If anything, cat owners envy their beloved balls of fur for the way they can doze off, literally anywhere, anytime, even when in the middle of something. The cuddly little kitties seem so much more adorable in their sleep, especially with their cute posture, covering their face like a tiny baby. But why do cats cover their face when they sleep? The short answer is because they want to, but there is a serious longer answer to the query as well. That, we will dwell upon in the following sections.
Why Do Cats Cover Their Face When They Sleep?
All cat owners can vouch for one thing: Kitties love to sleep—a lot. On average, a regular cat can spend between 12 to 16 hours sleeping. They need extensive rest to compensate for their energy needs, being both predators and crepuscular species (animals that are more active during the twilight.)
A question arises, but what does it have to do with covering their faces when they sleep. Domesticated for thousands of years, cats still retain the same circadian clock, the natural biological cycle of the day, as their ancestors. And when their body has to prepare for such action while staying alert and having a strong reflexive action to stay safe, it needs a cozy, secure, and super comfortable space to lie down.
Covering their face while sleeping offers them a sense of security and comfort while blocking the light to ensure they remain undisturbed. Also, curling up their bodies, wrapping their tail around, and covering their face can help them retain their body temperature. It is especially useful in cold weather, as it can help maintain warmth as they sleep.
Let us explore this feline behavior in more detail below.
All of us can recall the image of a cat sprawled out on a warm, cozy surface. It could be anything from a cat bed to a rug placed by the fireplace or a window bench receiving gleaming sunbeams. Felines require extensive sleep, while they manage to catch some here and there between the tasks, standing, lying, or in any awkward position, but they will always look for warmth.
And what better way to get warmth than by wrapping themselves into a ball and burying their faces in their arms to minimize heat loss and keep their noses as well as the rest of the body warm. Especially on a cold day, you will notice them getting more sleepy than usual and finding a cozy spot, sometimes even under your throws, to settle down for a quick nap.
Humans understand comfort as a prerequisite for sleep, even though we need much less sleep than cats. Just like some people like to place one or both their hands under their head, cover their head or bury it under their pillow to feel more comfortable in their sleep, cats too make similar arrangements to find comfort while they snooze.
They may not always sleep in the same posture, lying belly up sometimes and curling up on other occasions, but covering their faces almost all the time. Comfort is the primary reason they prefer a pile of freshly laundered clothes over their designated spot, besides the fresh, crisp smell of clothes just out of the drier.
3. Blocking Out the Light
Cats have an incredible vision, something necessitated by their placement as a predator in the food chain and their hunting sessions in the twilight. Because of their large lens, a curved cornea, and pupils dilating to the maximum in dim light, they have a fantastic capability to see in the near dark.
Naturally, they do not want this ability to mess with their sleep. So they cover their eyes to block out any light from reaching them and disrupt their sleep. A similar phenomenon is observed in some humans, who prefer to draw curtains and wear eye masks to get a sound sleep. Cats are simply using their paws or whatever other surface it covers their head with to act as a screen from light.
We have discussed that cats sleep for most of the day. But it is never in the form of a single block of uninterrupted sleep like us; rather, it is broken into several catnaps spread out sporadically through the day. The reason is, their wild ancestry demands to always be on their guard to protect themselves from bigger predators.
And just like predators, they need to find a vantage point to keep an eye on everything and feel secure. So, when the cats cover their faces, they do it to maintain a sense of security. Assuming that their faces are relatively more vulnerable, it does seem to be an excellent strategy.
You may not have seen this coming, but cats do fall asleep while grooming themselves, and it is far easier to rest their paws on their faces than to bend them down to their belly. So, felines spend a good part of their waking hours grooming themselves, licking away any dirt or removing foreign materials, and slicking back their fur.
Considering the long hours dedicated to the job, it is easy to understand why they might get exhausted while doing so and decide to drop everything to replenish their energy reserves.
Understanding feline behavior is key to providing good care for your little ball of fur. Pet owners, especially the ones who have recently added a cat to their family, are most likely to be concerned about the peculiarities displayed by her. And asking why cats cover their face when they sleep is their way of better understanding their new family member.
Cats cover their faces to feel warm and cozy and to retain their body heat. The latter is especially important for flat-faced cats, who rely on breathing mechanisms and keeping their noses warm, in this case, to regulate body temperatures. Also, the posture helps them feel secure and comfortable, pretty much like some people prefer a similar arrangement to feel comfy as they doze off. Finally, cats are predators who conserve their energies for their prowling action at dusk/dawn, and performing some other tasks like grooming can make them tired; they would rather put their paws on their faces out of exhaustion and fall asleep instead of wasting energy to bring them closer to their bellies.