How Do Cats Choose Who to Sleep With? (Picking a Partner)

Updated: September 6, 2023


Many cat owners encounter a common scenario: they welcome a new feline companion into their home with open arms, eager for cozy bedtime cuddles. However, when the night falls, their cat mysteriously disappears, opting to slumber solo on the couch.

Perhaps your child yearns for a catnap with their furry friend, only to discover that the cat has chosen your spouse as a naptime companion instead. These capricious behaviors can leave us questioning our bond with our feline companions. Why does the cat play favorites when it comes to sleep?

Cats, known for their independence and well-established routines, extend this trait to their sleeping habits and preferred sleeping partners. In this exploration, we will delve into the intricate world of feline behavior to uncover how cats select their sleeping spots and companions, as well as discover strategies to influence these patterns.

Appeasing the Feline: How to Build Trust with a Cat

A Taste of Bribery

Even the most timid and apprehensive cats can be coaxed into opening up, and the magic key often lies in a meal. Regardless of their initial aloofness, cats eventually succumb to the irresistible allure of food.

When a cat realizes that you are the one providing it with its gastronomic delight, a profound understanding begins to form – you are a source of trustworthiness. After all, how could a person with ill intentions possibly be the purveyor of such delectable treats?

In many instances, the bond between a cat and its caregiver strengthens through regular feeding. The bond that offers the most comfort becomes the most significant, and since cats only sleep where they feel at ease, it frequently leads them to slumber alongside their cherished food-provider. In the world of cats, the distance between their stomachs and their hearts is remarkably short.

Respecting Boundaries

When a cat decides who to cozy up with for a nap, their past treatment plays a significant role. Cats maintain strict personal space boundaries and are highly sensitive to sensory input. Disregarding these boundaries can shatter trust and send the feline in search of alternative sleeping arrangements. Therefore, the most effective approach to encourage a cat to share your bed is to establish a foundation of respect right from the start.

Understanding the unique boundaries of each cat involves some trial and error, alongside considerable patience. Allow the cat to take the initiative, particularly when you’re still in the process of getting to know each other. Avoid cornering the cat for a belly rub or forcibly picking it up; instead, let the cat approach you and leave as it pleases.

Attempting to pick up a cat and place it on your bed in an effort to secure its presence is generally ill-advised. This could lead the cat to associate your bed with being handled against its will, potentially causing it to steer clear of your bed in the future. Surprisingly simple as it may sound, the most effective way to have a cat join you in bed is to entrust the decision entirely to the cat itself. By respecting their autonomy, you’ll create an environment where they feel comfortable and willing to share their precious sleep time with you.

A Gentle Hand

Every cat is a unique individual, but many of them share common preferences when it comes to physical touch. Understanding and respecting these preferences can significantly contribute to earning a cat’s trust and having it snuggle up on your bed.

Most cats relish being gently scratched behind the ears, on their cheeks, and under their chin. Conversely, they usually dislike having their paws and tails manipulated or played with.

Belly rubs can be a mixed bag; while some cats enjoy them, they typically require an established level of trust and an invitation. For instance, if the cat rolls over and exposes its belly, it might be an invitation for a belly rub. However, this area is vulnerable, and touching it without an invitation can lead to bites, scratches, and the cat becoming wary of your touch in the future.

If your cat recognizes that you understand how to pet it in a way it enjoys, it’s more likely to seek your company above all others. This often translates into bedtime visits, where your feline friend comes to you for a “good night” petting session before curling up to sleep by your side.

Survival Instinct: Where Cats Like to Sleep

Sleep Schedules

Cats are renowned for their remarkable propensity for slumber, dedicating up to 16 hours a day to peaceful repose. Their juvenile counterparts, kittens, take this penchant to even greater extremes, dozing away roughly 20 hours a day. While cats can exhibit bursts of activity, their most spirited hours tend to coincide with the transitions between day and night, the dawn and dusk periods. Beyond these moments of vigor, the majority of a cat’s day is characterized by tranquility and rest.

This propensity for daytime slumber in feline behavior traces back to the wild ancestors of today’s domesticated cats. This sleep pattern proved advantageous for them as it allowed them to seize optimal hunting opportunities while minimizing the risk of being seen by potential threats during broad daylight. However, the cover of night, during which cats could indulge in more nocturnal hunting, introduced its own set of challenges in the form of new predators lurking in the shadows.

Making the Bed

To safeguard themselves during their extended periods of rest, cats developed an array of ingenious strategies. Some took to the trees, utilizing their sharp claws and robust leg muscles to facilitate nimble climbing. Others sought refuge in caves and expansive dens, which provided both shelter from the elements and a defense against potential predators.

These ancestral survival instincts are still observable in our domesticated feline companions today. Cat owners often discover their pets reclining on bookshelves and cat trees, finding solace in these impromptu watchtowers. Elevation affords them a degree of invulnerability, as few assailants can reach them at such lofty heights. Moreover, these vantage points enable them to swiftly survey their surroundings.

Security can also be sought in snug enclosures, like cardboard boxes or slightly ajar dresser drawers. Nestled away from prying eyes, cats can finally succumb to slumber without worry. Some believe that these cozy spaces evoke the comforting sensation of being in the womb, instilling a maternal sense of security that fosters restful sleep.

