older cat sleeps in different spots
Questions About Cats

Why Do Cats Change Their Sleeping Areas?

Cats spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping. This means that the cat will likely vary its location from time to time. The cat is acting on instinct, and ensuring that it retains maximum comfort.

Most cats have up to five preferred sleeping locations. Wild cats regularly move their nests and colony to avoid detection from predators. This instinct is carried over in domesticated felines. Cats also sleep in different locations to claim territory and obtain privacy. Your cat may also be moderating its temperature or reacting to a stressful experience.

Cats change their sleeping places for a variety of reasons. You may find that your cat is sleeping in the middle of the floor. While this may seem like a weird place to you, your cat is likely to be happy and contented.

Why Do Cats Change Sleeping Spots?

It is common for cats to sleep in a range of different places in the house, and there’s a very good reason why.

Applied Animal Behavior Science surveyed 1,177 cats, with most having around five preferred sleeping areas.

Your cat is acting on instinct. The optimal sleeping area for a cat will meet the following criteria:

  • Small, enclosed space
  • Warm (without being hot) and devoid of draughts
  • Quiet and private
  • Previously claimed territory
  • Far enough from litter and food to avoid direct smells

Most cats will not sleep in one place at all times. In the wild, cats constantly change their sleeping location. This is a matter of survival.

Cats do not want to be predictable. If they sleep in the same location all the time, predators will know where to look.

Claiming Territory

Cats only feel comfortable sleeping in a territory they have claimed. This is usually done by scratching or marking with scent. In order to cement this claim, the cat will then sleep in the territory. A prolonged period of time in one space makes the cat’s scent even stronger.

Your cat will be looking to claim as much of your home as possible. This is so the cat always feels like it has a safe space to retreat to. In this instance, the territory could apply to an entire room or a small corner. The more a cat sleeps here, the most familiar the area becomes.

cats sleeping in strange places

You will notice this behavior more in busy houses. If you have children, your cat may grow overwhelmed by noise and stimulation. In such instances, the cat will retreat to somewhere it knows. The cat feels safe sleeping in this location, despite the noise around it.

This behavior will become more pronounced if you have other cats. In a multi-cat household, the territory will need to be divided. Upon getting a second cat, you may find your existing cat sleeps all over the house. This is a land-grab for as much territory as possible.

Safety

Cats are mesopredators. This means that cats hunt and kill smaller animals but are also prey to apex predators. This gives cats a unique perspective. They understand how it feels to be both the hunter and hunted.

Cats turn this to their advantage when choosing a sleeping position. Cats understand that, if looking for mice, they should check the locations that rodents sleep. While cats enjoy hunting moving prey, they are not averse to gaining an advantage though surprise.

As a result of this, wild cats change sleeping position regularly. Cats fear that a coyote will learn where they sleep and ambush them. Cats also leave a distinct scent behind when they sleep. By regularly finding new terrain, the cat is not easily tracked by predators.

Domesticated cats experience no such risks. All the same, house cats will regularly change their sleeping location. Thousands of years of instinct cannot be undone, no matter how welcoming a home environment is.

Privacy

Cats also change their sleeping area to ensure privacy. Few things agitate a cat more than having its sleep interrupted. If cats believe owners and other pets know where to find them, they feel less secure.

This will result in a cat sleeping in different hiding places. Many cats to choose to claim an elevated location as a sleeping area. The top of a closet is popular. If a cat cannot access this, they may settle for a cat tree.

If you find your cat in a strange location, try not to disturb them. The cat chose the area carefully as a hiding place. If you disturb the cat’s slumber, it will just look for another place to hide. Eventually, the cat may choose somewhere unsafe.

Temperature Regulation

You may find that your cat changes its sleeping location according to the seasons. This is so the cat can regulate its body temperature.

Cats run a standard body temperature between 100.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Being warmer or colder than this makes a cat uncomfortable. All breeds differ, but a room temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit keeps most cats happy.

If your area is prone to extreme weather, it may be that your cat cannot settle on a single sleeping location, it may be due to the temperature.

Cold Temperatures

In the winter months, a cat will gravitate toward natural sources of warmth. This could include artificial heat sources, such as radiators or fires. If these are not available, cats will doze by a window. This allows the cat to warm itself by indirect sunlight.

As explained in Science, a cat’s body temperature drops while it sleeps. If the cat is at the lower end of the temperature scale, this can be dangerous. If the cat’s temperature is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia becomes likely. This condition unfolds in three stages.

  • Mild hypothermia – body temperature of 90-99 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Moderate hypothermia – body temperature of 83-89 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Severe hypothermia – body temperature below 82 degrees Fahrenheit

A sleeping cat is likely to wake before progressing past mild hypothermia. This can still be uncomfortable and dangerous for senior cats. Hypothermia slows down the function of a cat’s vital organs, including the heartbeat.

Cats rarely shiver, so look for other signs that your cat is too cold. A perpetually wet nose is a warning. Cat noses should vary between dry and wet throughout a day. The cat may also seek comfort from blankets or cuddle other cats for transferrable body heat.

If your cat is cold, offer a hot water bottle or additional blankets in a preferred sleeping location. Most cats will find a way to regulate their body temperature. Offering assistance will make the cat feel more secure.

