Why Does My Cat Sleep On My Neck?


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cat sleeping on a person's neck

Cats sleep in the weirdest places and your neck is no exception. Kittens and older cats both enjoy curling up right under your head for snuggles. Even though it’s incredibly cute, it isn’t always the most comfortable place for your cat to sleep.

So, why does your cat like to sleep on your neck? 

Cats sleep on a person’s neck for a number of reasons from comfort and security to showing affection and bonding. Some cats even snuggle up to mark their territory while others may just enjoy the extra warmth and the smell of your breath! 

We’ll take a closer look at these reasons below and help you understand which explanation best applies to your feline friend!

Reason 1: Security

Even though household cats are domesticated animals, they still share instincts with their once wild ancestors. They prefer to sleep in several short spurts through a 24-hour period, rather than the single, solid chunk of sleep that most people get. This means when your cat curls up on your chest for a nap, they do it to feel safe! 

Cats are most vulnerable when they are sleeping. Even then they remain alert, perking up their ears when they hear a sudden noise. This is because cats in the wild are always ready to fight off a predator or catch some prey. You can take comfort in knowing that your cat is snuggling up to your neck because she trusts you to keep her safe when she’s most vulnerable. 

Reason 2: Warmth and Comfort

Think back to the last time you saw your cat taking a nap. They were probably curled up in a laundry hamper, in front of a heater, or basking in the sunshine. You may have even seen them sleeping on their back with their belly completely exposed just to soak up more rays! Cats love warmth, so it’s no surprise they choose to curl up on your neck for a nap. 

Your head and neck are some of the warmest parts of your body, especially at night when the rest of your body is under the blanket. Plus, it’s possibly the biggest area of exposed skin that they can get close to. Since a cat’s temperature usually ranges around 102 degrees Fahrenheit, the heat escaping from your head and neck area keep them warm at night. 

Your cat may also snuggle up to your neck because it smells like you, which is comforting. If they snuggle up to your neck during the day, it may also be because your head/neck are more likely to remain stationary than your arms and legs. 

Reason 3: Territorial Reasons

Cats have scent glands on the pads of their paws, cheeks, forehead, tail, and flanks, as well as near their butt. Whether it’s headbutting your hand or kneading and nibbling on items around the house, cats use their scent marking tools in different ways. 

Simply sleeping on your neck allows your cat to market their territory (AKA, you) and communicate to other cats or animals that you belong to him. 

The scent that cats secrete are full of short-chain fatty acids and have a unique composition. The odor is so unique that it even varies from cat to cat so this isn’t just for show. 

Cats are naturally territorial but some may be even more so in a multicast household where they need to compete for more resources like cat trees, bowls, toys and of course you!

Reason 4: Your Kitty Could BeStruggling with Separation Anxiety

Even though cats don’t have the same social tendencies or history that dogs do, our domesticated cats still enjoy the companionship of humans. If you spend a lot of time out of the house during the day, your cat might be curling up on your neck because they miss you. Separation anxiety is rare, however, but if your cat seems like they cannot leave you alone or they are showing signs of stress when you leave, it may be something to consider. 

A feline with separation anxiety may exhibit negative behaviors when you aren’t home, like vocalizing, destroying things, spraying, or other bad habits. She also may not eat or drink while you are away. If your cat is suffering from separation anxiety, there are some steps that you can take to help her relax. Check out this helpful video on the topic. 

Reason 5: They Want to Bond with You

When cats live with other felines, they participate in an activity called “pillowing” before bed. Basically, this just means they snuggle up to another cat and use them as a pillow. It’s cute, comfortable for cats, and appropriately named!

But pillowing isn’t the only technique cats use to connect with humans and other animals. Cats that headbutt or even lick you before sleeping on your neck clearly see you as a close companion. You can even see some cats show this behavior toward their canine companions, too!

Even if your cat isn’t pillowing, they may just want to be near you. This is especially true for people who are busy during the day. Bedtime is probably the best time for your cat to get your attention and catch up on snuggles. 

Reason 6: They Can Feel and Smell Your Breath 

Cats rely on their noses for a lot. In fact, they rely on their noses so much that they have an incredible 200 million scent receptors, compared to the five million that humans have. 

Your cat might lay on your neck because they smell something on your breath. This might be whatever you had for dinner, or the smell of your toothpaste if it’s bedtime. If it’s a smell your cat isn’t used to, it’s only natural that they’re going to be curious! 

