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Why Do Cats Cover Their Faces When They Sleep?

Cats sleep in all kinds of weird positions. They curl up, they spread out all fours, sleep under the covers, sleep under beds, on window sills, and in the unlikeliest of places possible. 

They also have this strange tendency to cover their faces with their front paws in mid-sleep. Personally, I call it the “being shy” sleeping position. Why do cats cover their faces while sleeping, and does it actually have anything to do with being shy? 

Why Do Cats Cover Their Faces When They Sleep?

Cats cover their faces when they sleep to keep the light and noise out and to stay warm. It’s a comfortable and snuggly position for them, especially after a nice long stretch. It’s also their way of saying “do not disturb”. 

Cats don’t have the luxury of pulling the duvet over their eyes, ears or noses when they want to feel extra cozy and warm. They also can’t keep any noises or light out any other way. Their paws are all they have, and they are not afraid to use them. 

Plus, they are also extremely cute when they do it. However, they won’t appreciate you giving them a pet while they are covering their face. Since they are trying to drift off into a deeper sleep, it’s best not to disturb them just now. 

It’s Warm and Cozy

Cats prefer to be warm and cozy at all times, especially when sleeping. When they lie still, they lose body heat faster than usual, mostly from their ears, noses and paws. Covering their face with their paws and curling up into a ball helps them retain a lot of that heat. 

You may notice your cat is sleeping with paws over face more often in the wintertime. In the summer, they will likely sleep with their bellies up, trying to stay cool and fresh. 

Snuggling into their own paws is also undoubtedly a comfortable and cozy way to sleep too. Cats will push their noses into your neck, palms, the crooks of your arm and any other place they can reach when sleeping with you. When you are not available, they will use the next best body part available. 

It’s Safe and Tight 

Covering their faces could also be a cat’s way to feel safer. They understand that they are especially vulnerable when sleeping, so may instinctively protect their face. This does not mean domestic cats think they are in some kind of danger. The behavior is a part of their DNA and they can’t just shake it. 

Sleeping with something over their face helps cats relax and feel more protected. They are simply shutting the world out and taking some time for themselves. 

It Keeps the Light Out 

Cats will also use their paws to shut the light out while they are sleeping. Since they sleep at all times of day and night, they may want to take a nap at the brightest part of the day. They may have fallen asleep in the middle of a sun patch and now need to do something about the bright light shining into their eyes. 

Like humans, cats sleep better in the dark. However, since they also prefer to sleep in the warm, you will often catch them sleeping in the sun with their eyes covered. They will usually choose warmth over darkness, especially since they have such a simple way of keeping the light out. 

It Keeps the Noise Out 

Cats also cover their faces to block out some of the sound that may be disturbing their sleep. There are some sounds they won’t be able to block out, and will certainly spring to attention if something bangs, but they can still turn the volume down and sleep better with their paws over their face. 

You’ll know this is the case if you notice your cat’s paws are covering their ears more than their eyes. Close the windows or doors and try to bring the noise level down if you can, to help your feline have a more peaceful slumber.  

It’s Comfier Than It Looks 

We may think sleeping with their paws over their face is not the comfiest position for our cats, but what do we really know? After all, they look completely peaceful and are certainly sleeping very soundly when they do it. It must be perfectly comfortable then. 

Cats are master sleepers and have hundreds of different positions they like to adopt. Paws over face has its practical benefits too, and is certainly among the more popular ones. 

Being a Cat is Exhausting 

Cat life can be quite exhausting. There’s all that running around, keeping an eye on the family, neighborhood watch, making sure nothing unwanted enters the house in those shopping bags you keep leaving around, grooming, sleeping, eating. 

Cats thus sometimes fall asleep mid-grooming. Having just washed their face with their paw, the paw somehow stays in front of the face. It’s also perfectly poised for wakeup time, when the grooming is likely to continue. 

Cats are also prone to stretching mid-sleep, and will often place their paws over their face during the movement. You know the stretch: front paws clasped firmly over head, back paws extended as far as they can go. They will often simply choose to keep the front paws over their eyes afterwards, perhaps too lazy or exhausted to move. 

They Are Marking Their Territory 

If a cat is covering its face with an object or burying it into something, they may also be marking their territory. While they don’t usually tend to do this while sleeping, they may have fallen asleep while they were busy leaving their scent on your furniture or clothes. 

Cats want their home and owner to smell of them at all times. When you wash or clean something, they will go out of their way to re-plant their scent all over it again. You will notice cats rubbing their faces against tables, chairs, your legs, and so on. 

If a cat wakes up and decides it’s time to leave their scent all over the pillow or sofa, for example, they may bury their face in a nook and just stay there, having discovered it’s a great way to keep the sun out and feel extra comfy. 

They Don’t Want to Be Disturbed 

Cats will also place their paws over their face as a “do not disturb” sign. They are trying to tell you and any other pets in the home that they want to be left alone and in peace. Respect their wishes and don’t fuss over them. They are trying to catch up on some sleep. 

This is probably the politest way a cat can ask to be left alone. If you pet them while they are sleeping in this position, they may purr and then bite you, as a way of asking you to leave them be please. 

If only we had a way of sending them the same signal. I don’t know about your cats, but none of mine have ever mastered leaving me alone when I cover my face with the duvet, turn my back on them, or try to tell them in any way that I want to sleep some more. Getting up is not optional.

They Know They Are Cute 

Finally, cats may simply want to appear extra cute for us. They can be quite the people pleasers after all, so their pretend shyness and coyness may be a way of making us fall in love with them even more. 

Not that they are likely all that manipulative. They probably don’t know us that well. 

Typical (and Adorable) Face-Covering Cat-Napping Positions 

There are a couple of cat sleeping positions that pair very well with covering their faces with their paws. 

There’s the crescent face-covered roll. This is probably the most typical sleeping position for cats, resembling a half moon. Cats tend to cover their eyes when sleeping like this to block out the light and to let everyone else know they are busy snoozing. 

There is also the paws-over-face cat loaf. This is a bit more rare, and usually occurs when a cat falls asleep while loafing and uses its paws as a bit of a pillow. 

Some cats favor the paws-over-face side sleep, which is basically a cat lying on its side covering its face. It’s similar to the crescent roll, but the legs are stretched out completely and the cat is positioned in a straight line. 

Sasha also likes the bury my head in your palm position, particularly in front of the TV. 

Wrapping It Up 

Cats will cover their faces for all kinds of reasons: when they want to feel cozy, safe and warm, want to block out the light and the noise, and simply tell everyone around them to leave them alone for a while. 

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