Why Does My Cat Attack Me When I’m Sleeping?

Why Does My Cat Attack Me When Im Sleeping

There are few things more annoying than being tucked up all nice and snuggly in bed – only to be treated as prey by your cat jumping on you while you’re sleeping and attacking you.

I’m not talking about the cute little games we play with kittens chasing our toes or pouncing on our hands making the blankets move.

Rather, full-size cats being a little too aggressive to the point where it’s becoming a real problem.

Don’t worry, I’ve been there. I was able to correct my cat’s behavior, so I’m sure you can too.

So, if you’re wondering, why does my cat attack me when I’m sleeping? – Here are some reasons why they are turning hunter in your bedroom, and what you can do about it:

Reasons Why You Cat Attacks You While You’re Sleeping

Cats Are Active at Night

Cats Are Active at Night and May Attack You

Despite it looking like cats barely know the difference between day and night as they sleep so much, they do have body clocks. Most cats are crepuscular by nature, which means they are active at dawn and dusk.

Broadly speaking, they are more nocturnal than they are diurnal. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your cat is awake and active while you’re sleeping.

Now, if you’re thinking about adopting a cat or new to being a kitty owner I’m not trying to scare you. Your cats aren’t going to be running the halls and jumping on your bed overnight forevermore.

For one, it’s a behavior that you can get under control as I’m going to explain in this article. Two, cats mature and chill out very quickly. For most people, this is a short-term problem while their kitten is growing up.

Being awake at night doesn’t always explain the exact cause or reason behind them attacking you, however. Here’s some further insight into this annoying behavior:

They Want Your Attention

Nocturnal or not, not every cat decides to bite their owners at bedtime or jump on them and attack them while they’re sleeping. So there is a good chance that there’s a reason behind this behavior, and it might be due to them wanting attention.

If your cat wants to play, they don’t understand you’re trying to sleep and what this means. All they know is that they can see you, and if they do something to you they’ll get a reaction. Because that’s the interaction they have with you when you’re awake.

Now, the next question is why do they want your attention? And, how can you make them wait until the morning?

That’s going to be on you to figure out. There are a few basic needs cats have that you should start with. Do they want food? To be let out? To play?

The obvious solutions to each of these are:

  • If they’re hungry, but they’ve eaten enough during the day – try feeding them later in the evening to keep the munchies at bay
  • If they need to go out at night and you’re fine with that, get a cat flap so they don’t need to wake you
  • If they have a lot of energy during the night and want to play, put some time in during the evening to wear them out more

All pretty simple solutions to the most common reasons behind kitties disturbing us while we sleep.

I do appreciate it’s easier said than done a lot of the time, however. We can’t always put in an hour’s playtime before bed, and some cats get the craving to go out even though they’re indoor cats.

They Don’t See It as Wrong

Something else to consider is that regardless of the reason behind why they’re attacking your face, toes, or whatever else in the night, is that they don’t see it as wrong.

Cat’s are very adept at learning and can be trained not to do certain things, so don’t despair. I’m going to cover a few of the ways you can make it very clear is annoys you in the following sections:

How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Attacking Me at Night?

That’s a good question.

I’m going to assume you can’t shut them out of your room, otherwise, I have a very simple solution. Close the door!

On a serious note, I have had to deal with this issue a couple of times with overzealous kittens, so I do have some firsthand experience. Here are some of the tactics I’ve used and read from other cat owners:

A Quick Spray Goes a Long Way!

One of the oldest methods in the book that still works today when training cats is to give them a little spray with water.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not ideal to have a spray bottle of water close to hand while you’re sleeping and have to spray it while it’s dark. But if you’re under attack from a furry ball of mayhem, desperate times mean desperate measures.

Next time they attack you, give them a little spray and a firm “no” and they should run off to escape the scene. If they come back and attack you again, do the same thing. If they look like they’re coming back with their tail between their legs for some fussing, don’t give in.

You need to ignore them overnight and not give out any signals that it’s ok to interact with you for attention. In my experience, it really doesn’t take long for a cat to take the hint using a water spray. I recommend giving this a go.

