older cat sleeps in different spots
Questions About Cats

Why Do Cats Change Their Sleeping Areas?

Cats are predictable creatures, so you’ll often find them curled up in the same spot each evening. However, every now and then, a cat will suddenly start sleeping somewhere new. Cats typically enjoy routine, so this change in behavior can seem very strange to their owner.

Why do cats sleep in new places? It could be an instinct they’ve inherited from their wild ancestors because cats who move around are less visible to predators. Seasonal changes, mood fluctuations, aging, and changes to a family’s routine can also influence where a cat chooses to sleep.

In most cases, this behavior is perfectly normal. However, cats may also change their sleeping habits when they’re sick or injured. We’ll help you understand why your cat is sleeping in a new place, and whether it’s anything to be concerned about.

Is it Normal for Cats to Change Their Sleeping Areas?       

According to Science Direct, this is a very common behavior amongst cats. In fact, the average cat has five different sleeping spots that they rotate on a regular basis.

Sometimes, a cat will move from a seemingly very comfortable position (i.e., the bed) to a much less comfy position (i.e., a shelf). As humans, we find it hard to decode this behavior. Surely our cat would prefer to sleep in a warm and cozy bed rather than on a wooden shelf?

It’s crucial to remember that your cat will see your house differently to you, and their core body temperature is different to yours. Not only that, cats experience mood changes – and these may impact where they choose to sleep on any given day. Most importantly, your cat’s decision to sleep somewhere else may be a form of self-protection.

Cats Rotate Their Sleeping Spots to Feel Safe

If your cat has decided to sleep somewhere new, this could be an instinctual behavior. It’s thought that cats living in the wild regularly change their sleeping position so that predators don’t ‘learn’ where to find them.

Indeed, mother cats tend to move their kittens every so often, so they’re less vulnerable to predators. Cats spend between 16 and 20 hours asleep, so it’s unsurprising they feel the need to protect themselves during sleep.

Why Else Do Cats Rotate Their Sleeping Spots?

There are other reasons why a cat might choose to sleep in a new location:

  • Seasons – Many cats enjoy sleeping on their owner’s bed in the winter but find it a bit too hot in the summer. Similarly, some cats prefer to sleep on windowsills in the summer, but they find them too cold on a dull day.
  • Bonding – Cats sometimes move between different beds in the household to bond with different family members (including other pets).
  • A Change to the Household Routine – Subtle changes in the family’s schedule influence where a cat chooses to relax.
  • Grief or Sadness – It’s not uncommon for cats to grieve the loss of another pet. A grieving cat may withdraw and find a new place to sleep.
  • Cleanliness and Allergies – Cats can be allergic to dust mites so if the place they usually sleep has become dusty, they may choose another spot. Also, cats can be allergic to laundry detergents and other cleaning products.
  • Stress – Stress is most often caused by the arrival or a new person or animal into the household. In times of stress, cats prefer to be hidden.
  • Old Age – If your older cat sleeps in different spots, this could be due to the personality or mobility changes that occur in older age.
  • Pain, Injury, or Illness – Pain can limit your cat’s ability to climb and jump. If they start sleeping exclusively on the floor, this could indicate an underlying injury or pain disorder.

So, as you can see, many things can influence where a cat chooses to sleep. Most factors are just a part of normal life, but occasionally this behavior can be caused by illness or injury.

cat sleeping in new places

Where Do Cats Usually Sleep?

According to a recent survey, these are the most common sleeping spots for cats (starting with the most popular):  

  • The Bed – 52% of cats sleep on or in their owner’s bed on a regular basis.
  • Up High – Lots of cats like to sleep on high surfaces, so they’re less vulnerable to predators.
  • Couch, Sofa or Chair – Around 33% of cats regularly sleep on the couch. Many cats curl up next to their owners during the evening and then remain there for most of the night.
  • Windowsill – Windowsills are relatively high, and they’re warm during the summer months.
  • On a Blanket – Some cats will choose to curl up on their favorite blanket.
  • On Laundry – Cats love to sleep on laundry, whether it’s a basket of dirty laundry or piles of freshly washed clothes.
  • Cat House/Bed – Some cats appreciate the security of a purpose-built cat house or cat bed.
  • Smooth Surfaces– Sleeping on Lino, marble or tiles can be comfortable for some cats – especially during the warm summer months.
  • Carpet – About 17% of cats enjoy sleeping on carpeted floors.

So, sleeping on elevated surfaces seem to be the general preference, but a small number of cats do like to sleep on the floor.

Strange Places Cats Sleep

When it comes to choosing a place to sleep, some cats can be extremely resourceful. Don’t be too surprised if you find your pet in one of the following places:

  • On your Laptop – Cats are attracted to anything warm, so it’s a good idea to place your laptop out of reach.
  • In the Dryer – If you have a cat, you should always be sure to close the dryer door behind you.
  • Sinks and Baths – Some cats like to sleep in sinks because the smooth surface is cooling against their skin. Other cats may become fascinated with the tap.
  • Shoes – Shoes can be warm and cozy places for kittens to fall asleep in.
  • Plant Pots – If your cat goes outdoors, you might find them curled up in a plant pot.
  • Bags – Cats who are small may find their way into large handbags or shopping bags.
  • Cat Carriers – Believe it or not, some cats love sleeping inside their carrier.

As long as your cat is not in danger – and they’re not damaging any property – there’s no harm in this behavior. It is one of the many joys of looking after cats.

