Why do my cats choose to sleep at the foot of the bed? If you’re a fellow cat owner like me, who loves sleeping with your cat or just a curious soul, asking the same question, I’m glad to know that I’m not alone.
So why do cats sleep at the foot of the bed? It’s in their nature. A cat’s primal instinct is to always be aware of its surroundings. Cats need to feel safe when their most vulnerable, and they’re most vulnerable when they’re asleep. Naturally, you and the foot of the bed make the safest place for your cat to doze off while keeping tabs on the room.
After a thorough cat-investigation, I’ve gathered 6 reasons on why cats prefer to sleep at the foot of the bed.
Let’s get into it!
Cats are unique companions and, while no cat is the same, they all share the same instincts. These instincts are at the core of their personality. It’s a survival mechanism that has kept them alive for thousands of years. Before you decide to bring a kitten or a grown cat into your house perhaps it’s important to know how these instincts may manifest themselves. Especially if you’re going to share your bed with your feline companion.
Cats are naturally territorial. This behavior helps them understand their surroundings in order to feel safe. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals “A cat’s perceived territory could be the entire house or part of it, the yard, the block or the neighborhood”. So, it comes as no surprise that they see your bed as just another territory that they could conquer.
Scent is how cats mark their territory. When sleeping in your bed, your furry companion deposits its own sent, marking the bed as its own. Cats do this by rubbing themselves against the covers and kneading the spot they’re about to sleep on. You may even notice your cat doing that specifically on freshly clean sheets.
All cats, domestic or not, spend most of their day sleeping. Studies have shown that a domestic cat can sleep 16 hours a day on average. Throughout the day we might spot our cats snoozing away on the couch, a bookcase shelf, or inside a box. Most of these places have one thing in common, they provide a sense of safety. The bed is no different!
Cats are infamous for their predatory nature, but people tend to forget that while a cat is a predator they’re also prey. Given how vulnerable cats are when asleep, it’s only natural that they’ll look for the safest place around the house.
If you find your cat sleeping soundly, legs up in the air or with their back against your feet, well done! This is a sign that they trust you! Your cat loves feeling protected, but by sleeping next to you your cat is also protecting you in return. This is one of the many ways your cat can show her love for you. After all, it’s not unheard of cat’s rescuing their owners from danger, like this family in the northwestern Alberta community of Clairmont, who escaped a house fire after their cat woke them up.
The foot of the bed is probably the most tactical position in the whole bedroom. And since cats hate being cornered, they prefer sleeping somewhere with multiple escape routes. In most cases, the bottom of the bed faces the door making it easy for a cat to reach with just a few hops.
Open spaces also help a cat feel safer, so sleeping at the foot of the bed or on the edge, means they have more room to stretch or escape if your restless leg syndrome becomes too bothersome.
Cats are renowned for their love of warm places. By observing your cat metamorphosis from a curled fur ball to a long macaroni, you could basically determine your house’s temperature! The reason your cat may spend hours on end laying beneath the morning sun or next to scolding hot radiators, it’s because they are conserving energy. By staying warm your cat saves that extra energy for hunting, fighting, and defending their territory instead.
While cats may love to cuddle and keep warm, they also don’t want to overheat. Feet tend to be much cooler than the rest of the body, so your cat might prefer the cooler side of the bed. If you use a heating pad for your feet that also might be the reason your feline friend prefers that spot.
Because of the changes in temperature don’t be surprised if your cat is actually moving around you during the night. You might find them between your legs for extra coziness or even on your chest for that warm breath of yours. No matter how hot or cool you might be, your cat will forever seek ways to be close to you.
Cats tend to snuggle with their humans to show and receive affection, as well as for the warmth of their bodies. This study by Gourkow et al (2014) has shown that displays of affection keep our cats happy and healthy, so, it’s no wonder that cats seek our comfort in bed as well.
Winter is the time when cats need to keep warm the most and preserve their energy. Since our upper body produces a lot of heat, it’s quite possible that you’ll end up sharing your pillow with your cat. Since I tend to run cold (especially at night) I’ve created quite the cuddle paradise for me and my cats with this very handy mattress warming pad (Amazon link). It’s definitely kitty approved!
Most cats, if not all, want comfort and space especially when it comes to sleeping. Living with two cats has taught me that! And despite their seemingly small size, they still take up most of my bed.
Usually, the foot of the bed has more space for cats to move around, especially if your feet can’t even reach the bottom of it. So, it’s only logical that this particular spot is favored by your cat. It’s spacy enough to give them room to stretch and at the same time, they’re close to you.
Apparently cats have similar sleeping patterns to humans, except when they fall into deep sleep their senses are still sharp, allowing them to spring into action when necessary. This means that the last thing your cat wants is being disturbed. So, if you’re a restless sleeper, this might be the reason your cat chooses to sleep at your feet.
Similarly, because cats tend to wake up multiple times during the night to satisfy their basic needs, sleeping at the foot of the bed allows them a quick exit without disturbing you.
Even if you haven’t seen Lord of the Rings, you probably remember the all-seeing blazing eye. Well, cats are not too different, when it comes to sleeping. Cats prefer sleeping somewhere where they can have better visibility over the room and specifically the door. Naturally, the foot of the bed offers them this vantage point.
