While many people think of cats as predators, lurking in wait to pounce on unsuspecting rodents, they are actually prey animals as well. Quite a few animals are higher on the food chain than domestic house cats.
As a prey and predator species, cats are especially vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times to ensure their safety. This instinctual behavior may help explain why your cat chooses to sleep at the foot of your bed (and not just because it’s more comfortable than the floor).
Here we’ll talk about why cats sleep at the foot of the bed.
Why do cats sleep at the foot of the bed?
Although cats are a mysterious species and it’s difficult to understand the reasons behind what they do, here are some reasons why they sleep at the foot of the bed:
- It’s an easily accessible escape route, closest to the door.
- It provides greater visibility up off the floor.
- There’s less disturbance by your feet than by your head and hands.
- There’s more room.
- They like to mark their territory by sleeping with their favorite person.
Why your cat sleeps at the foot of your bed
Besides sneaking into your heart, cats worm their way into the tiniest of spaces—behind the couch, inside a shoebox, or hidden at the back of a closet. Sometimes, though, our feline friends take up much more space than their size implies, such as when you’re trying to share your favorite chair or sprawl across your bed. If your cat is the sort to snuggle up in bed with you, hopefully she curls into a ball rather than stretching out to claim the most space.
Besides the obvious reason of napping in the best seat in the house, why would your cat sleep at the foot of your bed? Here’s a list of potential reasons:
Easily accessible escape route
Although you may want to wrap your purring kitty in your arms for comfort as you sleep, she may not appreciate being trapped. Cats are in the middle of the food chain and still have prey animal instincts. As they’re vulnerable when they sleep, cats choose resting places where they feel safe and secure. By sleeping at the foot of your bed, your cat has a more accessible escape route than bundled up in your arms or blankets.
It’s tough to sneak up on a cat (unless you’re a cucumber)…
Our feline friends are always on high alert and sleep with one eye open, keeping watch for danger. At the foot of your bed, your cat’s range of vision is unimpeded by sleeping bodies, blankets, and pillows. Plus, the foot of the bed often faces the door, allowing your cat to monitor the hallway for disturbances. High atop her perch at the foot of your bed, your cat will guard you as you sleep.
Unless you’re afflicted with restless leg syndrome, your cat may prefer sleeping at the foot of the bed for uninterrupted sleep. If you’re the sort to toss and turn or punch your pillow into shape or flip it to the cool side, your cat is probably not going to want to sleep curled up in the crook of your neck. Your partner may even attest to your midnight arm flails, claiming you throw punches in your sleep.
If that’s the case, it’s no wonder your four-legged friend chooses the bottom half of the bed for a good night’s sleep.
Whether you’re the sort who must sleep on a cloud of pillows, or one who prefers a lone cushion, there’s likely more room at the foot of your bed for a slumbering feline. Besides the pillow pile, your cat has to contend with your head and hands for space, especially if you’re a restless sleeper. If your cat prefers to stretch out rather than curling into a tiny ball of fur, the foot of the bed should have ample room.
Mark their territory
While it’s sometimes difficult to determine whether you own your cat or if your cat owns you, one thing is true—your cat owns your bed and merely allows you to sleep with her. As your cat claims her space while sleeping in your bed, she deposits her scent in her favorite resting area, marking it as her own.
Besides claiming the foot of your bed as her spot, your cat will likely sleep snuggled against the legs of her favorite person. To know your cat’s true feelings, either you or your partner will feel the warmth of your cuddly kitty curled against your feet as she sleeps, marking the lucky recipient as your feline’s favored human.
What are the benefits of allowing your cat to sleep with you?
People who say that dogs are man’s best friend have probably never shared their bed with a Great Dane. Cats are the perfect snuggle buddy at night—no slobbering, no blanket stealing, and no shoving you off the bed. Besides being able to fit on the bed next to your cat, sleeping with your feline friend provides a multitude of benefits.
Cuddling with your kitty releases oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone known for promoting feelings of love and close bonding. Petting your cat also releases dopamine, norepinephrine, and prolactin, other endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are hormones that act as the body’s natural opiates, decreasing pain and stress. As your stress levels decrease, so does your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Snuggling your cat actually makes you healthier.
It’s impressive how much heat a 10-pound ball of fur emits, but we’re thankful for our feline foot warmers on frigid, snowy nights. If your cat chooses to sleep curled around your neck, you may overheat during the summer, but a cat at the foot of the bed is a delight in the winter.
