Deep into the night, you surface out of a deep slumber and decide to turn over in your bed. Perhaps you also want to stretch your legs. But then you discover a heavy bundle preventing your feet from pushing all the way out. Peeping over the covers, you discover a pair of mildly annoyed eyes staring back at you. Why do cats sleep by your feet?
Your cat happens to like you if it’s sleeping in your general vicinity. At the very least, it trusts you. So, when you’ve bedded down for the night, why does it insist on finding a spot near the end of the bed at your feet?
Some cats like to sleep on top of their humans, or their owners’ heads, but a large percentage prefer to rest at their parents’ feet. It’s a practical choice, it turns out, for many of them. Is it a good thing? Is it desirable at all to be sharing a bed with your cat?
These and other questions may be answered as we contemplate why cats sleep at your feet.
Why Do Cats Sleep By Your Feet? 8 Reasons
We used to write off a lot of cat behavior as impossible to understand because they’re cats. They pretty much do what they want. But there are some things we’ve since deduced from their actions.
Cats can sleep anywhere they like, in real terms. They choose their spots in your home based on where they feel comfortable. Let’s not kid ourselves. When a cat relaxes or sleeps with you, it makes you feel good. Chances are, they feel good too.
A sense of mental calmness seems to overcome us as humans when a cat seems perfectly content to be in our presence. This applies doubly when they sleep by our feet at night or on our beds. Here are the reasons they do that:
1. A Question of Trust
First, you can almost always safely assume you have earned a degree of trust if a cat is sleeping at your feet and on your bed. Social animals have the instinct to stick together in the wild unless they have reason to fear each other.
Your cat trusts you if it is looking to bed down for an evening, and will expect that trust in return. Probably.
2. Heat Magnets
Human beds are warm and attractive for a cat looking to sleep, especially on a cold night. Besides, body heat is the best for warming up while sleeping, which is why kittens and puppies sleep in a heap.
There’s a benefit for us humans as well. Cats’ bodies are generally warmer than human’s. What’s better than having a little living foot warmer on the bed on a cold winter’s night?
3. Beds are Comfortable
It seems obvious to say, but beds are comfortable. Moreover, if your cat has her fluffy cat blanket at the foot of the bed, it probably smells familiar and inviting. Cats love their own smells and scenting their “property” by rubbing and kneading it. That means it will gravitate there more often than not when it’s time to bed for a spell.
Cats tend to scent their territory as a matter of instinct. It may knead or rub itself on your blankets, in which case it is marking it as its place. From that point, sleeping in that spot will feel familiar. You will notice kneading intensifies when you change your sheets and blankets.
In some cases, a cat may also claim you as territory. You may notice, especially if your home has more than one pet, that no other cat will occupy that position. Claiming you and your space is possibly a way to tell other pets that this is their human and they have taken on the task of being with the caregiver at night.
There is another way to look at it too. Your cat is allowing you to sleep in its vicinity. You are A-OK, as far as it is concerned! Consider also that a human bed is much bigger than a cat bed. Sometimes, a cat wants some extra space. It’s also a bigger territory to claim. In the same train of thought, the space at the end of the bed is bigger than at the top.
Cats are social beings; just like dogs, they possess a sense of “family”. In that pack or family, protection is an important element. Cats lie at your feet or between your legs for protection. This protection goes two ways. They feel protected, and they are, in effect, protecting you.
In the wild, packs of animals tend to sleep, with individuals facing different directions. This is why showing you its back is a sign of your cat’s trust.
Lying at your feet allows your cat to face another direction, presumably keeping eyes on that “sector .” At the same time, your presence protects their back. At any rate, should the need arise to get up and be alert suddenly, what better place than at your feet, with escape routes in most directions?
The idea of survival may be overstating, but it’s not all that funny when you think about it. Cats are relatively small compared to us. If you’re a tosser and turner at night, your cat won’t fancy sleeping near the bulkiest part of you.
That’s why it makes sense to sleep around or even below the area your legs occupy. That way, if anything is too hectic for your cat’s taste, it can get out of the way quickly.
7. Vantage Point
If you’ve ever noticed how cats choose their favorite spots in a room, you’ll know that they love to watch things from a good vantage point. They will typically seek out a high location, or at least a spot with a good view of the entire room, to see what’s happening.
The foot of your bed may be just such a spot for your bedroom. It may offer a decent 360-degree view of the area, including the floor and the occupants.
8. The Bedroom Door Is More Visible
This is related to the notion of having a good vantage point. Depending on the position of your bed in the room, your cat may prefer the foot because it can see the entry points better. If it understands that the door leads to a passageway from where people (or other pets) enter the room, this will be a likely scenario.
Kitty wants to know what’s approaching. A vantage point that allows it to see the door, out the door, and down the passageway is ideal.
Do They Really Sleep At Your Feet, Though?
It seems prudent to point out a seemingly obvious caveat to this conversation. Cats may not be sleeping at your feet all night. They have indeed adapted to accepting that nighttime is a quiet time for the household (probably). But that doesn’t mean that they are diurnal like humans are.
