Do Cats Protect You While You Sleep?

It’s quite usual to find your furry friend on your bed at night, but is that simply for warmth, or does it hold a deeper meaning?

This answer isn’t straightforward, simply put: Yes and no. Cats do exhibit behaviors in which they will alert their owner of danger, but while this could be seen as protecting you, however, your cat knows that they need you to protect themselves for they depend on you for survival.

Protective cats and the Internet.

If you have spent any amount of time browsing the internet, you may be familiar with a multitude of viral videos depicting cats protecting their humans in often surprising ways. One video that often comes to mind, and even made it to news stories around the world: The viral sensation showing a fearless feline rushing into action when his young human was attacked by a roaming dog next to the family’s car in the driveway.

Visiting any cat-lovers forum will net you thousands of stories of how their little heroic house-cat came to the rescue during a wild animal breaching into their gardens, such as stray badgers, foxes or dogs. Defending their territory and protecting their owners to give them time to get safely inside. 

Quite extraordinary for a pet who is often considered to be aloof and not as loyal as their canine counterparts!

However, far from just instances of protection from physical assailants, many forums dedicated to the keepers of these incredible creatures, also show hundreds of stories of owners who have found themselves in worrying positions in regards to health, and it being their loving mouser who had – quite literally, in some instances – sniffed out the issue.

Evolutionary reasons.

Like many animals in the wild, cats have developed a keen sense of smell that allowed them to avoid dangers, such as predators and rotten, inedible food or water sources. With this keen sense of smell, subtle changes in the home that could otherwise prove fatal – such as carbon monoxide poisoning, which some online sources suggest is responsible for at least 430 deaths in the U.S. every year – can be avoided by the quick actions of a conscientious cat.

You see; because of the incredible ability cats have developed through evolution in regards to their sense of smell, it means they can pick up on even the most acute of chemical, hormonal or pheromonal changes around them. 

This isn’t limited to the world surrounding them, but also includes both other animals and humans alike.

In fact, this is thought to be part of the reason that cats rub against each other in greeting. It is suggested, that by doing this, they are conducting a kind of ‘health check’ on the unknown entity before them. In feral colonies around the world, it is speculated that this is done to avoid the spread of disease and illness that could leave a detrimental effect on the well-being of the clowder.

So by having this brief moment to ‘sniff each other out, a cat is able to determine the health of any new acquaintance they may make.

Aside from just their sense of smell, cats can also note any subtle changes in a person’s behavior and expressions. Cats can easily imprint on their owners, and for this reason, they learn each routine and behavior that a person usually exhibits. This means, that even if you were to have a small accident, leaving you wincing in pain – your cat would notice.

Now you may think this is just sympathy, but in a way, it is a way of self-preservation. As mentioned before, your cat is very much aware that they need you, as their carer, to survive and gain the things they need, i.e; food, water, and shelter. It is for these reasons that if your cat senses illnesses in you, they may act to protect you to in turn protect themselves.

While you are sleeping, you are most vulnerable. For example, a person with the condition of sleep apnea may find themselves losing breathing in their sleep and their ever-vigilant kitty would be there to notice this change and may decide to wake the owner as they realize this lack of breathing is not a good sign. 

It is the fact that while sleeping, you – as their guardian – are most vulnerable, and therefore in your cat’s mind, will need the most watching, and the best way to do that is to stay close by.

Behaviors concerning protectiveness.

Now, it is quite well known and documented that cats will often run from a threat – preferring self-preservation over any act of heroics that we have often come to associate with their canine counterparts.

So while in the human mind, we see our kitty’s penchant for resting at the foot of the bed – or waking us in the case of an emergency – as our pets’ way of protecting us… and to an extent, that is very much the case.

However, the part that is often overlooked, and mentioned briefly earlier, is that your cat is protecting you because ultimately, that protects them. Although cats will flee from a threat, they will often stay if they believe their owner is in danger. That is because they are acutely aware that their precious human is key to their survival. 

So when your four-legged companion senses there is a danger to the home, be that a case of carbon monoxide in the air or the presence of an unknown assailant. Your cat will leap into action to warn you so that you can protect both of you.

They have put trust in you that you will always be there to protect them, much like a child, so it is their instinct to warn you of a threat so that you may take action.

Therefore, when a situation arises, where they believe their protector is in danger and helpless, their need for self-preservation, will ultimately lead them to defend their human – judging this to be the best chance they have for longevity in life.

Because without their human, they would be left to fend for themselves alone, putting a reduction on their expected longevity. 

Final Thoughts.

While there are times that your feisty feline may be outwardly protecting you from an impending danger. More often than not, when it comes to sleeping routines, your cat chooses to be near you simply to keep themselves safe.

They – like us – are aware they are most vulnerable when they are sleeping and so feel safer if they are close by to whom they perceive as their protector and by being close to you, are more likely to be saved if the need arises.

With that in mind, as much as we would like to perceive it as them being protective it is more of a defensive strategy on their part!