silvergrey tabby cat covering their face whilst sleeping

Why Do Cats Cover Their Face When They Sleep?

A sleeping cat that feels comfortable and secure can be a source of amusement to a cat guardian – the number of different positions and contortions they can go through certainly put our own sleeping habits into context and can often be amusing to see! Sleeping on their backs with legs up, covering their faces with their paws, bending and curling….Do these sleep positions actually have any meaning or are they just a relaxed and comfortable cat luxuriating in blissful relaxation?

One of the strangest sleeping positions is burying the face in the paws or covering the eyes with the paws – what is going on here? Here we check out the possible answers…

close up portrait of orange tabby cat sleeping in sphynx pose with head down and paws covering eyes

Why Do Cats Cover Their Face When They Sleep?

Have you seen those photos of cats sleeping with their paws in their face or seen your own cat covering its eyes when it sleeps and thought – awww that is so cute! You probably didn’t give it much more thought, but have you ever wondered why do cats cover their face when they sleep?

I have given this some thought – it seems to be a vulnerable position for a cat to lie in. And cats don’t go into vulnerable positions unless they feel really really safe or there is a real good reason for the vulnerable activity!

I have read some of the suggestions on the net as to why cats cover their faces and frankly, some suggestions seem real fanciful – they do it because they are overtired! They do it because they want to keep their nose warm – except they usually cover their eyes, not their nose! They do it to feel more secure – really, they couldn’t find somewhere more secure to sleep instead?

tabby cat lying on back on a blanket covered chair with paw covering eyes

Oftentimes the most obvious answer is the correct answer. Cats sleep for 12-16 hours a day. That means for some of their sleep time they are trying to sleep in broad daylight. If you work shifts you know the problem with that – there is too much daylight to get a decent sleep! Same for your cat – daylight sleeping is not good quality!

Your cat, when they cover their face when they sleep, is actually trying to block out light so they can get some decent sleep! It makes perfect sense. And then consider this. Have you ever seen your cat cover its eyes in the dark? I bet not! This means all the other reasons people give cannot be right! Surely if it was because your cat was overtired they would be just as likely to be overtired in the dark and do the same eye covering in the dark, no?

Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Face Down?

Cats sleeping face down is another similar phenomenon. It looks like they are covering their eyes but they tilt their whole face into the paws rather than bringing the paws up to cover the eyes. What is going on here?

a tabby cat on a deck balustrade sleeping on its chest with face covered by paws

The chances are that there are three things going on here. First, your cat is possibly trying to shield their eyes as in the last sleeping position discussed. Secondly, they are trying to keep their face warm – which means you might spot them doing this at night, and thirdly they could find this position relaxing as they take the weight of their head off their neck.

I would venture that reasons one and two are most likely. This is probably about blocking out light and retaining heat so you might see this sort of sleeping position in the dark as well as in daytime conditions – if the room is cool or your cat has been outdoors and come in feeling the chill!

If you have an outdoor cat you will have probably noticed that when the weather is cold the paws, ear tips, and nose get a little chilly. This sleeping position, dropping the head into the paws does a good job of warming the face and the front paws up – but does nothing for the ears!

I think you are more likely to see the face-down sleeping position in the winter months both in the day and night time.