Why Does My Cat Stare At Me While I Sleep?


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Why Does My Cat Stare At Me While I Sleep

During the nighttime, I’ve viewed my kitties as my protectors ever since I got them, but there are times when I get freaked out finding their shiny eyes twinkle as they watch over me through the darkness of my bedroom.

I’ve wondered if my feline companions are actually watching me sleep, or are they seeing something that I’m not seeing?

Why does my cat stare at me while I sleep? It could be a sign of affection and their effort to reinforce your familial bond. This way they can also monitor your behavior, or they’re showing you that they’re hungry, in need of attention, or they’re just feeling a bit bored. 

If you’ve found your kitty watching you sleep and have asked yourself, why does my cat stare at me while I sleep, then we’re here to solve this mystery for you!

Let’s get to it!

Why Is Your Cat Not Sleeping During The Night?

The first question you might have isn’t why your cat is staring at you but why they’re awake in the first place!? Anyone can have one or two sleepless nights, but with cats, sleep has a very different pattern. So, what happens at night that makes our kitties “lose” their sleep?

Cats Are Nocturnal Animals

It’s important to remember that your kitty’s sleeping patterns may differ drastically from your own, especially if you’re a morning person. This difference has a lot to do with their vision because while we stumble around to get to the toilet in the dark, our cats become even more lithe and unnoticeable at these late hours.

While they might be more shortsighted and their vision blurrier during the day compared to ours, they definitely have the advantage during the darker hours of the day. Our feline companions are crepuscular animals, which means that they’ve got great night vision.

You’ll usually find them awake and most active at dusk and dawn when their vision is at its best. Their eyes are also designed in a way to detect motion even at greater distances. But why do they need this vision superpower you might ask. Well because cats in the wild hunt when it’s dark and their eyesight helps them detect prey, but also be more aware if there are predators nearby.

This talent is what sets your cats’ inner clock to a different rhythm. You might find your kitty spend their day sleeping and during the night they might be roaming around the house and playing. You might even be oblivious to this fact because you’re not awake yourself. Perhaps you heard a cry in another room as proof that while your innocent fluffball is a house cat, they’re also hunters at night.

Why Does My Cat Watch Me Sleep?

Finding your cat looking at you while you’re asleep might’ve been a simple misunderstanding. Your kitty could’ve been settling in after their nighttime activity, thus, waking you up, and subsequentially you ended up locking eyes. But maybe there’s more to this peculiar behavior and perhaps it’s a reoccurring habit of theirs.

1.You And Your Cat Are Bonded

While there are some who will go out of their way to point out that cats can’t have loving emotions for humans, science is here to prove them wrong. Kristyn Vitale, a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State University said that “the majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

Why Does My Cat Watch Me Sleep?

This study showed that cats form bonds similar to dogs and infants and that the human-cat relationship went beyond simply food and shelter. So, it’s not surprising that your kitty will feel safe sleeping next to you.

Being close to you and even establishing eye contact while you’re falling asleep might be their way to communicate their bond to you. It’s even possible that cats might only watch over their favorite cat owner in the house, with whom they’ve established a deeper connection.

2.Your Cat Is Watching Over You

Cats express their love and attention in many different ways. They may lick you, or rub their heads against yours to show us that we’re part of their tribe. According to some studies cats wouldn’t display these behaviors towards humans or their owners if they thought they were inferior. In other words, cats see us as their equal and someone with whom they can establish a close relationship.

If we’re part of their pack then it’s only natural that they’d feel protective of us especially when we’re most vulnerable. So, next time you wonder, why does my cat stare at me while I sleep, then think of them as your guardian angel watching over you.

3.Your Cat Wants To Cuddle

Cats come in a multitude of different personalities and while some might be more reserved, others will demand cuddles and pets nonstop. One of my cats will meow in the middle of the night, usually next to my face until I rub him, and then he’ll fall asleep straight away.

We all lead busy lives and sometimes spending more time with the people and cats in our lives can become a struggle. If you find questions like, why does my cat stare at me while I sleep, keeping you up at night then perhaps it’s a reminder that your kitty needs more love and attention.

Most cats love to be stroked and if you find your cat watching you sleep try to pet them and see if they’re satisfied with the result. In some cases that might be their cue to sleep. Purring and kneading the blankets next to you, could also be signs that petting is what they needed. If they pull away instead or hiss at you, your kitty might be in a different kind of mood, which you might need to look into with a cat behaviorist.

4.Your Cat Is Anxious

While some people think that psychological problems like depression, stress, and anxiety are human issues, that’s not actually true. For cats, a safe environment is very important to keep them happy and help them feel at ease.

Small and perhaps insignificant to us changes could possibly disrupt this feeling of safety. A litterbox that needs changing could cause stress as well as a change in their feeding schedule or the food brand they’re used to. If you’ve moved houses or if you’ve brought another pet to keep your cat company, these are enough reasons to make your kitty feel anxious.