Hot Temperatures

Cats cope with being cold better than being too hot. Cats have small sweat glands on their paws. Beyond this, heat leaves a cat’s body through its ears. If it is too hot for a cat, it can take a while to cool down. Signs that your cat is too hot include:

  • Panting
  • Elevated heart
  • Restlessness and constant pacing
  • Lethargy
  • Discoloration of the gums

To combat this, your cat will sleep in a cool location. Kitchens and bathrooms with tiled floors become favored areas. The coolness of this material feels soothing under a cat’s paws.

In the summer months, offer your cat a cooling pad. You will likely find that your cat dozes on this. This reduces the risk of dehydration, heatstroke and other issues associated with a high body temperature. Do not set up a fan. Cats dislike sleeping beside a direct draught. This will just cause distress.

Pain Management

Pain may be a reason why your cat is changing sleeping locations. Your cat may have a chronic pain condition, such as arthritis. The cat is blaming its bed or your sofa for the discomfort it feels.

As The Journal of Small Animal Practice explains, your cat may not limp nor appear lame. Your cat will try to avoid showing symptoms, considering them a sign of weakness. Warning signs that your cat is arthritic include:

  • Lethargy
  • Hunched posture
  • Uncharacteristic aggression and irritability
  • Refusing handling
  • Thin, wasted muscles

Arthritis is senior cats cannot be reversed. The pain that your cat is feeling can be managed, though. This will make your cat more comfortable sleeping in familiar locations. If the cat cannot get comfortable anywhere, it may become stressed and anxious.

Set your cat up with one primary bed. This should be low to the ground, in a quiet area. If the cat knows it will be comfortable in one location, it will move around less. This reduces the risk of pain. Provide the cat with the following to encourage sleeping in one area:

  • A soft bed that is easy to climb into
  • Plenty of blankets
  • A source of direct warmth
  • Easy access to water and litter trays

In addition, discuss remedies for arthritis pain with a healthcare professional. Typically, these will involve a specialist diet, lifestyle changes and the use of supplements. A vet can also prescribe painkillers.

cat sleeping in new places

Negative Experiences

Cats remember frightening or traumatic events. If a cat is bullied by a neighborhood feline, it will avoid particular streets in the future. The same also applies to the home. Your cat will recall something frightening and attribute it to a location.

Cats can be startled and stressed by a number of things. Some of these are avoidable, and some not. Loud noises are among the biggest triggers for cats. These could include:

  • Television sets and radios
  • Loud, shouted conversations
  • Roadworks and street noises
  • Car alarms and horns
  • Fireworks

Your cat will not always understand that these noises come from outside. Your cat may believe that sleeping in one location attracts noise. If this is the case, it will look for a new sleeping location. If the cat then dozes without distraction, it feels vindicated in its decision.

Your cat’s negative experience may not be related to noise. It may be connected to a sensation or memory. Examples of this include:

These incidents will be intrinsically linked to a location in your cat’s mind. This means the cat will no longer feel safe there. This will lead the cat to look for a new place to rest and recuperate.

Changes to Home Layout

Cats are creatures of routine. They like things to stay exactly the same, especially the layout of a home. This may make changing sleeping positions seem counter-productive, but it makes sense to a cat. This change is something the cat can control.

If you have remodeled your home, or moved furniture around, the cat will need an adjustment period. This will cause stress initially. The cat needs to re-learn its terrain and decide where it most comfortable.

Placing your cat’s bed in a previous location may not be enough. The changes to the surrounding area may upset your cat. It may feel a draught. It could feel more exposed, as it is no longer constrained. It may worry that the bed is too far from a litter tray.

The cat will sleep in various locations in the immediate aftermath of a home remodel. Watch your cat as it does so. It will be obvious where the cat feels more secure. It will not simply nap, fleeing at any noise or movement. It will fall into a deep sleep.

Once this happens, you can build this area as your cat’s primary sleeping location. The cat has decided that this area meets its needs. House the cat’s bed here if possible. The cat will still vary its resting places. It will have a core area to call a, “bedroom”, though.

Sickness

If your cat has a minor illness, it may start sleeping in different locations. A cat with a urinary tract infection, for example, will stay close to a litter tray. This means the cat may reject its usual bed. Watch for any changes to your cat’s behavior. It may reveal a health ailment.

If a cat is seriously unwell, it will know that something is up. In such instances, the cat will become increasingly withdrawn. If a cat is dying, it will likely give all humans and other pets a wide berth. Cats tend to gravitate to cool, dark locations if fearing for their lives.

Places to look out for a sleeping cat in these instances include:

  • The backyard (under bushes and similarly secluded locations)
  • Garages and sheds
  • Under cars
  • Cellars or basements

The New Zealand Veterinary Journal describes, “inappetence and non-specific decline” as key signs that cats are seriously ill.

Look out for these symptoms if your cat has started to sleep in increasingly strange locations.

  • Loss of appetite and thirst
  • Lower body temperature (typically below 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Clinginess while awake
  • Lack of grooming
  • Muscular weakness and extreme lethargy

If you’re concerned that your cat is unwell, check your cat’s sleeping position. How cats sleep can tell you a lot about their state of wellness.

Cats will often change their sleeping area. This is usually just a case of a feline following instinct. There is no need to worry if your cat is otherwise acting normally. Be mindful of any personality changes and leave the cat to get its much-needed rest.