A Matter of Preference

Cats exhibit a wide range of preferences when it comes to their sleeping arrangements. Some have a penchant for lofty perches, while others prefer more accessible spots. Some enjoy plush, cushioned beds, while others favor firmer surfaces for added support. However, there are two universal sleeping tendencies among the majority of cats: they avoid snoozing on the ground, and they only rest near individuals they trust.

So, in a household where everyone has an elevated bed for the cat, how does the feline decide where to settle? The key lies in establishing trust and ensuring the cat feels comfortable. Achieving this requires a basic understanding of how cats form bonds with humans and interpret our behaviors.

Building trust and securing a place in a cat’s preferred sleep spot often comes down to a few essential elements of cat-human interactions. It entails respecting the cat’s boundaries, providing affection and care on their terms, and creating an environment where the cat feels safe and valued. In doing so, you can earn your feline friend’s trust and increase the likelihood of them choosing your bed as their preferred resting place.

A Difficult Choice: When All Else is Equal

It Takes Two

Even when everyone has a comfortable bed and a strong bond with the cat, the feline’s choice of sleeping companion can come down to the humans’ sleeping habits. Much like human partners who get along splendidly until bedtime, cats can also have their preferences.

A person who tosses and turns frequently during sleep might struggle to keep a cat in bed. Any disturbances in the bed could rouse the cat and send it on a quest for a more peaceful resting spot. Additionally, individuals who snore may not be favored by the cat, as cats possess acute hearing that remains active even during their own slumber.

Your sleep schedule can also influence your cat’s decision. If you retire to bed late, your cat may have already settled in for the night. Once you’re comfortably nestled in bed, neither you nor your cat may be keen on moving, so if your sleep schedules don’t align, you might find yourself sleeping solo. Understanding your cat’s preferences and accommodating their needs within your sleep routine can help foster a harmonious bedtime arrangement.

Loner at Heart

At times, despite your earnest attempts, your cat may simply choose to sleep alone. Perhaps it relishes the freedom to stretch out on the couch without any interruptions or prefers its own cat bed, comforted by the scent that’s uniquely its own.

It’s important not to take it personally if, despite your best efforts, your cat opts not to sleep with you. Just like humans, cats have their idiosyncrasies and preferences that defy easy explanation. This choice doesn’t signify that your cat isn’t comfortable around you or doesn’t trust you; it’s merely another facet of your beloved and unique pet’s personality. Respecting your cat’s individuality, including their sleeping preferences, is an integral part of the special bond you share.

Do Cats Protect You While You Sleep?

Cats are renowned for their independent nature, but it might surprise you to discover that they possess a strong natural protective instinct towards their human family members.

If you observe your cat closely throughout the day, you may notice that it keeps a watchful eye on your activities and may even opt to nap in the same room where you spend your time. This behavior is rooted in your cat’s inherent drive to safeguard its territory, which includes protecting you as an integral part of that territory.

In the feline world, the bonds formed with their human companions trigger a sense of responsibility and guardianship, making them not only independent but also fiercely protective members of your household.

How do cats decide where to sleep?

Cats choose their sleeping spots based on a combination of comfort, safety, and trust. They often prefer elevated or secluded locations that provide security and a good vantage point.

Do cats have specific sleeping preferences?

Yes, cats have individual sleeping preferences. Many enjoy being scratched behind the ears, on the cheeks, and under the chin, but they generally dislike having their paws and tail touched without invitation.

Can I make my cat sleep with me if it doesn’t want to?

It’s best to respect your cat’s choice when it comes to sleeping arrangements. Forcing a cat to sleep with you can lead to discomfort and resistance. Building trust and offering a comfortable sleeping environment can encourage them to join you.

Why might a cat choose not to sleep with its owner?

Cats may prefer solitude due to their owner’s disruptive sleeping habits, such as tossing and turning or snoring. A misaligned sleep schedule can also lead to a cat choosing to sleep alone.

Is it true that cats are protective of their family members?

Yes, cats are naturally protective of their human family members. They often pay close attention to their owners’ activities and may choose to nap in the same room to safeguard their territory, which includes their human companions.

What should I do if my cat prefers to sleep alone?

If your cat prefers solitary sleeping, it’s important not to take it personally. Respect their choice and ensure they have a comfortable, secure sleeping space. Building trust and providing a welcoming environment can lead to changes in their sleeping habits over time.

How can I build trust with my cat to encourage it to sleep with me?

Building trust with your cat involves respecting their boundaries, offering affection on their terms, and creating a safe, comfortable space. Over time, they may choose to sleep with you as their trust in you deepens.


Understanding a cat’s choice of sleeping partner and location is a multifaceted endeavor. While cats are known for their independence, they also possess a strong sense of territory and protection, which extends to their human companions. Building trust and respect are key elements in fostering a harmonious sleeping arrangement with your feline friend.

Cats have their unique preferences for physical touch, and being aware of these can help strengthen your bond. While some cats may enjoy being petted in certain areas, others may be more sensitive. Respecting their boundaries and letting them take the lead in forming physical connections can go a long way in gaining their trust.

It’s essential to remember that each cat has its own individual quirks and preferences, and sometimes, they may choose to sleep alone for reasons known only to them. This choice should not be taken as a rejection but rather as a part of their distinctive personality.

Michael R

Michael R

I'm a publisher and editor at Cat Guide 101. I imagine that since you’re here, you likely own a cat — or two! — so helping you better understand them is my aim. I'd like to invite you to check out our about page to learn more about the Cat Guide 101 story.

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