Humans are diurnal animals, so sharing a house with cats (which are nocturnal) means there can be many strange interactions. One example is a cat creepily staring at you while you sleep. How a cat behaves with you during the day, when it’s sleepy, is not the same as how it behaves at its most active hours. While the pet’s sudden interest may appear odd, it’s actually perfectly normal feline behavior.
Cats stare at their sleeping owners because they’re nocturnal. Cats are more active at night, so they entertain themselves by watching us fumble, twitch, and move around while we sleep. Your cat may also be hungry, and it’s memorized your daily habits. It understands that it’s less likely to get food when you’re asleep, so it will sit there and wait for you to awaken. Your cat may enjoy your company and would rather remain close to you.
A wide-eyed cat staring at you during the night is extremely creepy but overall harmless. With that said, a cat may transition to attacking you while you’re lying in bed because the movement under the sheets triggers its playful curiosity. If your cat is disrupting your sleep with its nighttime habits, you can train it. It’s a common misconception that cats can’t be trained. However, if you’re consistent enough, your cat will be sleeping next to you instead of surveying your every move.
Why Do Cats Stare at You While You Sleep?
Although cats are more aloof than dogs, that often changes at night. Although your pet minded its own business during the day, it’s now peering at you from the darkness while you’re tucked into bed. You may even wake up to find the cat inches from your face, just staring you down.
Cats stare at their owners at night because that’s when they are most active. According to the Journal of Mammalogy, domestic cats match their wild counterparts in protected areas and tend to be fully nocturnal. This is their most natural state. Only feral cats in urban areas tend to change their sleeping patterns to be diurnal, like humans.
During the day, your house cat is too busy lazing about to really care about what goes on around it. This includes what you are doing. Most cats have a feeding schedule during the day, so they won’t meow until they know it’s time to eat unless they are starving. Even if cats think we’re doing something interesting, there is often commotion in and out of the house. This may include:
- Other people moving around
- Cars passing by
- Sounds from the TV
Cats won’t focus on us long enough to stare because there are many other things they can look at. However, they are fully awake and ready to play at night, except everyone around them is sleeping.
The noises from outside settle down, and there’s not much for a cat to do around the house. Luckily for cats, their owners provide ample entertainment while sleeping. We may be:
- Tossing and turning
- Sleep talking
Why Cats Stare at You When You Sleep
Because it is normal, natural behavior, there are several reasons why cats stare at you when you sleep. After all, not all cats are the same. It can sometimes be hard to determine the specific reason your cat prefers this action. Depending on the behavior it exhibits while it stares at you, you might be able to tell.
Your Cat Is Bored
As mentioned, cats don’t have much to do while indoors at night. Cats are nocturnal and become very active after dark. If they aren’t allowed to go outside during the night, they’ll try to entertain themselves around the house. For some, this means knocking things over or clawing at the stair carpet. For others, it means staring at their owner.
Unfortunately, a cat’s predatorial instincts are awakened at night. Because of this, some owners fear that their cat’s staring means that it now views them as prey. This isn’t entirely true. The cat is instead ready to play-fight like it would with other cats.
Because of this, staring often precludes a jump into the middle of your chest or a quick batting motion at your face. The cat doesn’t mean any harm. It’s just playing. In fact, you might’ve partly caused this if you happen to:
- Toss and turn
- Shift around in your sleep
- Make a sudden, loud snore
Restless sleepers are more likely to get attacked by their cats. The movement under the blanket will entice the cat into believing there is a hidden toy or prey it can target. The smaller the movement, the more enticed the cat will be.
The closer your cat is to you, the more focused it is. Indoor cats tend to be nearsighted, which means that things become blurry if they’re too far away. If your cat is staring at you less than a foot away, it’s definitely focused on your every move. It might even think you’re ‘playing dead’ and trying to tease it. After all, you remain perfectly still before making an abrupt movement, much like a cat.
Your Cat Is Hungry
After living indoors for a while, cats learn our behavior patterns and daily routine. If you feed your cat in the morning just after you wake up, it will associate you waking up with it getting food. The cat understands that to be fed, all it has to do is wait for morning. There’s not much else to do in the meantime. Because of this, the cat will sit, stare, and wait.