Wear Them out Before Bedtime

How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Attacking Me at Night

Despite being nocturnal animals, if your cat was more tired overnight there’s less chance they’d be bothering you. There’s a couple of ways you can help them burn off some energy:

  • Play with them in the evening – this might tire you out some more too
  • Set up some interactive toys and cat furniture for them to play with

Ideally, you will do a bit of both. Cats need furniture with cat trees and scratching posts for a number of reasons:

They also need human interaction. If you’re not giving your cat enough interaction during the day, they’re going to come looking for it when they awake during the night.

Feed Them Later in the Evening

While speaking about this with a friend, she told me that she solved this issue once by feeding her cat just as she was going to bed.

She said she did this because her kitty was always bothering her for the first couple of hours after she’d go to bed. So, she figured if she put food out at the same time this would distract her cat for a while.

And it did.

This is actually a tactic I’ve read other cat owners recommending too. It takes a lot of energy to digest a meal, this goes for both cats and us. If you’ve ever felt like a snooze after a huge meal, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

So, try feeding your cat at bedtime. Not only will this keep them occupied for a while, followed by some grooming, but it’ll also sap their energy for a while. Hopefully long enough for them to find something else to do other than jump on you!

Reinforce That Any Form of Aggression Is Not Tolerated

It’s not just as and when your cat attacks you that you make it clear it’s not on. You also need to keep their aggressive behavior in check during the day.

There’s a thin line between playing and getting aggressive, especially for kittens. If it’s gotten to the point where your cat or kitten is bothering you in the night, you need to stop all signs of aggressive playing/behavior.

That means when you’re playing with your cat and they lash out or bite you, stop playing with them and walk away. The goal is to create a harmonious and fun environment day and night, and you’ll get there by sending out all the right signals.

Is Your Cat Attacking You While You Sleep?

Is this a problem you’re currently experiencing with your cat? Maybe you’ve managed to stop your cat from being aggressive to you overnight and have some additional tips to share?

Either way, I’d love to hear from you. Please take the time to drop a comment below and help other kitty owners hiding under the covers at night! Thanks.

33 thoughts on “Why Does My Cat Attack Me When I’m Sleeping?”

  1. I have a female tabby (Little) and s male as well(Teddy). They’ll be 1 in July 2020.

    Little has scratched me in my sleep twice now and the second one is much worse. The only thing I think that caused it is that I baby say a kitten both days. She growls at the kitten and sometimes swings to hit the kitten. My male cat teddy is fine with the kitten. My question is should I rehome my cat because of her aggressive behavior? Or home do I discipline her or show her that she cannot control this situation.

    1. Our female cat Lilly, 7 yrs old out of nowhere suddenly attacked my sleeping husbands face. Slight cut on side of his nose and in between his eyebrows and bleeding quite a bit!
      I don’t know what triggered this as she has never been aggressive in the 2 yrs we have had her.

      1. My male cat 7years old all of a sudden attacks my face and bites me so intensely. He is spoiled so there is no reason to bite, but now when I sleep….

    2. Why not stop “babysitting” any other cat(s) or kitten(s)? Would you actually give up your own cat, for the sake of minding someone else’s? Really?
      It’s normal for there to be stress any time a ‘new’ pet is introduced to an established pride or pack or flock, or whatever. Your cats don’t know that the one you “sit” isn’t staying, so in their eyes, it’s a threat to the established relationships of the household. Better to stop minding anyone else’s pet, than to get rid of or “punish’ your own. If you really must take care of someone else’s pet for a while, perhaps you should set it up in a specific room – perhaps your bathroom? – behind a closed door, with food, water, litter box for the duration of it’s stay. That way, nobody gets injured in any scraps or battles! Why disrupt your cats’ homelife, or punish them for a natural response to an intruder/invader? And yes, quite often a female cat will be more hostile to a female “invader” than will a male, and a male more hostile to another male; another critter of the same sex is a greater threat to their status/position in their community; there’s a potential threat to reproductive ‘rights’ and status.