While the possibility of stubbing your toe against furniture during the night is pretty high, for a cat its highly unlikely. Because cats are crepuscular creatures, they have great night vision. They’re usually most active at dawn and dusk, so the foot of the bed is the best place if they want to stay alert. It’s the perfect location for a cat to observe the door for possible intruders, unbothered by the pillows, blankets, and their human on the top side.
Despite the thousands of cat videos out there, there’s still this misconception, labeling cats as cold and manipulative creatures with no feelings. Of course, all cat owners know that this isn’t true! Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a cat behaviorist and author of several books on cat behavior, will also is here to reassure you that cats are well capable of showing love and affection.
Sleeping at the foot of your bed, close to you, is one of the many signs of trust and love a cat can show you. They might display it by kneading their sleeping spot or rub against your feet beneath the covers. These sweet moments show how much your feline companion loves being around you, especially while they’re taking a nap.
If you share your bed with your significant other, you might also notice who does the cat prefers as their sleeping buddy. In that case, the bottom of the bed might also be their first choice because of the extra space, and because they can watch over you and protect you.
If you’re a heavy sleeper, then you probably haven’t noticed if your cat is pulling an all-nighter right next to you, or if your cat is crying into the moonlight while running up and down the house. You’ll be even less suspicious of such activity if you find your cat falling asleep and waking up at the foot of your bed every day.
Since cats are nocturnal animals by nature, there’s a great possibility that your feline friend roams around your house during the night. Also known as the “midnight crazies”, this behavior is based on their hunting instincts. According to Sandy Myers, an animal behavior consultant from Narnia Pet Behavior Clinic in Naperville, “Cats in the wild are active at times when rodents come out, typically after dark,” she also states that “A cat naturally wants to spend her evenings hunting and playing predator games, even if she is a well-fed house pet.”
Even though cats tend to be more active at dusk and dawn, domesticated cats usually adapt to sleeping the same hours as their owners, even if it’s not for the whole night. You might’ve seen all these videos of cats going about their “night-business”, while their owners are sleeping, completely oblivious to it.
If you hear your cat crying during the night, it might be because they want to play with you. Cats are usually left alone all day, while their humans are away working. By the time you’re back home, it might be quite late. This leaves little time for the interaction, necessary to your cat’s happiness. A trick to keeping your cat happy and avoiding nighttime crying is to play with your cat before you go to sleep. This may keep your cat active when you want it to be, fit, and of course sleepy during the night.
Should you sleep with your cat? The pros and cons
Now that we’ve uncovered the various reasons why cats love sleeping at the foot of the bed it’s time to talk about the pros and cons of sharing your bed with your cat. Some studies suggest that there could be a positive effect on both you and your cat, while others present a few drawbacks. Here are a few things you’ll need to consider when sharing your bed with your feline companion:
If you love falling asleep to the sound of your cat’s purring, know that you’re not alone. Seemingly two-thirds of cat owners share their bed with their furry familiars. Brown et. al (2018) and Wells (2009) studies suggest that while there was no physical improvement, the participants made positive comments on how beneficial pet ownership was for them mentally. Sleeping with their pets, led to a stronger sense of companionship, emotional bonding, and reduced stress.
Since stress might often result in bad quality sleep, it comes as no surprise that cat owners find the presence of their cats soothing. Multiple studies have shown that cuddling with a cat can release oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone. Petting your feline companion can also release dopamine and other endorphins in the brain, which promote feelings of love and of close bonding. These hormones help your body feel relaxed, resulting in better sleep and they also decrease the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
While snuggling and sleeping with your cat you produce hormones that promote trust. It creates a special kind of bonding between the two of you when you’re both most vulnerable. And let’s not forget that a cat’s purr promotes healing and it’s a sign of happiness. This is why the cat’s purr when they’re either happy or injured.
Sleeping with a cat can be the best feeling in the world, and while the majority of cat owners share their bedroom with their pets, some prefer to keep their bed off-limits. Some researchers support this decision by claiming that cats might be the reason we’re not getting enough sleep.
An Australian study from 2014, showed that it took longer for pet owners to fall asleep and that they woke up more tired. Some pets had the tendency of waking up their owner in the middle of the night. A similar study published in 2009 couldn’t prove a correlation between pet ownership and chronic fatigue syndrome. Nonetheless, it showed that sleeping with pets might lead to sleep disturbance. In both studies, most participants argued that social support and interaction was more important, and was mentally beneficial.
Sleeping with pets might also include parasites and diseases, which cats and dogs could spread, especially if they were allowed outside of the house. Germs that can spread from an animal to a human are called Zoonotic diseases. The CDC stated that even though “Zoonotic infections acquired by sleeping with a pet are uncommon,” they also pointed out that, “to reduce such risks, pet owners should seek regular veterinary care for their pets.”
Lastly, it might be better to avoid letting your cat on your bed altogether if you have even the mildest allergy to your cat’s dandruff. The best solution to avoid irritation of the skin is by changing the sheets regularly. Because cats tend to shed quite a lot, perhaps you could also purchase pet-hair resistant bedding to keep the fur away from your bedsheets!
Cats are truly the best snuggle buddies! Either they sleep at the foot of the bed or on our faces we still can’t get enough of them. Who knew such small creatures could lure us into bed with their soft purrs and warmth? Though, my cats lure me out, by taking up more than the foot of the bed by the time I’m asleep.
Share your stories and experiences do your cats sleep at the foot of the bed? Do they watch over you or do you watch over them?