Another reason they may lay on your neck is because of your breathing patterns. The movements of your chest can be soothing for a cat. It can even help induce a state of relaxation, especially when you have deeper, slower breaths like you do while sleeping. 

Why Does My Cat Sit on My Neck?

While sleeping is more about comfort, a cat that sits on your neck wants your attention or needs something. Take stock of your kitty’s needs for a second. Did you remember to check their food and water bowls before bed? Is the litter box up to your cat’s standards? 

If your cat doesn’t need anything, they probably just want your attention. This is especially likely if you’ve been outside of the house, or if you’re in the middle of something. 

Why Does My Kitten Sleep on My Neck? 

Kittens usually snuggle on your neck because it gives them the sense of security they had in the womb. The pulsing of your carotid artery reminds them of their mother’s heartbeat and your breathing reminds them of purring. 

Kittens may also sleep on your neck to bond with you. Before you bring them home, most kittens have the companionship of their mother and their litter mates. Snuggling up next to you helps them feel less alone. 

Should I Stop My Kitten from Sleeping on My Neck? 

Let’s face it. Letting your kitten curl up on your neck is insanely cute. Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your feline companion! 

The downside is that one day, that cute little ball of fluff isn’t going to be so little anymore. Kittens that are allowed to sleep on your neck become adult cats with the same habit. Whether you allow it or not depends on your personal preference.  

Also, don’t let your kitten sleep on your neck while you’re asleep. People change positions while they’re sleeping and you could hurt or even suffocate them, especially since they’re so small. 

Should I Worry About My Cat Sleeping on My Neck? 

The only time you should worry is if snuggling up to your neck isn’t part of your kitty’s bedtime routine. Otherwise, it’s usually a sign that your cat feels safe and secure when you’re around! 

Your kitty’s comfort aside, there are a few risks of your cat sleeping on your neck. It’s really a matter of preference, but here are the pros and cons of letting your cat sleep on you. 

Advantages of Sleeping with Your Cat

Sleeping with your kitty provides stress relief for you and them. When you pet an animal like a cat or dog, the brain releases the happy chemical, oxytocin. Oxytocin reduces stress levels, which makes you feel more content. It can also help you get a better night of sleep! 

Interestingly, cats also experience oxytocin release when they interact with us!

Some other advantages include the warmth and coziness that comes from snuggling with a cat. It’s also a great opportunity for bonding, especially if you are usually busy during the day. 

Disadvantages of Sleeping with Your Cat

If you are a light sleeper, sleeping with your cat could make it harder for you to get a full night of rest. Most cats do not sleep all night long. It also might be an issue if they try to wake you. 

Other things to consider are your own comfort and hygiene. As your cat gets older, having fur in your face or a heavy weight on your neck might be uncomfortable. Additionally, some cats may carry dust or dander in their fur or even cat litter on their paws. 

How to Deter Your Cat from Sleeping on Your Neck

If you’d rather your cat doesn’t sleep on your neck, one of the easiest solutions is closing your door at night. To stop your kitty from yowling outside your bedroom, be sure to give plenty of love and affection before bed. You can also play with them to help them release excess energy and settle down. Make this play time part of a bedtime routine that helps keep your cat on your schedule. 

It can also be helpful to give your cat their own bed to sleep in. Before buying a bed, take note of whether your cat prefers stretching out or curling up at night. This will help you decide how big of a bed they need. You’ll also want to be sure to place this somewhere warm. 

Something else that encourages your cat to sleep in their bed is placing a T-shirt or another piece of clothing you’ve worn inside. If the bed smells like you instead of something unfamiliar, they’re more likely to snuggle up in it. 

Closing Thoughts

There are a lot of reasons that your cat might sleep on your neck. He probably feels comfortable and safe curled up next to you. Plus, it’s a great chance to bond for kitties that don’t get a lot of attention from their owners during the day. 

For kittens, this type of bonding reminds them of being with their mother. It also helps them feel a little less lonely, particularly if they recently left their litter. 

There are pros and cons to letting your cat sleep on your neck. As long as they aren’t suffocating you, there’s no reason you can’t let an adult cat in your bed at night. If you do want to deter the behavior, there are also several steps you can take. 

What reason do you think your cat is snuggling up next to you? Feel free to leave some comments or feedback below. 

Logan M.

Logan has always loved everything about cats! Growing up with a family full of pets and a lifelong passion for animals he pursued work in the veterinary industry. After 10 years, he started BetterWithCats.net to help cat owners learn more about their feline friends.

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