Do Cats Know When You’re Sleeping?

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Do cats know when you’re sleeping? They may not be able to tell time, but they are masters of observation. If your cat likes to sleep next to you or curl up on your bed, they may be trying to tell you something!

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It’s pretty clear that our feline friends are attuned to our moods and daily routines. But does this mean that they can tell when we’re asleep?

As it turns out, cats probably do know when we’re sleeping. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, scientists found that cats responded differently to recordings of their owner’s voice depending on whether the owner was awake or asleep. Cats tended to be more relaxed when they heard their owner’s voice recorded during sleep, compared to when the owner was recorded while awake.

So, it seems like cats are aware that we’re in a different state when we’re asleep. But why? One possibility is that cats associate our sleep state with a reduction in our ability to interact with them. When we’re asleep, we can’t pet them or play with them like we can when we’re awake. As a result, they may learn to associate sleep with a lack of attention from us.

Or, it could be that cats simply enjoy being around us when we’re in a relaxed state (i.e., when we’re sleeping). After all, they often like to curl up next to us when we’re taking a nap. So, it could be that they just find our sleep state comforting and familiar.

Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that cats are aware of our sleeping habits. So if you ever find your cat snuggling up next to you while you’re asleep, now you’ll know why!

What the Research Says

A new study finds that cats react differently to people they know depending on whether those people are awake or asleep. The research, conducted by animal behaviorist Dr. Daniel Mills at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, is the first to show that cats can tell whether we’re conscious or not.

A 2012 study

In a 2012 study published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers found that cats did not react differently to their human’s presence depending on whether the human was awake or asleep. The study’s authors suggest that this means cats do not have the same concept of humans as social partners as dogs do, and they don’t seem to care whether their human is awake or not.

Previous research has shown that dogs will stare at their sleeping owners longer than they will stare at a stranger, and they show other signs of stress when their owner is asleep, such as increased heart rate and cortisol levels. Dogs have also been shown to inhibit their barking when they know their owner is sleeping, which suggests they are trying not to wake them up. Cats, on the other hand, show no such signs of stress or concern when their owners are asleep.

So why don’t cats seem to care whether we’re awake or asleep? The authors of the 2012 study suggest that it may be because cats are mostly solitary creatures, while dogs are social animals who have evolved to live in close quarters with humans. Cats also don’t seem to depend on humans for protection or assistance the way dogs do, so it may not be as important to them to know whether we’re awake or not.

A 2006 study

In a 2006 study, Turkish researchers Sugden and colleagues observed that domestic cats show signs of relaxed behaviors when their owners are asleep, including increased purring,decreased movement and increased body temperature.

How Cats Might Know When You’re Sleeping

Scientists have found that cats react differently to people who are asleep than they do to people who are awake. They found that cats tend to avoid people who are asleep, and this behavior was more common in cats who were not well socialized with people. Interestingly, the study found that cats did not seem to care whether the person was a stranger or not.

They can hear you breathe

Your cat knows when you’re sleeping, because they can hear you breathe. Cats have much better hearing than humans, and they can pick up on the slightest changes in our breathing patterns. If you’re asleep, your breathing will be much slower and deeper than when you’re awake. This is a dead giveaway to your kitty that you’re in slumberland.

They can sense your body temperature

Cats can sense your body temperature. If you’re asleep, your body temperature will be lower than if you’re awake. Cats can detect this difference and may use it to determine whether you’re sleeping or not.

They can feel your heartbeat

Most of us are familiar with the feeling of a cat curled up on our chests or lap – but have you ever wondered why they seem to be so attracted to this spot? It turns out that cats can actually feel our heartbeat, and they find the rhythm comforting. So next time your cat snuggles up to you, know that it’s because they care!

Do Cats Really Care?

It’s a common belief that cats know when their humans are sleeping because they often sleep next to them or on them. But do cats really understand that we need to sleep? And if they do, do they care? Here’s what the experts have to say.

They might be curious

Cats are curious creatures, and they might be curious about you when you’re sleeping. Some people believe that cats can sense when you’re sleeping and will try to wake you up because they think you’re missing out on something fun. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. If your cat wakes you up while you’re sleeping, it’s probably just because they want attention or something to eat!

They might be trying to get your attention

While a loving head butt or purr session might make it seem like your cat really cares about you, the truth is that they may just be trying to get your attention.

Cats are natural hunters and they’re hardwired to pay attention to anything that moves. So when you’re shaking a bag of treats or playing with a toy, your cat is probably just trying to figure out what’s going on and if there’s anything worth hunting.

However, there are times when cats do show genuine care and concern for their humans. When you’re sick or injured, your cat may try to comfort you with purring or licking. And if you’re in danger, your cat may even sacrifice themselves to protect you.

So while cats may not always show their affection in ways that we humans can understand, there are definitely moments when it’s clear that they care deeply for us.

They might be showing you affection

It’s long been said that cats ignore their owners, but a new study suggests otherwise. Researchers found that cats react differently to people they know—including their owners—compared with strangers.

The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, suggest that cats do care about the people in their lives—even if they don’t always show it.

For the study, a team of Japanese researchers observed 20 domestic cats and their owners. The cats were allowed to roam freely in a room for two hours while the researchers observed their behavior.

The researchers found that the cats spent more time close to their owners when they were sleeping than when they were awake. They also found that the cats chose to spend more time with their owner when they were resting or sleeping than with other people in the room.

Interestingly, the study also found that the bond between a cat and its owner was stronger when the owner was paying attention to the cat—even if that attention was negative, such as scolding the cat for misbehaving.

While previous research has shown that dogs form strong bonds with their owners, this is one of the first studies to show that cats may also form attachments to their human companions.


There’s no way to know for sure what’s going through a cat’s mind, but it’s unlikely that they understand the concept of sleeping in the same way that we do. Cats are most active at dawn and dusk, so it’s possible that they see us as potential prey when we’re asleep and vulnerable. However, they also seem to enjoy snuggling up with us when we’re asleep, so it’s also possible that they see us as a source of comfort and security. Until we can ask them directly, we’ll just have to keep guessing at what they’re thinking!

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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