Why Doesn't My Cat... Sleep in Bed With Me?

Cat sleeping on cat tree
Some cats prefer to sleep up high instead of on your bed.

Why cats choose to sleep where they do is a question for the ages. Cats are a law unto themselves. They’re a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, to quote Winston Churchill. He was talking about Russia but may well have been inspired by his cats, Tango and Nelson.

When your cat curls up in your bed, he'll get comfortable in his own way. I’ve heard of cats who snuggle in the crook of an owner’s knees or sprawl on their human's chest. Or he might prefer to settle himself like people, with his head on the pillow and his body beneath the covers. And forget trying to relocate him! He will move right back into place, even if that's not convenient for you.

Surprisingly enough, though, not all cats like to sleep on the bed. We can’t ask them why, of course, but I think there may be several reasons for it.

Up High, Down Low

Cats like being up high. Their wild cousins hang out in trees so they can survey the surrounding landscape with an eye toward spying prey — and predators. Heck, even some lions like to lounge in trees. (Tanzania is one place that is famous for tree-climbing lions.)

Being up high at bedtime is probably an even stronger instinct, inherited from his long-ago wild ancestors. So it's possible that your cat may think the bed is not quite high enough to suit his need to view the world from above.

Cats developed in all kinds of landscapes. Where there were no trees, cats took refuge in caves or beneath rock ledges. If there’s a dark, cavelike area in your home — maybe you got your feline one of those kitty tents or have a piece of furniture that’s a nice size for sheltering a cat — he may prefer it to the bed.

Your cat's sleeping choices may just be personal. Some cats just don't feel the need to share our sleeping space, like Cuddles, who belongs to a woman I know. “Cuddles is too good to sleep with humans,” she says.

Sleep Tight

If you want your cat to sleep with you, there are a couple of things you can try. Before bedtime, place a heating pad turned to low in the spot where you want your cat to sleep. The warmth may attract him. But be sure to turn off the heating pad and remove it before you both turn in for the night.

Or take that cozy, tentlike bed that he loves and place it on your bed, wherever you want him to sleep (at the foot of the mattress, for example, or up near your head). That might get him up off the ground and give him a place to hide — while he shares some sleepy time with you. It's a win-win for your cat and for you.

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