Cats spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping, so it’s no surprise that they can engage in some quirky behaviors while they doze. Whether they’re curled up or sprawled out, cats look pretty cute when they sleep. We particularly love when they snooze with their paws covering their faces — it doesn’t get cozier than that! It’s a charming position, to be sure, but we’ve often wondered why do cats cover their face when they sleep, anyway? Read on to learn the real reasons, according to the pros. (Spoiler: It’s not just about looking adorable!)
1. They’re blocking out sunlight
Cats love curling up in a sunny spot, but too much sun can be detrimental to getting a good sleep. “Cats have amazing vision, which allows them to use small amounts of light to see objects well at night,” says Dr. Grant Little, a Bennington, Nebraska-based veterinarian and expert for JustAnswer. “This also makes them more reactive during the day, so in order to sleep easier, they will often cover their face to block the light coming into their eyes,” he adds, noting that it’s widely believed that this is the most likely reason for the behavior. Turns out those fuzzy little paws can function similarly to a sleep mask!
2. They’re making themselves comfortable
When a cat covers their face while sleeping it’s downright cozy. “Cats covering their eyes is like a functional ‘do not disturb’ sign,” says Stephen Quandt, a certified cat behaviorist in New York City. The position “gives a sense of security. And it’s comfortable!” he adds. When cats are in this position, they’re usually curled up and compact, so the paws on the face make them feel even more comfy and content.
3. They’re staying warm
Cats may be fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get cold! “When cats cover their face, their breath blows on their arms and paws and they keep warm air closer to them,” says Dr. Little. It’s also important for cats to regulate their body temperature, which you’ve likely observed if your cat’s ever perched on the radiator or ran into the fridge. “Curling up into a ball, tail wrapping and face covering all help them conserve body temperature,” notes Quandt.
4. They’re protecting their whiskers
A cat also may keep her face covered as a protective measure. “Cats are extremely adept in using their whiskers. They often use them to give them clues about the environment around them and objects they are touching, and they can also be used for communication,” says Dr. Little. “Because their whiskers are so sensitive, it’s possible that cats cover their faces to block things from touching them and causing sensory overload as they are trying to sleep.” He adds that this kind of behavior can also be found in wildcats.
In addition to protecting their whiskers, cats also need to protect their eyes. “Cats are both predators and prey, and for that reason they need to protect themselves,” says Quandt. “Cats cover their eyes to protect this very vulnerable part of the body not just from a sneak attack but also from dust and other irritants.”
Cats covering their faces while sleeping may well be one of their most relatable behaviors. After all, don’t we all want to stay warm, cozy and protected from the outside world while we’re getting some much-needed rest?
Read on for more cozy cat behaviors!