While your cat may be a bit more aloof than a goofy Labrador, she spends her days waiting for you to get home from work, too. Don’t deprive your beloved pet of quality bonding time by kicking her out of your bed when she only gets to snuggle with you for a few hours a day. Rejoice in the fact that your cat wants to be close to you and loves spending time with you.
Anxiety and depression alleviation
Pet ownership is proven to ease anxiety and depression, which makes your cat perfect for the position of your own therapy animal. Although it may not seem like it—especially if the food dish is empty—cats offer unconditional love, which is an excellent reliever of anxiety.
As you snuggle with your cat, you’re likely to hear the rumble of a deep purr as she relaxes. Soon, both of you are soothed to sleep by this raspy lullaby. Many people sleep better with a pet or partner in the bed with them, as they can mimic relaxed breathing and take comfort from the other’s warmth. A purring heat source is ideal for quickly sending you off to sweet dreams.
Safety and security
Cats make the news just as often as dogs regarding saving their families from burning buildings, intruders, or gas leaks. While not considered the most ferocious of pets, rest easy knowing your feline friend has your back as you sleep. She’ll keep one eye open, watching over you and alert for any signs of danger.
What are the downsides of allowing your cat to sleep with you?
Keeping a feline bed buddy isn’t all warm feet and sweet dreams, though. There are a few downsides to sharing your bed with your cat.
All cat owners have been there—it’s 3 a.m. and your cat is starving, even though her bowl is still half-full. She stomps angrily on your face, yowling her displeasure and demanding fresh Fancy Feast. After giving into her terrorist demands, you blearily shuffle back to bed, hoping to catch a few more hours of sleep. Instead, your cat is refueled and ready to play, darting up and down the hallway, leaping on furniture, and clawing up the curtains.
If your cat hasn’t adapted to a human sleeping schedule, you may want to isolate her on the opposite end of your home for a peaceful sleep.
Your cat may also view you as an unmoving target, designed to give nonstop pats and scratches, even though you’re unconscious. She may also think your shifting feet or arms under the blankets are a delectable mouse that needs to be pounced on. If your cat is too rowdy, consider finding her a new resting place so you can get some peaceful shut-eye.
How rowdy is too rowdy? Something like this:
Although cats are known for being pristine, fussy animals who are concerned about hygiene, they can still transmit a variety of diseases. Cats have been known to pass along the following diseases and parasites:
- Cat scratch disease
For more information regarding these diseases and the symptoms they cause in people, check out this article from Cornell University.
Ensure your cat remains disease-free by scheduling regular visits with your veterinarian to stay up to date on vaccinations, deworming, and parasite prevention.
Have you ever had a cat sound asleep on your lap, napping contentedly without a care in the world? Then, a loud noise from the television startles her awake, making her leap from your lap, but not before digging in her claws for traction.
Sharing a bed with your cat may have the same consequences. While sleeping, you may nudge her awake with your foot or roll over on her by accident, leading to a bite or scratch as she startles into wakefulness. Take special precautions if your cat likes to sleep by your unprotected face and neck by keeping her nails trimmed or investing in nail caps.
Where should your cat sleep?
Although you may have a spot you’d like your cat to sleep, she may not agree. If you want your cat to slumber curled up next to you in bed, keep her confined to your bedroom at night, tempting her with treats. Otherwise, you can place a cozy bed in a climbing tower, create a nest on a chair, or build a comfortable sleeping area in another part of your house if you want to sleep undisturbed.
How to teach your cat to sleep in your bed
To train your cat to stay in bed and cuddle with you through the night takes perseverance and patience. Cats are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. They experience brief bursts of activity, followed by long periods of rest. This instinct is the reason behind the feline happy hour of 3 to 4 in the morning when they seem to be at their most active.
If you’d like to make your cat a peaceful bed companion, follow these steps:
- Burn off your cat’s energy during the day to tire her out.
- Schedule an intense play session right before bedtime, slowly winding down to relax during the last few minutes.
- Feed your cat before bed, as a meal will make her sleepy.
- If your cat has a favorite cozy bed, place it in your bed to acclimate her to resting there.
- Create a positive association with your bed by placing treats and toys on it.
- Once your cat is comfortable hopping up on your bed, avoid using treats, otherwise your cat will constantly paw at you for snacks.
- Avoid giving into your cat’s demands for attention or food in the middle of the night, or she will quickly learn she can wake you up and get what she wants.
With enough patience and effort, you can have your feline friend resting peacefully all night with you, or in her own special bed in your room like this 🙂
Let us know in the comments below: what’s your cat’s favorite spot to sleep?