Wouldn’t the cat meow to get your attention instead? On the contrary, your cat understands what will get you to move and what won’t. If you have a strict, consistent feeding schedule, it knows that no amount of meowing will make you get up from your bed. If it bothers you too much, it’ll just get kicked out of the room instead of getting food.
Instead, it will respect the timeline and wait. An exception will be if you try to sleep past the normal time. The cat may bump you, meow, or start playing with your face to remind you, “Hey, you’re late.”
This is true even with cats that are allowed to explore outside. According to the Journal of Wildlife Management, the way house cats are raised, trained, and fed at home will affect their environment.
A well-fed and pampered cat at home will be less likely to go out and hunt during the night. It may still attack native bird species, rodents, and other small animals if it’s especially playful and the opportunity is right. However, it won’t actively seek them out. It will even let several easy targets walk by.
Your Cat Likes Being Close To You
Because of their detached nature, cats aren’t seen as affectionate as other pets. However, if you treat your cat well and it grows fond of you, it will want to be near you.
If your cat isn’t usually affectionate when you initiate contact, you have to remember that cats are sluggish and sleepy during the day. The last thing your pet wants is to be touched and cuddled.
At night, that changes. Even though the cat may not snuggle up to sleep by your side, it may stare. During the night, it’s the cat’s way of saying it likes you.
Cats that get spooked easily or feel anxious about being alone prefer to stay close to their owners at night. They feel protected when in their owner’s space. It’s a sign that your cat trusts you completely and knows that you’ll keep it safe.
If you wake up to your cat looking at you, don’t try to stare it down. You’ll find yourself on the losing end of a staring match. Cats can gaze without blinking for long periods of time.
That’s because cats are predators. Predators often have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane. The nictitating membrane is hidden behind the top and bottom lid. It is a thin, transparent eyelid. It helps predators keep their eyes moisturized while still maintaining a line of sight on whatever they are focused on.
Not having to blink means they don’t miss any movement for even a fraction of a second. Animals with a nictitating membrane can move this third eyelid without closing their eyes. While it may seem like cats don’t blink at all while staring at you, they actually do.
How to Stop Your Cat from Staring at You While You Sleep
A cat that’s fixated on you at night is bad news. It won’t take long before the feline pounces and wakes you up. Even if it doesn’t, having an animal staring at you in the dark may be so uncomfortable that it causes sleeping troubles.
It’s normal to want this behavior to stop, even if it’s harmless. Luckily, you can train this habit out of your pet. Just keep in mind that the older the cat is, the harder it will be to train. Have patience if your pet is no longer a malleable kitten.
Stop Feeding Your Cat In The Morning
Cats will stare and wait around for you to wake up so it can be fed. You can discourage this by not feeding your cat in the morning. Instead, feed it a big meal just before you go to bed. It will be hard to adjust to a new feeding schedule, but if hunger is why your cat observes you at night, the behavior will stop.
Play With Your Cat Before Bed
You can tire your cat out by playing with it just before bedtime. This ensures that your cat will be too tired to stare at you during the night. Just note that this doesn’t work for all cats. Different cats have different energy levels.
Surround Your Cat With More Entertainment
Set toys outside the bedroom to make sure your cat is properly entertained at night. If it’s disinterested with the toys, provide other stimulating distractions, such as:
- Automatic toys that move around on their own
- LED trinkets that are safe for cats to interact with
Cats lose interest in things easily. Try to have a variety of toys and sounds your cat can amuse itself with while you rest.
Make Your Cat Feel Safer
Your cat might stare at you to feel safe, so try to reduce your cat’s anxiousness. If this is a new habit, the sudden fear may be caused by a change in the house, such as:
- A new baby
- A new pet
- Loud noises
Try to remove the disturbance or keep your cat comfortable until it gets used to the change. This may take longer if your cat was:
- Previously a stray
- Came from an abusive home
- Was a kitten that was separated from its mother too early
It’s hard to make these cats feel safe because anxiety runs deep in animals with those kinds of past. As long as you’re consistent and patient, however, they will overcome it. Even though it’s natural for cats to stare at their owners while they sleep, yours will eventually learn to stop.