These changes could manifest in an overly attached behavior that cats are quite capable of expressing. You might find your feline companion following you around constantly, with a vocal orchestra of meows as a soundtrack. You might also find your cat sleeping with you to relax and in some cases, they might find eye contact soothing as well. Losing a cat mate with whom they were bonded could also result in those feelings and attention-seeking.

In this case, it’s important to establish your cat’s body language and communication. And while it might be difficult while you’re in a half-sleep state, this observation might help you alleviate your kitty’s anxiety. Make sure they’re not hissing, that their tail isn’t swishing back and forth in anger. If you see your cat looming over, you with an arched back and a tail standing straight up and fluffy then your kitty might feel scared.

It’s essential to find the source of your kitty’s overly attachment and anxiety. A trip to the vet should help you rule out any health issues and they could point you in the right direction regarding your cat’s troubled psyche.

5.Your Cat Is Bored

Your kitty might not be in the mood for an intense playing session, but they might also feel not tired enough to sleep. This in-between zone, with you not being there to give them cuddles, might cause them some form of boredom.

In this case, your cat might be actually staring into space and you happen to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Or you might happen to be your cat’s source of nightly entertainment. Perhaps the noises that you’re making are interesting enough to look at. Of course, there’s always the possibility that your kitty is simply anticipating the moment you wake up so they can demand some playtime without being ignored by your sleepy groan.

6.You’re A Restless Sleeper

I tend to toss and turn in my sleep, which is oftentimes met with a frustrated meow from both of my cats. I’m sure if you’re like me or if you tend to snore, groan, or grind your teeth in your sleep, then your cat might find it interesting or annoying.

They might find that the sounds that you make while you’re asleep are directed at them and so they watch you in anticipation until you wake up. Restless legs disorder or the need for extra warmth could also keep your cat away from the foot of the bed and closer to your face. Your restlessness and their close proximity to your face can result in your feline companion keeping their eyes on you.

While you might be asking yourself, why does my cat stare at me while I sleep? Your cat might be asking in turn, why does my owner snore so loudly?

7.You’re Sleeping In Their Spot

As we’ve talked about numerous times before, cats are creatures of habit and they usually don’t like it when something in their routine changes. Have you switched spots in your bed and accidentally taken their pillow from them? Perhaps your kitty is simply stating the obvious, that you’re in their spot.

Make sure your kitty is also comfortable during your sleeping hours. If you’re bothering them during this time then your cat might be unable to fall asleep and instead, they’re watching you, perhaps judging you for your insensitivity!

But all jokes aside, giving your cat some space is important. If there’s not enough room in your bed you could buy a lovely bed for your feline companion. Just check out this gorgeous bed on Amazon that’s tall enough to be on the same level as your bed so they don’t feel neglected or far away from you.

8.Your Cat Might Be Asleep

I’m sure some of you have seen your cat’s inner eyelid and it’s quite common to notice it when they’re asleep. This inner eyelid plays an important role in the health of our cats’ eyes, like keeping it clean and giving it another layer of protection.

When a cat is asleep, their muscles relax and the same happens to the inner eyelid which covers the whole eye. It’s quite possible that your kitty wasn’t actually looking at you, in fact, it was the inner eyelid that you could’ve mistaken for their eye. Of course, it’s also quite possible that your kitty had fallen asleep with their eyes open or half-open, it can even happen to some of us. So, perhaps your kitty is instead watching you staring at them while you’re asleep.

Sleeping with their eyes open or seeing their inner eyelid, shouldn’t be something to worry you, but if you notice other issues affecting your cat’s vision like mucus or if there’s excessive tearing up, you should visit your vet for a checkup.

9.Your Cat Is Hungry

Finally,  a cat watching their owner could simply be the fact that they want something from them and usually that might be food. Since cats may spend their nighttime playing they might end up feeling hungry. If there’s not enough food in their bowl, or water then they might complain. The way a cat complains can vary and staring at you while you’re asleep might just be their unique method.

My cats would usually cry and yowl as if I never feed them. One thing that helped was picking up an automatic cat food feeder so they stop looking to me for food instead beg the machine! It kept them full, while I was safely tucked in bed, away from their judgemental looks.

Some cats may also cry at first, if they hear no response from you, don’t be surprised if you see them staring at you. Perhaps they’re waiting for the moment you open your eyes, a sign that you’re no longer asleep and that you can finally assist them.

Do Cats Like It When You Stare Back At Them?

I think anyone would feel somewhat uneasy if they found someone, human or animal, staring at them intensely. In this case, cats wouldn’t like it at all themselves, since they associate intense staring as, “potentially threatening in social interaction with other cats or species,” as suggested by Karen McComb, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex in England.