Nevertheless, changes to your cat’s sleeping habits can occasionally be caused by illness or injury. If your cat is stressed, sick or injured, you would probably see some additional symptoms.

Is My Cat Sleeping in New Places Due to Stress?

If your cat has suddenly favored hard-to-reach places such as under the bed, this could indicate they are stressed. When cats feel insecure they ‘go to ground.’

Other signs your cat is stressed include:

  • Overgrooming / a poor coat
  • Changes in appetite
  • Meowing/yowling
  • Excessive scratching
  • Urination problems – not going in the litter box

So, what should you do if you suspect your cat is stressed? Firstly, do not force them out of their new sleeping place. According to Phys, providing your cat with a hide box (or somewhere safe to escape to) can actually help to reduce stress levels. If you force them out of their hiding place, you’ll probably only make things worse.

In the meantime, try and tackle whatever is causing your cat to be stressed. Is another pet scaring them or stealing their food? Are your cat’s food and water bowls clean? Do they have a litter box to themselves? Has there been too much noise in the household lately? Try to eliminate any stressors and consider using a pheromone plug-in to help your cat relax.

Is My Cat Sleeping in New Places Due to Allergies?

If your cat has suddenly started sleeping in a new location, an allergy could be to blame. The following household items can cause allergic reactions in some cats:

  • Certain fabrics
  • Fabric conditioner
  • Cleaning products (including floor cleaners and carpet shampoos)
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Air fresheners, essential oils. and perfumes

If you’ve recently used one of the above products, this could explain why your cat has chosen to sleep somewhere else in the house. It’s also worth mentioning that some allergies are seasonal – such as pollen. Cats with a pollen allergy may retreat from open windows in the spring and summer months.

cats sleeping in strange places

Allergic reactions will cause some additional physical symptoms. These may include:

  • Sneezing and wheezing
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling
  • Itchy skin

If you are concerned about the above, your vet should be able to perform an allergy test.

Is My Cat Sleeping in a New Place Due to Pain?

As we know, cats are stoic, so they rarely make a fuss when they’re in pain. Any change to a cat’s sleeping habits could be a subtle sign that they’re in pain. Consider if you’ve noticed any of the following changes in your cat:  

  • They are sticking to low-level surfaces (i.e., carpet) when they previously preferred higher surfaces (i.e., the bed, windowsill)
  • Your cat is laid out long and flat and seems ‘stiff.’
  • Your cat is not rubbing their face against you or any other surfaces
  • They will not tolerate being stroked or handled
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Tail flinching
  • Excessive purring

If you’ve noticed some of the above symptoms, your cat may be in pain.   

Common Causes of Pain in Cats

Cats can develop pain due to illness, old age, or injury. These are the most common causes:

  • Arthritis – This is a degenerative joint disorder that is very common in middle-aged and older cats (i.e., older than ten years). However, cats who are obese or who have an injury could develop it at a younger age.
  • Bladder Infections – Neutered males are most at risk of developing a bladder infection. A cat with a bladder infection may become extremely lethargic, unsteady, and may be unable to jump up onto a bed or sofa.
  • Eye Issues – Glaucoma and corneal ulcers can develop in older cats. These conditions can make them less confident about jumping.
  • Cancer –Several types of feline cancer can cause a cat to become stiff and very immobile. A cat with feline cancer is much more likely to sleep on the floor.
  • Injuries – Cats can develop injuries from fighting or falling from a height. These injuries are not always visible, but they can affect mobility in very subtle ways. Moreover, a cat who was injured from falling might be too traumatized to climb for a while.
  • Ear infections Ear infections are less common than the above conditions, but they can be quite dangerous when they do arise. They can cause intense pain, as well as inferior balance and disorientation. A cat with an ear infection is unlikely to climb or jump.

If your cat is immobile – either due to age or injury – do not pick them up and place them on their old sleeping spot. This could cause extreme anxiety as they probably won’t be able to jump down on their own.

Has your Household Routine Changed? 

Although illness and injury can influence a cat’s sleeping behavior, the family’s routine often plays a bigger role. For example, ask yourself if your household routine has changed in the following ways:

  • Have you been going to bed earlier or later? If your cat usually sleeps on your bed, but you’ve not been around at the regular bedtime, perhaps they’ve chosen to sleep elsewhere.
  • Is the house noisier than usual?
  • Are you cooking at different times? The smells could be irritating/stimulating for your cat.
  • Have you been spending less (or more) quality time with your pet? This could influence how tired they are and whether or not they want to sleep near others.

When trying to decode your cat’s behavior, think about what’s changed around them, not just what has happened within them.

Why Is my Cat Sleeping in New Places?

Your cat might be acting intuitively; moving around helps them to feel safe. That’s why cats tend to sleep in dark places. Not only that, it allows them to regulate their body temperature, bond with their owners, and ‘escape’ when they’re feeling stressed.

So, if you notice your cat is sleeping in a new spot, try not to disturb them (unless they’re sleeping somewhere that’s unsafe). Most importantly, do not force your cat to return to their old sleeping spot – especially if this spot is high off the ground – as they may not feel comfortable jumping down.

Although it’s healthy for cats to change their sleeping areas, keep a close eye on your pet. As mentioned, sleeping on the floor can sometimes be caused by illness or injury so consult your vet if you think your cat might be in pain.