Back when I still allowed my cats into my bedroom, I would often wake up to find myself staring into the wide orange eyes of my British Shorthair tom, who had evidently been gazing down at me as slept. He still does the same thing if I doze off in my armchair. This behaviour is quite common: some cats seem to find the sight of their sleeping owners absolutely enthralling. While this might unnerve the new cat owner, it’s pretty benign. Cats often develop close bonds with the human members of their households and will watch over us while we sleep.
Why does my cat stare at me while I sleep? Your cat may be waiting for you to wake up and feed her. If you were moving or twitching, you could have engaged her predatory instinct. She may also simply be curious as to what you’re doing.
You’ve arrived on this page because you’re curious about this aspect of your cats behaviour. You may have a number of questions. Why is my cat staring at me while I sleep? What makes sleeping humans so fascinating to cats? Why does my cat want to follow me into the bedroom? Why does my cat stare at me so much? What is my cat looking at when she stares off into space? Why don’t cats blink more? Whatever your questions, we have answers.
Keep reading to find out why your cat stares at you in your sleep, and what makes cats gaze fixedly at humans so much of the time.
Why Does My Cat Stare at Me While I Sleep?
You’re sleeping peacefully, comfortable and oblivious. Suddenly, something jerks you awake. You have the strangest feeling you’re being watched, observed by some mysterious and unknown presence. You turn over in bed, only to be confronted with a familiar fuzzy little face and a blast of cat food breath. Your cat has been sitting close to you while you slept, perhaps peering into your face or staring down from a perch on the night-stand. You may have asked, as I used to: “What on Earth are you staring at me for?”
For a cat, a sleeping human can be a source of intense fascination. There are a number of reasons for this. Some cats simply appoint themselves the household’s supervisor: they want to know everything that’s going on and will observe you carefully whether you’re awake or asleep.
Others may be alerted by a change in your breathing as you start to wake up. In some cases, their predatory instincts may have been piqued; perhaps the cat saw your hand switching on the pillow or saw you moving under the duvet, and they’re waiting to see if something small and edible is about to emerge. Sometimes, of course, they’re just eager for you to get up and make a fuss of them — or open a tin of Fancy Fast.
Something people often forget about cats is that they’re really quite social animals. They don’t have the intense and direct pack bonds one sees in dogs, for instance, but they are inclined to form colonies. In a domestic setting, human guardians become their colony-mates. The activities of the rest of the colony are of great interest, since they may have direct relevance to a feral cat’s survival.
That sleeping colony-mate may simply be taking a nap, but might also be sick or injured and require attention. After sleep, a cat may rise and go off to hunt. The location of potential prey is useful information for a cat. In addition, cats like to play together, engaging in mutual grooming and play-fights; keeping an eye on your sleeping friend lets you know the minute they’re up and ready for some fun.
Why Does My Cat Stare At Me?
As well as watching you sleep, cats may study you at other times. This is often another reflection of their colony-related behaviour. As noted, the comings and goings of the colony are a matter of survival for all its members, requiring a certain amount of attention. As a human colony member, you’re naturally going to interest your cat. You might get up and want to play, or go into the magical realm of the kitchen and provide them with something tasty.
A cat has a deep and innate need to know everything about her surroundings. These instincts helped to preserve her ancestors from predators, spot prey and other resources, and bond more effectively with their fellow ferals. Your activities will have a direct impact on the world she lives in. It stands to reason that whatever you may be doing, the situation could require monitoring by a responsible feline.
A cat’s gaze can be a somewhat disconcerting thing. As humans, we’re used to a person’s gaze being broken periodically as they blink. Because they’re predators, cats have evolved beyond the need to blink very often. They can stare fixedly at a single point for long periods without once closing their eyes.
This is very useful if the cat is waiting for a mouse to emerge from a hole, but can be a bit unsettling if you happen to be the fixed point in question. This is normal, however, and not a sign that your cat is planning to murder you in your sleep. (Probably.)
A cat may gaze at you for the express purpose of catching your eyes and closing her own. This is a very special gesture for us cat lovers. It communicates that the cat trusts you completely, and is showing you her trust by letting you out of her sight. It’s often called a “cat kiss” and it never fails to warm my heart.
Why Does My Cat Follow Me?
Some cats really can’t bear to have you out of their sight. My own British Shorthair is one of these — he conforms to the breed stereotype of trotting at my heels as I go from room to room, and waiting outside the door when he can’t follow.
The day-to-day activities of a human must seem very odd to cats. We don’t engage in a lot of behaviour that cats would regard as normal, and we do many things that must be utterly baffling. They never see us hunt, for example. Our grooming, such as it is, is quite bizarre — not only do we not lick ourselves, but we willingly submerge ourselves in water. We wield terrifying and noisy devices such as hairdryers and vacuum cleaners, do strange things to our food, and never seem to sharpen our claws.
We can also alter the living environment in obscure and confusing ways, moving parts of the landscape around and manipulating the smells and sounds in ways that simply cannot be understood. Given that our activities are such a long way beyond the ken of catkind, it’s not really surprising that we attract the interest of intrepid feline researchers.
It’s likely that your cat is also very attached to you. Even cats that aren’t lap-cats may feel a strong affection for their favourite humans. They express this by wanting to be close to you, observing your activities and hoping that you’ll want to come and play with them (or hand over a treat).
Your attention is often terribly important for your cat. Some felines are attention-hungry in the extreme, and their following and staring are ways of getting you to engage with them in an unthreatening way. My domestic shorthair girl has a habit of inserting herself between me and whatever my attention happens to be focused on, such as the book I’m reading. She’s also very good at using her nose to shut my laptop for me, so I’ll attend to her instead of the computer screen. If you’re disconcerted by your cat’s unwavering gaze, try offering a few pets or a quick game of chase. Priorities, people!