6 Surprising Reasons Your Cat Sleeps Pressed Against You

A veterinary nurse explains the three reasons your cat sleeps pressed up against you.

Updated March 10, 2023
Ginger cat and her owner asleep on the sofa at home

Some cats like their space while snoozing, whereas others want to sleep pressed right up against you. If your cat cozies up next to you whenever they want to nap, they could be seeking safety and comfort, or something more. Use other clues to decipher why your cat sleeps like this and whether it's something you should be concerned about.

Figuring Out Why Cats Sleep Pressed Up to You

No matter how many cat beds you place around the house, your cat always finds you and presses their furry little body up against your leg or side while they sleep. Sound familiar? There are six main reasons your cat might choose this sleeping position.

1. They're Seeking Safety

Most multi-pet households have a loose hierarchical structure where one or a few pets are dominant "leaders," and the others are lower on the social ladder. Your cat may sleep pressed against you as a way to seek security. They know you're the boss of the home and that you won't allow the others to pick on them. So, instead of sleeping in a place where they're at risk of conflict, they choose to be next to you.

2. They're Expressing Love and Trust

Even though cats often act aloof and even standoffish, they form very strong bonds with their owners. If your cat is seeking you out to lie with you, they are showing how much they trust you. Sharing a bed and being vulnerable around you are your cat's way of telling you they love you.

3. They're Stealing Your Body Warmth

Have you noticed cats love being warm? When they're not soaking up rays of sunshine or sitting on your warm laptop, you can find them pressed up against your body. Of course, you're not as warm as a cat (their internal body temp is a toasty 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit), but you're still a lot warmer than most items and surfaces in the house.

Man and cat asleep in bed

4. You're Just Plain Comfortable

Kittens grow up in a litter, where they always have one or a few siblings to sleep with. Cuddling up next to you could be a source of comfort for your cat. This is often the case if you don't have any other pets in the house or your cat isn't close to their housemates.

5. They're Marking You as Theirs

Cats can be territorial, as much with their people as their favorite spot in the house. Does your cat gently knead you while they lie pressed against you? Cats have scent glands in their paws, and when they press their paws against you, they're rubbing some of their scent onto you.

6. They're Feeling Stressed Out

If your cat is anxious or nervous about something, they might want to sleep pressed against you to help soothe themselves. You're a calming, stable influence in your cat's life, and you make them feel better when the stress gets to be too much for them.

How to Tell Why Your Cat Is Sleeping On You

Figuring out why your cat sleeps pressed against you requires that you have some idea what's going on in their furry heads. Look for clues in their body language and behavior. If your cat seems nervous or skittish, they're probably seeking reassurance and protection from you. If your cat is kneading you constantly while they purr loudly, they're letting you (and everyone else) know who you belong to.

However, if your cat curls up against you and immediately nods off, it probably just means they feel comfortable next to you. Does your cat seem to be relaxed and drowsy? If so, they're just showing you they love you and trust you. On a cold night, they're probably looking for warmth and general comfort. Watch for the signs, and your cat will tell you why they're getting so close at bedtime.

Need to Know

Older cats may experience changes in their sleep patterns and even experience sleep disturbances. This might be a sign of something more serious, such as feline cognitive dysfunction, which can develop with age.

Is It OK to Let Your Cat Sleep On You?

Unless your cat is bothering you or causing a disturbance to your sleep, it's OK to let them sleep pressed against you. It's comfortable to know you share such a close bond with your cat, and having them purr softly next to you is almost like a magic sleep cure if you're having trouble winding down.

However, there are good reasons not to let your cat sleep with you if you feel like you need an excuse to kick your cat out of bed. Allowing any animals into your bed means you risk bringing dirt, cat hair, debris, or even fleas and other parasites under your covers. This may not be a deal breaker for you, but it is something to consider.

Also, many cat owners worry they might roll over in the night and injure their delicate cat. Most of the time, cats are so agile and alert - yes, even when they're sleeping - that injuries are relatively rare. However, there is some risk, however small. If you still decide to let them press up against you at bedtime, just know that it will probably be OK.

When Should You Be Worried?

As long as your cat isn't acting out, scratching you in your sleep, or showing signs they are in pain or distress, you shouldn't have to worry too much. Red flags include sudden changes in behavior and disruptive actions. If your cat normally doesn't like to cuddle, but suddenly insists on lying pressed up against you, they might be trying to tell you they are stressed out or even in pain.

Your cat might also be acting out. If they're bothering you, begging for food in the middle of the night, or running around suddenly, you might be dealing with behavioral issues. Consider taking your cat to the vet if you think they might be in pain or if you suspect something is wrong. Alternatively, if your cat is being pushy and their bothering you by insisting on sleeping with you, it might be a good idea to reach out to a cat behaviorist to figure out what's going on.

Pay Attention to Sudden Changes in Sleeping Location

If your cat never slept next to you before and now suddenly presses up against you, something might be up. Cats show increased affection for several reasons, including stress or illness. Have your cat examined to rule out any physical reasons for their new sleeping position, then address possible behavioral ones. Be mindful of what is going on in the environment. Maybe another cat in the home is picking on your kitty, which could force them to seek out safer spaces. But if sleeping like this is something your cat does regularly, enjoy the warm bonding time together.

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6 Surprising Reasons Your Cat Sleeps Pressed Against You