Have you ever woken up to the sight of your cat staring at you? Maybe they were sitting further down the bed, maybe they were on the floor, or perhaps their face was right there next to yours. And they were just: staring.
Why do our cats watch us sleep? Are they bored and want to wake us up, or do they just find it comforting, like watching TV?
Why Does My Cat Watch Me Sleep?
Your cat may be watching you sleep just because they love and want to protect you. They also may need something: food, company, more room on the bed.
Cats are highly intelligent beings, and no matter how well we think we know them, they will always find a way to surprise us with their behavior. Watching us sleep may work in their world like it does in ours: how many times have you lovingly watched over a loved one while they slept?
Of course, our cats also may have ulterior motives, and they may just be anticipating wakeup time to get something out of it, like a treat or playtime. The least likely reason is that they want to hurt you, if that thought has crossed your mind. Despite the proliferation of “is my cat plotting to kill me” memes, let’s not ascribe such sinister motives to them for no reason, shall we?
They Want to Protect You
In the wild, cats are vulnerable while sleeping. And while no danger is present in your home, it seems perfectly logical to them to keep a watchful eye out while you sleep.
They Just Love You
I’m sure you’ve watched someone you love while they slept: parent, child, significant other. In fact, you probably watch your cat while they sleep!
Our cats like sleeping next to us. While they often sleep at the foot of the bed, they will migrate closer to our head in the night. It’s comforting and cuddly, and they just may happen to have their eyes open when we wake up. We’ve probably been moving around for a while, which has roused them already.
They Are Bored
Cats can also get bored at night. Or, they may just genuinely enjoy laying near you and watching the room around them, which includes your sleeping countenance.
Not all cats will wake you up in the middle of the night when they have nothing better to do. Some will try to be really thoughtful and stay as quiet as possible until it’s time to get up. The most noise-free activity they have is watching you sleep.
They Are Anticipating Wakeup Time
If you wake up at the same time every day, your cat probably knows what time the alarm is set, and will be there to anticipate you getting out of bed. They just want to greet you in the morning, and they also probably want breakfast. Also, there is the possibility they want to cash in on the warmth you are about to leave in the bed.
They Are Trying to Wake You Up
Cats are not above waking us up for no reason (or when hungry or bored). Some cats will stare at you in the evening, telling you it’s time to go to bed, while others will stare at you in the morning, trying to wake you up.
There may be some meowing and light face pawing involved as well, depending on how cooperative you are.
They Are Hungry
Hungry cats will also do what they can to wake their owners up. Even if their bowl is still half full, if they have deemed it empty, you may be woken up when those hunger pangs get too much for them.
Leaving dry food out for your cat may prevent this, or simply teaching them that food only arrives at a certain time of day. If you refuse to get up and feed them (provided that you know they have been eating as they should and are not ill), they will stop waking you up when they realize it’s no good.
They Are Anxious
If your cat is anxious for any reason (you have moved recently, they have been alone a lot, or something else has happened to mess up their routine), they may wake you up to feel safer and more comfortable.
In most cases, some cuddling will help calm them down, but if your cat is showing signs of severe anxiety, you may want to take them to a vet or behavior specialist to see how you can help them feel better.
They Are Annoyed
Your cat may also be annoyed and decide to wake you up. Perhaps you’ve left the TV on, forgot to feed them or clean out their litter, or maybe one of their siblings is doing something they shouldn’t.
You’re a Restless Sleeper
If you toss and turn a lot in your sleep, or snore and grind your teeth, your cat will probably be annoyed by it, especially if you are sharing a bed. You may wake up to their eyes boring into you, since you’ve just woken them up from their own pleasant sleep.
Something is Wrong
Your cat may also be trying to tell you something is wrong. In most cases, they will actively try to wake you up to communicate their distress. They may be in pain, or they may have had a hairball vomiting accident in the bathroom and want to let you know about it sooner rather than later.
If your cat doesn’t usually stare at you, but you now find yourself waking up to their eyes close by, make sure they are okay. If you have more pets, make sure they feel safe and aren’t being pestered. If they are also not eating well or showing other symptoms, take them in for a checkup.
You’re Sleeping in Their Spot
If you share your bed with your cat, they may be staring at you because you’ve moved into their personal space. Taking their pillow or rolling into a position they don’t like will likely provoke a stare.
Cats tend to sleep under the covers, so if you’ve moved so that they are no longer comfortable or accidentally uncovered them, you may get a stare or two as well.
They Are Actually Asleep
Cats don’t always completely close their eyes when sleeping. Sometimes their inner eyelids are visible, and sometimes their eyes are just half-closed. If you catch them in this state, especially if you are not fully awake yourself, you may think they are staring at you.
Can You Stop Your Cat From Staring at You While You’re Sleeping?
If you really want to stop your cat staring at you while you sleep, there are some things you can do. However, unless staring is a sign of distress (in which case you need to uncover the reason for it and treat it), there is nothing you need to do about it. Just think of it as something nice to wake up to.
Make Sure They Are Active
Spending quality time with your cat may stop them from staring at you. It will boost their mental health, and improve the bond you share.
Ensure the two of you hunt together as much as possible. This will involve strings or lasers, as well as different kinds of toys or balls.
Let them sit in the window as well, and observe the world around them. It will help them feel less bored and alone.
You can also leave some interactive toys out for them at night, albeit not in the room you sleep in. The more exercise they get both during the day and the night, the more content they will feel letting you get your rest unobserved.
Leave Them Plenty of Food and Water
Make sure your cat has access to food and water at all times. Don’t overfeed them though, and bear their total caloric needs in mind before rationing out their midnight snack.
Pour them fresh water before bed, and make sure both of their bowls are clean.
Don’t Let Them Into the Bedroom
Finally, you can also choose to sleep in separate rooms. This might mean you have to live with a fair amount of meowing and door scratching for a while, but if you persist at it, you can teach your cat to be alone at night.
This can in fact help both of you sleep better, after you get over the initial hurdle.
Wrapping It Up
Don’t be too freaked out to find your cat watching you sleep. Unless you can determine they are trying to tell you something is wrong, let them be their goofy selves.