    3. Introducing cats is a WHOLE process. Cats are generally solitary animals, though with carefully planned intros, you can make it much easier for everyone involved. Keep the kitten in a seperate room until your cats get used to the kittens scent. Once they stop hissing through the door at each other, reward thay behavior. You want the cats to associate good things with the presence of the other cat. Do NOT punish undesirable behaviors. Cats can’t link the punishment to the behavior the way we do. All they know is that when the other cat is around, is that their favorite person becomes mean, so the obvious solution to them is to get rid of the other cat, thus reinforcing negative behavior. Figure out something your cat absolutely ADORES and only give it to them when the kitten is around and when undesirable behavior is shown, dont give it to them. Some hissing and slapping is normal, but always supervise them until all negative behaviors stop and seperate the cats when needed. Introducing cats can take weeks until they learn to atleast tolerate each other. You can also try brushing your cats, take a little bit of their fur and put it in the kittens collar so kitten smells more familiar. There are also products available that mimic certain feel good hormones in cats, that can help ease tensions between them. Also, make sure you give special attention to your older cats, as they may feel their place in your life is threatened/youre replacing them and their food is at risk. You can also play with your older cats before supervised intros to help them get some of that aggressive energy out. Cats also love structure. Feed them at the exact same time every day and set a time for when the cats are together. Theyll learn what to expect after a bit which will also help their anxiety about the whole situation. Hope this helps <3

  2. I have a 9 week old kitten and we fell asleep on the couch. I had my finger on her paws stroking her as she nodded off. A few minutes went by and she flew at my face scratching me on my nose, forehead and leg then ran under the couch. I assumed that something frightened her to suddenly move that quickly as she didn’t come out for a while. I wondered if it was me over petting or because she saw my Mrs getting out the hoover?

    1. Sounds more like something startled her, was there a loud noise while getting the hoover? That combined with a deep state of relaxation could be the reason. No one likes to be disturbed like that, right? 🙂

  3. I’ve got a tabby girl, just now I was laying in bed ready to fall asleep with her laying her top half on my stomach. Out of nowhere with literally no cause she suddenly swipes at me and scratches my wrist, she yowls a little and swipes again before I pushed her away and she ran out the room. There wasn’t any noises, she was all snuggly in bed ready to fall asleep so I have no idea why she did that.

    1. Did you ever figure out what happened? I’ve got a new shelter cat… we were getting along famously until he out of nowhere attacked my face while I was laying on the couch. He came over and bunted my forehead, then my leg, I said some sweet words and he almost looked like he was going to curl up with me, but instead he full on clawed my face. Lots of blood. I’m considering bringing him back to the shelter atm.

  4. my sister was asleep.and in the middle of the night the cat attacked her and bit her in the face.my sis wacked the cat.when she woke up in the morning she thought she dreamed it.only to find out looking in the mirror she had 4 puncture wounds in the face.her cat never ever behaved like that.really really weird.

  5. I adopted a 3 month old Domestic shorthair orange tabby, named Larry, a few weeks ago. He’s a good kitty and super sweet, until night time. He has plenty of toys, food, etc. and they’re always available for him to play with. But instead, he jumps on my bed and bites me, repetitively. He also likes to go under the sheets and attacks my feet. I have tried to spray him with water, but that doesn’t work, as he likes water. I have tried many ways to get him to stop, but nothing is working.

    1. My kitty Maggie has started going under my sheets to attack recently, very confused as to why.

      Do you mind sharing any other ways you’ve try to get Larry to stop.

      I need all the help I can get haha

    2. Your cat doesn’t want toys to play with that are just lying around the house, your cat wants to play with you. Play is a two way street and helps to build a better bond with your cat. It also helps tire them out before bed.

  6. My beautiful kitty (Maggie) has all of a sudden started biting everyone and attacking me in my sleep. (for potential context, she is 2 years old, I adopted her 2 months ago and she’s been going outside since week 3, and we keep her inside at night, from around 11PM onwards)

    It’s been happening consistently for about 5 days now and its starting to get exhausting. She will walk past my flatmates and myself and bite our ankles, then continue walking as if nothing has happened. This isn’t particularly painful, but odd and seemingly out of character.

