Cats love to sleep and do lots of it. They sleep in many locations in our homes and in just about every physical position. Let's look at some common questions cat lovers have about their cat's sleep patterns and we will review causes of cat head pressing while sleeping.
What is Normal Cat Sleep Behavior?
How much do cats sleep? Experts estimate that the average cat will sleep 13 to 15 hours per day with some cats sleeping as much as 20 hours a day.
When are cats awake vs. sleep? Cats are “crepuscular” which means their activity levels peak at twilight which is at both dawn and dusk. Why is this? Because twilight is the time when their prey is most active. So in-between, cats sleep. Although your cat may be indoors and domesticated, these instincts remain. Cat lovers recognize this as their cats run around the house in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes knocking things over, or pouncing on moving toes while they are trying to sleep. So during our waking hours, we see our cats sleep.
Where Do Cats Sleep? What is a normal location for cats to sleep? Cats love to sleep where they feel safe and comfortable. Cats love to sleep high on perches or beds where they can monitor their environments for threats from a safe height. Cats also love to sleep in boxes, cubbyholes, or hidden on dining room chairs. Small hiding spot spaces are often warm, cozy, and out of reach or sight of predators. Some cats also love to find a slice of sunshine and enjoy the warmth as they take their catnap.
Are Cats Deep or Light Sleepers? Cats are known to be light sleepers, always being on alert to attacks based on their nature of survival. Cats can go from a full sleep to fully alert and running in no time.
What Positions Do Normal Cats Sleep in? Every cat is a little different as far as what position they sleep in. Cats sleep curled up in balls, sprawled out on the back of the sofa, on their backs in the middle of the floor, or even to appear curled into a position that appears to be cat head pressing while sleeping. Some cats will cover their eyes with their paws while sleeping as if to block out the light.
The vast majority of cats sleep curled up in balls with their chin on their chest and their tail tucked gracefully besides them up the length of their body. This posture is to help them retain their body heat. Cats curl up with their face between paws or covering their faces as another way retain their body heat and minimize heat loss. Some of these positions will appear as head pressing while sleeping which can be a normal cat behavior and they do this because this is a comfortable position for them. During this time your cat's body is relaxed.
Why a Cat Might Press Her Head Against Something While Sleeping
Some owners worry about their cat head pressing while sleeping. Is this normal behavior? Or is this a symptom of a serious neurologic problem? Learn more about What is Head Pressing in Cats?
Some cats will perform a head pressing behavior as they curl up to go to sleep to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands on their checks and this head rubbing behavior allows them to mark their territory and take ownership.
How to Know the Difference Between Signs of Disease or Just Odd Behavior
When should you be concerned about if your cat's head pressing is normal or abnormal, consider the following. If your cat is eating, drinking, playful or having otherwise normal behavior, then it is unlikely that that the symptoms are of concern.
When it comes to head pressing, if you will see your cat doing this against walls while sitting or while awake as though your cat doesn't know what he or she is doing, that can be abnormal. It can be a medical problem if they press their head up against something with an unrelaxed posture. Learn more about the medical problems that can cause head pressing in this article: Cat Head Pressing: What You Need to Know
Additional signs of medical problems seen in cats that are also cat head pressing while sleeping may include:
- Behavior changes or changes in learned behavior
- Circling and walking in one direction
- Decreased appetite or weight loss
- Eye changes such as unequal pupil sizes or inability to blink
- Head tilt
- Incoordination or falling over when walking
- Less engaged with family or with normal activities
- Loss of consciousness
- Restlessness and pacing
- Sleeping more
- Stuporous behavior
If your cat is showing any of the above signs and seems to be head pressing, please see your veterinarian immediately. There may be a serious underlying cause that requires urgent veterinary care.
When You Should Be Concerned About Cat Head Pressing While Sleeping
You should be concerned if your cat is head pressing and showing any of the clinical signs listed above. If you have any concern that your cat's head pressing or sleeping behavior is not normal, the safest thing to do is to please see your veterinarian.
- Your vet will likely perform a physical examination including a complete neurological examination. They will look at overall attitude, alertness, pupil size and responsiveness to light, ability to blink, head and neck movements, coordination, body posture, gait, and reflexes.
- Any abnormality above may be cause for concern leading to the recommendation for diagnostic testing that may include:
- Basic blood work and urinalysis are recommended to evaluate for systemic disease. Tests include a complete blood count (CBC) may be within normal limits, but an elevated white blood cell count may be present if there is also secondary infection. A biochemical profile and urinalysis may be unremarkable unless an underlying or concurrent disease is present.
- Radiographs of the chest and abdomen are an important part of any baseline work-up. They may be within normal limits or can reveal signs of cancer or concurrent disease.
- Abdominal ultrasound is recommended in most cases suspect of cancer or concurrent disease.
- Computed tomography (CT scan or CAT scan) is a special X-ray technique that provides serial images of the brain using enhanced computer processing.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that uses powerful magnetic fields to generate detailed images of body organs.
- If your cat is showing abnormal neurological signs in addition to cat head pressing while sleeping, your vet may refer you to a veterinary neurologist for a second opinion and additional advanced diagnostics such as the CT scan or MRI.