they turn into a ball that helps to preserve maximum heat and have a pleasant and restorative sleep.  

Besides, cats take this posture for a bunch of other reasons mentioned in the following post.

Why Do Cats Cover Their Face When They Sleep (in short)

Yes, it does look really cute, especially when they do that 'stretchy-thing' mid-snooze. However, there are a few reasons why cats cover their eyes when they sleep. This kitty behavior is a mix of blocking light and noise out, added security, tiredness, and good old comfort-monster action!

why does my cat cover her face when she sleeps

How Do Cats Sleep?

Cats have a soft spot for sleeping, spending two-thirds of the day in this state. Some felines sleep for 15 hours a day, others slumber for 20 hours a day. 

Typically, cold and rainy conditions make the nap longer, as well as how active the feline is while it is awake. 

Cats interrupt their sleep only for eating, hunting, playing, and passing stool. What an exciting one-third!

Being crepuscular creatures, cats make an extra effort and are more active at night. 

Even though they are predators, their small size makes them be alert to numerous threats at night, like snakes, wolves, leopards, coyotes, bigger predators, etc. 

During the day there are fewer risks to cats' life, hence they consider it the perfect time for a snooze session. 

Cats' sleep consists of many short naps. 

Given their acute hearing and smell senses, a nap can be easily interrupted by a faint sound, the slightest noise, or the scent of some approaching prey or predator in the napping zone.

Cats go through the same sleep cycles as humans. 

They start with the slow-wave sleep and then slip into the REM stage where they may see REM sleep dreams and their limbs, tail, and whiskers may slightly move. 

It's worth noting that over time domestic cats may begin to sleep at night, adjusting to their owner's schedule. 

It has to do with the low number of predators to fight off and preys to chase, as well as the owner's inability to play with them at night.

Why Do Cats Cover Their Eyes While Sleeping?

Cats sleep in various positions. 

One of their favorites is covering their face with their paws or tail. The main reasoning behind it is to preserve energy by preventing heat from escaping the body. 

When cats cover their face with paws and tail, they roll up into a ball which helps them retain maximum heat.

Preserving energy is crucial for a cat as it is aware that in case of a threat, it will have to wake up and fight it off. 

Read on for more reasons why felines cover their face while sleeping.

1. Eye Mask

Light causes major discomfort to people and animals while sleeping. 

This is why you will find your cat having its day naps in a relatively dark place. But since escaping all light is impossible, many domestic felines choose to cover their face with paws or tails to obstruct the light and drift into a deep and peaceful sleep. 

If the cat feels the existence of a threat near it, it will take off its paws and slightly open its sensitive little eyes to monitor the situation. Sleeping with the eyes partially open is pretty common among felines. 

They do it when they are in light sleep mode or in the first stages of a sleep cycle.

2. Security

Even if they are not in the wilderness, domestic cats still focus a lot on their safety. 

They take into consideration an enemy attack at any time. That's why you will always find your feline with its guard up while sleeping. It will choose a sleeping spot that allows it to keep watch of what happens around it. 

Its ears and smell receptors are permanently on alert to detect any scent and sound in the napping area. Also, some cats choose to cover their face with their paws to protect the most vulnerable and important part of their body. 

Others go even further by hiding their head under a blanket. This gives them two benefits - safety and warmth. 

3. Tiredness

While cats sleep 16 hours a day, they are highly active during the other 8 hours. 

They get involved in a variety of energy-consuming activities, like grooming, playing, hunting, prowling, climbing trees and stairs. 

Believe it or not, this actually causes pure exhaustion up to the point when they dose off in the middle of an activity. For example, they may drift into sleep while grooming. 

Being too tired to draw their paws back, the paws freeze over their face.

cat covering eyes

4. Comfort

It's well known that every human has their favorite sleeping position. 

By favorite, we mean the one that gives them maximum comfort and allows for deep and peaceful sleep. 

Some love napping on the belly, others adore slumbering on the side, and others prefer curling in the fetal position. Cats aren't different from us in this respect. They also have a favorite sleeping position in which they feel most comfortable. 

Some take the loaf position, others lay sideways, others curl up and cover their face with paws and tail.

5. Noise

Just like light, noise is a great obstacle to sleeping.

In a similar way to covering eyes, cats wrap their paws or tail over their ears to minimize the noise that enters them. 

Minimize is the word here because blocking out the ambient noise completely is basically impossible due to the cat's acute sense of hearing which catches even the sound of a moving mouse at the opposite end of the room.

It's unclear if faint sounds contribute to better sleep in cats as they do in humans.

What is clear, though, is that too much ambient noise taking a cat's highly sensitive ears by assault is a big impediment to a peaceful and comfortable sleep.

The cat has no other choice than to place its paws and tail over its radar-like ears to create a barrier with the noisy environment.

Why Do Cats Cover Their Face When They Sleep? The Verdict

So, why do cats cover their face when they sleep?

As you can see, there are several reasons why your cat curls up and wraps its paws over its face while sleeping. 

While it may seem like it struggles with some pain, there are other considerations behind this posture.

Your cat takes it to retain body heat, block out light and noise and protect its face from a potential enemy attack. 

If you see your feline taking this position, try to reduce the noise in the house (turn the music down, talk more quietly, close the window), and turn off the light where the pet is sleeping. 

This will eliminate a good deal of discomfort and allow for a deeper sleep. 

Also, if the cat curls up in a ball, it means it's cold. Invite it to sleep in your warm and cozy bed or get it a cat bed with a heating pad.

About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.