    At around the same time she started the ankle bites she’s also started attacking me in bed. Before now she would typically sleep with me in bed over night with no issue. But for the last few days she will start aggressively pulling my duvet away so she can scratch and bite my thighs.

    The first day or so we thought it may have something to do with the weather as it was raining and she spent very little time outside so she had extra energy she needed to use up.

    Im so confused as to what’s happened to my sweet little girl

    I love her to death and couldn’t live without her regardless of her aggression.

    1. My 11 mo male tabby has started ro bite. Im allergic so when he bites and drwas blood it gets bad- but i love him and can’t send him away- ive been trying to train him thru positive reinforcement with treats, playing, saying no and walking away when he attacks me but i feel so frustrated and sad. Till 7mo he was lovely, never bited and now i feel scared 🙁

  7. My cat is 2yrs old and has recently started attacking my face while I’m asleep. I feel him jump on the bed and make his way to the head of the bed, purring, then an attack to my face and head. This last time the attack was within cm of my eye. I have had cats all my life and this one is do different. I am not sure what to do to stop this behavior. Help me!

    1. Hi Debbie,

      I’m wondering if you were able to solve this problem. I am having the same one with my 2.5 yr old male cat. He has bit my eyelid hard several times while I’m sleeping. He used to cuddle at night and now he pretends he’s cuddling and then suddenly attacks once I fall asleep. I’ve had to lock him out of the bedroom snd he cries and bangs on the door all night! Not sure what to do!

      1. Your cat may be seeing your REM eye movements under your lid and he thinks they are prey. Same as feet moving under the covers. I have read about this and it’s scary. Try wearing a satin blindfold over your eyes at night. That should help quite a bit.

      2. I have a 1 yr old Siberian male. He is adorable by day but at night tries to attack my face. He never does this to my husband. We have tenants upstairs so we can’t let him howl on the other side of the bedroom door. I am tired and at a liss

      1. Put the cat in another room. You must have at least a bathroom. If not, try a pet carrier.
        Make it comfy an then your cat is in the same room but feels safe. Make sure to
        let them out in the morning.

  8. I have an almost 9 month old munchkin/bengal who just in the last few weeks has started to attack me while I’m sleeping (only at night around 1-2 am). He starts by attacking/biting my head since that’s what’s usually not under the covers. I’ve tried squirting him with the water bottle, sternly saying no, putting him on the floor, locking him outside the bedroom. Nothing helps and I don’t like shutting the door because he sleeps with us every night. He’s never done this to my fiancé, only to me. I don’t know what else to do as he’s such a sweet boy during the day and it’s only happened about 3 times now. Will happily take any suggestions before I call a cat behaviorist! Ha!

  9. My cat sleeps on my pillow, and if I move my hand she will scratch it. She has done this twice now and cut me very badly too close to my vein. My other cat just wants to be near me and doesn’t scratch, but I have to lock her out because of my she devil. I feel so bad that she can’t come in with me. I don’t know what to do, is there gloves that I can get to sleep with on.

  10. My previously 9yr docile cat who sleeps with me, has started, during the last week pouncing , and attacking my face while in bed . I locked him out the bedroom last
    night, he wrecked the hall carpet and cried all night.
    He was terrified by the recent fireworks and wonder if this has affected him. Like other owners I find this very frightening especially as it’s such a sudden behaviour change but will definitely try the water treatment otherwise I will have to resort to putting him out at night.

  11. Leticia Viscaino

    My cat is 15 years old! She still is very active and now starting to jump on me while I’m sleeping. She runs all around the room and suddenly jumps on me hard which wakes me up. She won’t scratch me but jumps hard on me to make sure I wake up. Very annoying I might say.

  12. My kitten is five months old and he started to attack our face in the morning. I really do think that it means that he wants attention. My boyfriend woke up today with blood on his nose that´s how hard he did it. While he always jump-attacks me (even though I look at him in the eyes) and then gets one paw on my upperlip with one nail out. I really think it means they want to play. As we know kittens are young, they are full of energy, so playing with them all day doesn’t really help. I always yell ouch! and then push him off mad, sometimes he know that I don’t want it to happen and he starts to run circles around the house, meaning that he indeed has much energy and only wanted attention from me lol.

