Why Does My Cat Sleep On My Pillow? 5 Reasons Why!

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Cat comfortably nestled in a pillow.

Does your cat take great comfort in curling up on your pillow? Are you rolling over in the night to find a face full of fur? Want to know why cats do this? Read on to find out!

Cats are very intelligent and sensitive creatures. A lot of the things they do can confuse us and leave us wondering what in the world is going on. One of these things is them taking pride of place on the spot we put our face at night, claiming this as their favorite sleeping position. There are many reasons cats sleep on our pillows. Let’s take a deep dive into the reasons why.

#1 Warmth/ Body Heat

Cat resting on a pillow.

Cats have a naturally high body temperature and love to be warm

Let’s face it, there’s nothing cozier than being tucked up in bed. Your cat sees what you do and wants to cash in on it. Cats do not like to be cold.  They spent a large proportion of their day seeking out a warm place to relax. Our heads release a lot of heat, and they are one of the warmest parts of our body.

They make our pillows very warm and cozy. Cats’ core body temperature is usually higher than us humans and they like to maintain that. This means they are always looking for something warm to snuggle up with to keep their core temperature where it should be. Our pillows are often the ideal place for our cats as they are comfortable and soft and also one of the warmest places in the house.

This is especially true at night when other household appliances are switched off such as the oven or the radiators. There is no human hot water bottle on their own pet bed so it’s only natural they come in search of one elsewhere. Cats don’t usually sleep with a blanket over them as they feel trapped so it’s important to them to be able to cuddle up to something else warm to steal some heat (in a very adorable way).

Also Read: Cat In Heat (Estrous Cycles): Signs, Symptoms & Care

#2 Love And Affection

Cat snuggled up with a pillow.

Cats can form strong bonds with their caregivers and like to be close to them

One reason your cat snuggles up at night on your pillow is to show their love and adoration towards their primary caregiver (that’s you!). When we are in bed usually it’s just our heads our cats can see. Cats love to nuzzle up to our heads to express their love for us and be close to us. They often also start purring and kneading our pillow too.

These are all normal elements of cat behavior they exhibit when they are comfy and content. Cats like to rub themselves up against creatures or objects they love. This is a way of marking their territory and saying that we are their property. When they rub their faces against us, it stimulates special glands in their body to release pheromones.

These pheromones are chemical messengers which tell the cat that they are in a safe familiar place and that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Historically, and in the wild, cats have always lived in big social groups. They would all sleep together as a family. When your cat was a tiny kitten, the whole litter would sleep on top of each other and their mother.

Your cat will consider you as family, so it’s only natural they gravitate towards you at bedtime! It’s common knowledge amongst cat owners that cats don’t waste their time on creatures – feline or human – that they don’t like. If your cat is snuggling up to you, it’s a sure sign they adore you.

Also Read: Are Cats Possessive Of Their Owners?

#3 Trust And Protection

The image captures a woman and her feline companion sharing a cozy moment on a pillow, highlighting their bond and comfort together.

Cats are vulnerable when they sleep, so they choose the safest place to snooze

Cats above everything else are highly instinctive creatures. Your cat may be placing themselves at the top of the bed, above your head, as a vantage point for some Navy Seal-level surveillance. Cats like to put themselves at a high point so they have a good view of the whole room so that they can keep a sharp lookout for any potential threats or intruders.

Cats also may lie or sit with their backs toward us when they sleep. This may seem like they are giving us the cold shoulder but it is actually a huge compliment. If a cat sits like this they are showing their unguarded vulnerable side to us.

This means that they trust us completely as they don’t feel the need to stay alert in our presence. It may be slightly irritating to turn over in the middle of the night and get a face full of fluff though! If your cat is a restless sleeper it may also make for a bumpy ride!

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Lay And Sleep Between My Legs?

#4 Fright Or Stress

Domestic cat peacefully sleeping.

Cats may seek out their owners for care and comfort

Another reason cats curl up on our pillows may be because they are experiencing stress or they are frightened of something. If your cat is easily startled or is an anxious cat, they will often search for their primary caregiver for comfort and reassurance. If you have a strong bond with your cat they will associate you with protection.

Your presence is their safe place. They will be calmed and soothed by your scent. If they can’t find you, they will often search for something that smells strongly of you. Your pillow certainly ticks this box (depending on the last time you washed it – no judgment here!)

Also Read: How Do Cats Say They Are Sorry?

#5 Asserting Dominance

Cat in deep sleep.

Cats may use their sleeping position to demonstrate their strong bond with you to other pets in the household

Your cat might be trying to make a subtle point of asserting dominance when they sleep on your pillow. Cats treat all family members (feline, human, and any other creatures) as part of their tribe. In this tribe, to them, there is a strict hierarchy. Cats like to establish who is the top cat in the hierarchy. This is especially relevant in multi-cat households.

If your cat starts sleeping on your pillow when you introduce a new cat or kitten to the house, this is your cat’s way of saying they are the King or Queen of the house and they have the title of Top Cat. They are showing the other cats that they are the number 1 as they sleep near you, the primary caregiver.

There might be a tinge of the green-eyed monster, and they feel the need to show the house that they are the boss.  Also, it gives them a physical height advantage over the other cats.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Curl Into Balls When Sleeping? A Veterinarian Explains


The image showcases a cat enjoying a peaceful nap, demonstrating their comfort and relaxation during sleep.

Cats sleep 12 – 18 hours a day so they need a super comfy spot!

Cats choose some very bizarre places to nap. There are lots of factors that affect their choice. It’s not just about warmth and comfort. Feeling safe and secure is high on their list of priorities too.

If your cat has decided to sleep on your pillow at night, this is usually a sign you have a beautiful bond with your cat. If you don’t want to share your pillow with your fur baby, that’s ok too. Finding a balance where you and your cat are both happy and content is the most important thing.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Hiss at My Partner?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my cat only sleep on my pillow when I'm not at home?

If your cat only sleeps on your pillow when you are not at home, this could be a sign of separation anxiety. Cats can get lonely when they are left on their own for long periods. They become anxious and stressed and they will seek out a place that smells of you, because your scent gives them comfort. When you are in the house they are reassured by your presence so they don't need to seek out an alternative safe place.

Why does my cat take naps on my pillow during the day?

If your cat chooses to snooze on your pillow during the day, it may just be a personal preference. It may be because they have sussed out the most comfortable sleeping spot in the house. They usually choose somewhere cozy and warm that smells of their favorite person.

How do I stop my cat from sleeping on the bed?

If you don't want your cat to sleep on your bed, keep your bedroom door shut and have the bedroom out of bounds from the get-go. If you suddenly stop your cat from coming into the bed to sleep when they have been sleeping there for a while this will cause them great upset as they don't have access to their favorite nap spot anymore. If you enjoy your cat’s company at night time and do not object to them using you as a body pillow, it's totally ok for you to co-sleep in harmony.

Why does my cat sleep on my pillow and not my husband’s?

Cats prioritize their own well-being and safety. They will choose to sleep with the person in the household who offers them this. They usually pick the person who feeds them and who engages with them and initiates playtime the most frequently. It's the person who they have the most positive interactions with that they pick to sleep with. So if this is you in your house, consider yourself feline royalty!

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About Dr. Emma Chandley BVetMed PGCertSAS MRCVS

Emma graduated from the Royal Vet College in London in 2011. An expert in cat behavior and nutrition, she also has a keen interest in surgery. Emma went on to do a post-graduate certificate in small animal surgery and was then awarded advanced practitioner status in the same discipline.

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