Let’s face it, cats can be strange. You may have caught sight of your cat bouncing off the walls, rubbing their head on your leg, or even standing with their mouth wide open. It is even common to see cats covering their faces with their paws while sleeping. This admittedly cute gesture often elicits giggles but it is worth exploring the reasons for this behavior.
Whether you’ve just adopted a new kitten or you’re the proud owner of a world-weary, senior cat, one thing that’s for certain is that all cats sleep a lot. They average 15 hours a day and this can even rise to 20 in some cases. Cats are crepuscular creatures, meaning they prefer to do their roaming during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. Their incredible vision is well suited to finding and capturing prey in the low light of the setting or rising sun, but this also uses a lot of energy.
When your cat lies with their head up and eyes partially closed, with ears twitching every now and then, they’re basically half-asleep — or catnapping. During this state they are still alert to any predators and prey, and can be ready to turn on the aggression if they’re in danger. However, cats are like humans in that they go through REM and fall into a deeper sleep. It’s in this state where they might even have dreams, and are often found curled up, covering their eyes with their paws.
Why do cats cover their eyes when they sleep?
There are a variety of reasons why your cat might prefer sleeping this way.
Sense of security
Cats are both predators and prey, and they’re hardwired to seek out sleeping places where they feel safe. This means before napping they may find a vantage point somewhere high up, or they might even bury their head in a basket of laundry to help give them a sense of security. Either way, they know their pretty faces are also their most vulnerable point, so it makes sense that covering them helps them feel more secure.
Blocking out the light
While cats are drawn to the heat, the problem with snoozing in the warm sun is how to keep the bright light out of your eyes. Thankfully your cat has figured out they can use their paws or tail to block out the sun. When trying to sleep during the day, it seems many cats prefer blackout curtains, just like some humans do.
Another one you might be able to relate to. We all know there are a variety of sleeping positions and some of them just feel more comfortable. Likewise, you may have a cat that curls up like a croissant, or maybe it reclines in a belly-up position. For some cats, wrapping one or both paws around their face is simply a comfortable way of dealing with the placement of their paws while in a deep sleep.
Keeping their nose warm
Retaining body heat is incredibly important for all animals, and curling up in a ball is the best way for your cat to do this. During those winter months you may notice your cat curling up more and more, and this may be accompanied by them putting their paws up. This action helps them to keep their little noses warm.
Cats are eager to keep their coats clean as this helps to keep their fur warm and healthy. It can be exhausting work spending all that time grooming, especially when the urge to nap overtakes their work in progress. Sometimes the job doesn’t get done and the cat starts to fall asleep while cleaning their face with a paw, and so that’s the position which they sleep in. While grooming is an important part of a cat’s life, it’s important to keep an eye on your cat when they are touching their face with their paws to make sure they aren’t itching it as a result of allergies.
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