According to the study that Professor McComb conducted, slow blinking has the opposite effect. It also seems that cats, “behave more friendly when their owners narrow their eyes at them because, over time, humans may have rewarded them for the action in a positive way.”

So, while your kitty might find staring unnecessary and maybe creepy, slow blinking accompanied by a relaxed facial expression should make them feel safe and loved. Most cats are likely to reciprocate this expression of love, so a possible answer to why does my cat stare at me while I sleep, could be a slow blink directed at your kitty when you wake up instead of feeling uncomfortable.

Can You Stop Your Cat From Staring At You While You’re Asleep?

As discussed above cats can have multiple reasons for staring at you while you’re asleep. It might seem like a strange habit and if it makes you feel uncomfortable you might be thinking of ways of breaking it. Training a cat or changing some of their behaviors might prove difficult, depending on the cat of course, but there are a few things you could try.

1.Offer Nighttime And Daytime Stimulation

A great way to stop your cat from staring at you is spending some quality time with them. It’s important to keep our cats busy for their own mental health. Since cats cant actually hunt we’re responsible for relieving their hunting instincts. So, to make that happen we should be able to provide them with a suitable environment, which will keep them healthy and prevent anxiety and depression.

Interactive toys are very important to keep your kitty stimulated and since they’re mostly night hunters a good session before going to sleep should keep all their eyelids sealed until the next morning.

You can invest in toys, window perches, and up to the ceiling scratching posts. According to John Bradshaw, author of the Cat Sense, “cats prefer to play with toys that in some way look like prey: They’ve got feathers on them or they’re furry or they’re about the right size for the kind of thing that a cat would safely be able to prey on.”

Depending on your kitty’s character and curiosity a puzzle feeder might keep them occupied and entertained for hours. This type of entertainment can help with their “destructive” behaviors when it comes to furniture. It can also relieve stress that can manifest as excessive litterbox scratching, overgrooming, etc.

It’s especially important for cats that are strictly indoor and that might lack attention and the right environment. These toys can also provide your cat with the necessary exercise and alleviate any feelings of stress. There are also plenty of DIY tutorials available online that could help you build wall shelves, bridges, and tunnels.

Check this crafty tutorial!

If your kitty is easily trained like a Maine Coon cat then you could try taking them out for a walk. There are plenty of cats that would be happy to experience the outside by taking a stroll with you. A leash will keep them from running away and you’ll be able to monitor the surroundings. Younger kitties are easier to train and if you’re weary you can keep a cat box with you at all times, in case your cat doesn’t like this new experience.

2.Always Have Food And Water Available

Cats can have a different eating schedule than our own and they might seek out food in the middle of the night. Since they might be reluctant to meow they might spend their time staring at you until you feed them.

Having their bowls full and the bathroom clean should keep their stern gaze away from you. If your kitty is on a diet or a strict feeding schedule an automatic wet food feeder might help you by doing your job for you. Automatic wet food feeders can be especially handy for the owners who usually feed their furbabies wet food.

3.Keep Your Cat Away From The Bedroom

If you feel uncomfortable under your cat’s stare then perhaps you could consider closing your bedroom door and keeping your cat on the other side. It might prove difficult at the start, but you shouldn’t give in to their pleas. Of course, you should make sure they’re not in any way hurt before deciding to keep the bedroom off-limits, despite their crying. Try making this decision your daily routine and avoid going back and forth..

While some could find this separation difficult, you might realize that there are some positives for you. According to John Shepard, M.D., Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, sleeping with pets could be disrupting for their owners. If you suffer from insomnia or you’re generally a light sleeper then you’re more likely to be disturbed, by your cat’s presence.

4.Use Positive Reinforcement And Training

Last but not least, you might want to try and train your cat from staring at you. Yelling or using force is never the answer and it will only lead to your cat being afraid of you and avoiding you altogether. Use positive reinforcement instead, be gentle and perhaps push your kitty further away from your face or make them face the other way. If you see your cat’s behavior change and their staring lessen reward them with some treats and congratulate them with a soft compliment and petting.

If you find yourself behaving less polite to your cat, or if you see that your cat is offended then remember that an apology to your kitty will go a long way to keep your relationship from going sour.

Closing Thoughts

Living with a cat can be fascinating and sleeping with them might be a whole new adventure. They can have unique traits and habits that might even question your sanity, like having to ask, why does my cat stare at me while I sleep!

Well thankfully most questions can be answered, and I think we did a great job uncovering the hidden truths behind their flickering stare.

How about you? Does your cat watch over you while you’re asleep? What was your initial reaction, and did you do anything about it?

Marina Titova

Marina was cat-struck 8 years ago. It was early autumn when Dante, her grey cat, found her and adopted her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Dante has been a great cat-teacher and BetterWithCats.net seemed like the perfect place to share his cat-knowledge.

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