Is a Cat Sleeping in Unusual Places a Sign of Sickness?

By Betty Lewis

Sometimes your cat is snuggled in bed next to you, perhaps at your side or in the nook of your knees. Other nights she gives you the hand, stiff-arming you for the sofa or a chair or some other spot that suits her fancy. Your cat has her reasons for changing her spots, which may include illness, climate or simply her whim.

The Basics of Cat Sleep

Cats sleep an average of 13 to 16 hours during the course of the day. As you're likely aware, when and where a cat sleeps is entirely up to her. Typically, cats prefer to sleep in warm, cozy places. The PetPlace website notes that among cats who sleep in bed with their owners, young cats tend to sleep on the pillow, while older cats gravitate toward the foot of the bed. Though cats often have preferred sleeping spots, they're apt to change places randomly and periodically. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, cats generally have three or four preferred spots for sleeping and napping.

Health Concerns

If your cat has sought out a new sleep spot, pay attention to signals that she may not be feeling well. It's not unusual for a cat to withdraw when she's not healthy, and sleeping more than normal and in an unusual place may be early clues that something's amiss. Pay attention to her behavior. Is she eating, drinking and using the litter box normally? Is she less playful than usual or has her temperament changed? If a new sleeping spot is accompanied by other changes, you should take your cat to the vet for a health check.

Climate Change

As the weather changes, you may notice your cat adjusts her sleeping accommodations accordingly. If home is a place that experiences noticeable temperature changes, your cat will likely seek a spot that's not too hot and not too cold. That means you'll likely find her stretched out in a sun spot or next to a heat source in cold weather months; in the heat of summer, look for her in darker, cooler places.

Instinctual Behavior

It doesn't matter that you pour her food out of a bag or serve it from a can, nor does it matter that she does her business in a litter box; your cat maintains some of her natural instincts, which dictate some of her sleeping behavior. If she's active at dawn and dusk, she's doing as her wild relatives do who are awake at that time to hunt prey. In a multi-cat household, cats will alternate sleep spots according to the hierarchy of the home, with the dominant cats claiming preferred spots and sharing them with more submissive family members, much as they do in the wild. Though the inside of your house is a safe spot for your cat, in the wild, a cat must be vigilant against predators; sleeping in unusual places is one way a cat can vary her routine to protect herself.