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Why Does My Cat Sleep Face Down? Cat Behaviour Explained

Cats are odd creatures, and they can often be spotted sleeping in unusual places and positions. We even got the “if I fits, I sits” meme out of cats’ attraction toward boxes and other tight spaces. Cats sleep in some places and positions that don’t even seem like they should be possible. One position you may have seen your cat sleeping in is face down or with their face pressed against something. You probably wondered what your cat was doing sleeping in such an unusual position, and as simple as it sounds they just like sleeping that way. Let’s talk about the details and reasons why cats do this.

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Why Do They Sleep Like That?

The top answer for why your cat is sleeping face down is simple; they just like sleeping like that! Cats are exceptionally flexible animals, so they are often comfortable in positions that would be uncomfortable for less flexible animals, like humans and dogs. It may be because it feels nice against their head or that the position is comfortable for their neck. It also may be because it’s a cozy position, like a human sleeping with their covers pulled over their head. It’s possible that your cat is cold and is sleeping face down to warm up its face and nose. Maybe the lighting in the room is too bright, so your kitty is sleeping in this position to block out light while it dozes.

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Image Credit: sarangib, Pixabay

Another possible but less probable cause for this sleeping position is to make sure the item the cat is sleeping on is marked with their scent. Cats have multiple scent glands in their face, which is why you see cats rubbing their faces on items, including you. Many people see their cat rubbing its face on their legs as a sign of affection, and they’re partially correct. Your cat feels affectionate enough to want to mark you as its territory by leaving its scent behind on you. Sleeping face down would allow these scent glands to leave behind your cat’s scent, marking the territory as its own.

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Head Pressing vs Sleeping Face Down

There’s an extremely important distinction to make between head pressing behaviors and sleeping face down. Sleeping face down can be normal for many cats but watch your cat for head pressing. Head pressing is a behavior where a cat will face a solid object and press the top of its head against the object. This is frequently seen with walls, chairs, floors, and sofas. Head pressing is indicative of a serious underlying condition.

Hepatic encephalopathy can lead to excess ammonia in the body because the liver is not functioning properly, so ammonia is not being excreted. Ammonia can build up in the brain, causing pressure, head and face pain, and confusion. Neurological illnesses, like brain tumors and infections that target the nervous system, can cause head pressing. Other causes include head injuries, high or low sodium levels in the blood, and toxin exposure.

Head pressing is often a behavior that develops, possibly suddenly. Sleeping face down is usually a habitual behavior that starts when a cat is young. Cats that are suddenly head pressing against solid objects should be evaluated by a veterinarian. If you’re unsure of whether you’re seeing head pressing or sleeping face down, have your cat evaluated to rule out serious medical problems.

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Sleeping face down is a perfectly normal behavior for these perfectly abnormal creatures, so don’t be surprised if you bring a cat or kitten home who seems content to sleep on its face. However, be vigilant in looking for head-pressing behaviors. They will usually be accompanied by other odd behaviors, like excessive vocalization, seizures, abnormal pacing or wandering, blindness, unprovoked and unusual aggression, and jaundice or yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucus membranes. Have head pressing checked by a veterinarian to ensure your cat is healthy.

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Featured Image Credit: Dolgikh Dmitry, Shutterstock