They are not entirely nocturnal, either, but cats are crepuscular. This means they feel a spike of activity very early in the morning before the sun rises and once again just before it sets. Likely, your cat moves around at night and rarely sleeps at your feet through the night.
A Note on Cats At Night
Cats rarely sleep for long sessions like humans do. They regularly get up for a drink or to use the litter box. They also have incredibly good night vision, so they feel no stress walking around the house at night. Some believe this is related to an instinct to make sure the environment is safe, as well.
A cat may also move to a different position on the bed during the evening. This might happen if they are cold (it’s warmer near your head or body).
If they walk over or stand on you in the middle of the night and then return to a sleeping position elsewhere on the bed, don’t panic or react in anger. This is a cat’s way of reassuring you that they are there and protecting you. Also, perhaps, they may be asking whether asking you are ok — are you?
Is Sharing a Bed With Your Cat a Good Thing?
There has been an animated debate about whether sleeping in the same bed with your cat (or dog) is good. In the case of cats, some evidence suggests that it positively affects mental and physical health. There is, however, another line of argument that posits negatives.
What’s Good About it
Humans have a biological and psychological need for companionship — we are social animals. Sleeping with our pets by our side seems to strengthen our bonds positively. The knock-on effects suggest better blood pressure management and stress-related conditions.
What’s Bad About It
Some researchers believe that having cats on the bed may prevent humans from getting to sleep sooner and deeper. In addition, there may be more sleep disturbance in the course of a night. It might be said that most human cat owners don’t seem to mind this.
There is also a concern about whether pets on the bed may invite opportunities for pests and parasites to occupy such a space. Serious infection related to this is fairly uncommon, though.
Of course, sharing a bed with your cat (or any pet) isn’t recommended if you suffer from pet fur or dandruff allergies. It’s probably a good idea to ban pets from sleeping on the beds in guest rooms.
How Risky is Sharing Sleeping Space with a Cat?
In the modern age, and assuming your cat is reasonably healthy, it’s not very likely that any serious infection or illness can be passed to you from your cat via your sleeping habits. However, zoonotic diseases and related risks should be considered if you feel at risk.
For some kinds of situations, it may not be worth the risk of allowing a cat to sleep in your bed. Very young children or elderly people, as well as those with weak immune systems, should be aware of these:
Pasteurella multocida — a bacteria that can pass from cat to human if a cat bites a person. In serious cases (again, rare), antibiotics may not be enough to prevent the spread to the bloodstream.
CSD, or Cat Scratch Disease, is usually spread through a cat’s saliva or fleas, biting the cat and then a human. It is a bacteria causing feverish symptoms, swelling, and soreness. Healthy adults can recover from it, usually without complications. Though the causal bacteria is common in cats, they seldom exhibit symptoms or effects.
Salmonellosis — cats can carry salmonella, which can be spread through their feces. So this kind of disease is unlikely to be spread casually. It is more likely caused by direct contact with the contents of a litter box.
Other potential diseases lurk if proper care isn’t taken when handling cat feces. Washing hands is highly recommended. If you’re still uncertain, use gloves when cleaning out the tray.
Rabies — Lastly, though largely eradicated in developed areas and healthy pets, rabies can still be spread through the bites of infected animals. You can hopefully note symptoms long before you spend too much time sleeping in the same bed.
A Note on How and Why Cats Choose People to Sleep Next To
You may notice that even if you have a partner, your cat will choose one of you to sleep next to regularly. In this case, your feet may be the preferred set to sleep below or next to. A cat won’t just sleep at anyone’s feet, or just anywhere, for that matter.
Why does your cat choose to sleep with you, not your partner? You might be the one that provides the food. You may also be the one that provides the playtime and the cuddles. For one reason, your cat may feel more connected to you than your partner.
Another possibility is that you smell better (to them). Cats can smell very well, perhaps even things we don’t detect. Your cat may prefer your scent.
Why Doesn’t it Sleep There Every Night?
If your cat only decides to settle down occasionally at the end of your bed, don’t be disappointed. You already know that cats are fiercely independently-minded and will do what they want when they want.
As previously mentioned, it will often move around at night after a short sleeping session. They do often relocate, sleeping a little here and a little there. Sometimes, it’s good to have a little alone time.
Final Thoughts on Why Cats Sleep At Your Feet
Healthy, well-adjusted cats are loving and social beings. At the same time, the way they express their affection and personality is sometimes baffling to us humans. That doesn’t mean that their behavior is without cause or indecipherable to us.
The notion of why the cat sleeps at your feet is perfectly understandable once we consider their instincts and tendencies. It’s flattering, in a sense, to know that they are protecting, loving, and warming you, all simultaneously. So, when you feel that extra body at your feet at night, feel assured that kitty is there to keep an eye and lend a purr of support.
Assuming your cat is reasonably healthy (and you are, too), there is no reason your cat should not be sharing your bed and sleeping at your feet. For more, read this informative article about different cat sleeping positions and what they mean.