A Behaviorist Reveals Adorable Reasons Why Cats Cover Their Faces When They Sleep

If it's a chilly afternoon with the sun shining through the window, your cat will most likely cover their face while they sleep.

Jamie Bichelman - Author

Jul. 9 2024, Updated 12:12 p.m. ET

An orange cat is pictured in two photos covering his face with his paws.
Source: iStock

Your companion cat's sleeping positions and waking routines sometimes provide a clue into their health, but why do cats cover their faces when they sleep?

Is it to guard against their human roommates retaliating after the cat wiggles his butt in the human's face? Or, perhaps, it is to protect their little heads?

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As cat lovers with kitty companions ourselves, we're all too familiar with this adorable gesture. But is it as adorable as we think, or is there a deeper meaning behind why cats cover their faces when they sleep? Keep reading for what you need to know.

Your cat is covering their eyes because they feel safe around you.

A small cat with his belly exposed places a curled paw over his face while sleeping.
Source: iStock

According to Michelle Bernstein, ACAAB, an animal behaviorist in New York City, a cat who feels safe in their environment is more likely to cover their eyes at rest, while a less secure cat will not.

"A cat who covers his eyes feels secure and comfortable in your presence," Bernstein tells Green Matters exclusively by phone. "A cat covering their eyes is not showing signs of distress or fear. They don't feel like they have to be guarded while resting, and they feel safe in their surroundings."

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Your cat may need to cover their face because it's too bright in the room.

An orange cat is pictured resting on a wooden floor with his eyes closed.
Source: iStock

Cats love to loaf around, especially in the protective warmth of the midday sun. Whether the sun is beaming through the window or a particularly bright light in the room is making it difficult to sleep, a cat covering their face affords them a strategic way to both sunbathe and catch some sleep, per Catster.

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Your cat covers their face to keep warm.

A white and black cat covers her face while she sleeps atop a purple and white quilted comforter.
Source: iStock

We know that a cat's nose temperature and moisture level both offer excellent insight into their health. If your kitty is covering their nose and mouth area while they sleep, it might be because they're cold and is trying to keep themselves warm, according to Catster. You may also observe your cat contorting their body into a croissant shape and tucking their paws or tail inwards to conserve body heat.

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Your cat covers their face because it's super cozy to do so and helps them sleep.

A gray and orange and white striped cat covers her face with her paw while she curls in a ball and sleeps.
Source: iStock

According to cats.com, covering their face with their paw allows cats to comfortably get into a state of deep sleep, which allows them to get some much-needed rest and recovery from a long day of playing with their favorite humans.

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A paw over your cat's face also serves as a whisker protector.

Calico cat sleeping on a navy blue blanket with their paws over their face and head.
Source: iSTock

According to Woman's World, a cat putting their paw over their face can also be a way to protect their whiskers. A cat's whiskers are so critically vital to their ability to navigate the world around them, so protecting their whiskers is of the utmost importance.

“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," Dr. Grant Little told Woman's World.

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