  13. I have a 6 year old orange male cat. He constantly attacks me at night. One time a few months ago he bit my leg and my leg got infected from it. Tonight he bit my forehead. He draws blood Everytime. He actually gave me a black eye one time. I’m sleeping when he does this so naturally I instinctively put my arm out. It throws him off the bed. I feel so bad for doing that, but I’m asleep and it’s a natural reaction. He usually stops then. But it hurts me and I have paid the price for it by infection. He’s normally really chill and laid back. He can do this day or night. Please help me. I don’t want to get an infection again! Thanks!

  14. So I’ve had my cat just a little over a year he is a pure blood Russian blue and I rescued him when he was about maybe six weeks old but I got him a week before Mother’s Day it least. I’m not sure why but over the last few days I will be laying in bed after putting the covers on. And I do toss and turn a little bit at night and he rarely sleeps next to me he normally sleeps on the window sill but not these past few nights. Once I start getting tired out of nowhere he starts to attack my hands once their under the blanket but not in a playful manner. Once I go to push him off me or the Blanket he try’s bitting me harder. And when I try to hide my hands and not move them he starts to whine and walk all over patting at the blankets looking for my hand or nipping wherever he can bite. Last night he had taken the blankets off me and laid on top of them but anytime I tried to grab them he aggressively attacks me. I also pet him a little bit before bed but he no longer lets me he just attacks me hands. He has access to food and his litter box along with his toys and water I’m not sure what the problem is and seems like he does not want attention which I try to make time for but when I do he does not want it I’m not sure if it’s a hunting instinct or territorial. The only thing I’ve changed recently is keeping him In the bedroom beacause I live with other people and have a dog who has a skin condition that attracts dust mints which I’m highly allergic to so I can’t let the dog in my bedroom and the cat out of the room beacause the dog will enter but I also can’t let the cat stay in the rest of the house since Tony bedroom has his food and litter box. And I can’t trust the dog to not eat the cat food while I’m not home I’m not really sure what I should do he used to stay in my room all the time I’m no longer sure what the problem is.

  15. My cat is very affectionate and we play and cuddle all the time. This past week or so when I go to bed I’m in bed maybe 10 minutes and he will attack my arm aggressively and draw blood. I am not sure why he is doing this all of a sudden???

  16. My kitten is 10 weeks old, and he is veryyyyy energetic at night. Now that he’s grown more since I got him a month ago, all he wants to do is jump around and bite me.
    Most of the time it’s little love nips, but lately he’s getting more aggressive. At night, he’ll jump on my face, bite/attack my arms and face and head, and I’ll spray him until he’s soaking and say “no” in a form voice, but he just comes back.
    It gets so much I end up locking him in the bathroom with the litter, food and water, and some toys so I can go to sleep.
    I try to walk away from his behavior, but it just keeps happening. I also try to play with him before bed, but it doesn’t make a difference.
    I love him and he is a sweet boy, but I just don’t know what else to do when everything I read doesn’t work. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Have you managed to find a solution yet? My 5 month old kitten keeps sneaking into my 5 year olds bedroom at night and aggressively bites/scratches her head. Iv tried everything I can think of and considering having to find her a new home but that would devastate my daughter. Any advice would be great.

  17. Lola 5 year old domestic long hair (black and white)
    Hi, this is the 3rd time my cat has bit and scratched me very bad. 2x while sleeping and 1st when my sister tried to force her love on my cat. This last time I was sleeping and I guess having a bad dream. She was sleeping on my chest or in my arms near my face. I have always slept with her at night since she was 6 weeks old. My vet said she’s is too aggressive to have around children and she doesn’t like anyone else besides my parents and my boyfriend. I only have the option of rehoming her to someone who lives a lone, medicate her or put her down. I don’t want to do any of those options. I love her so much but she scratched my eye and bit me really bad this time. I am not sure what to do and I love her so much.

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