Tuesday, 10 November 2015

‘Why won’t my cat sleep in his bed?’ and other behaviour FAQs

In the most recent Facebook Q&A, Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow answered questions about feline sleeping places, kitten socialisation, feeding habits and more. Read some of her answers here:

Question: Do you have any tips on getting my cat to sleep in his bed? He used to sleep there but now won't. We shut three cats in at night all in the kitchen, dining and living room. There should be enough room for them all. One is currently sleeping on the top of the kitchen cabinets, another on one of the sofas but my boy doesn't seem to want to sleep anywhere cosy. At the moment he's perched on a cushion on a dining chair. It looks like he's going to fall off at any moment... and yet there is a comfy bed next to the chair! Any hints?

Answer: Cats do have a habit of choosing places to sleep that we wouldn't think were that comfortable! One thing many people don't realise is that cats like to rotate their sleeping place. This goes back to African wildcat behaviour where they also rotate their sleeping place, we think, as a way of reducing external parasites. In general, cats like to sleep up high and somewhere warm. It sounds like he's happy to sleep on the dining room chair, so I wouldn't worry too much. If he changes his sleeping habits, eg sleeping more or less than usual, consult your vet for more advice. Check out our free behaviour course for more info on sleeping behaviour - www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/e-learning-ufo-care

Cat sleeping on top of printer
Cats do sleep in strange places! Photo by Daviddje via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: We have had our cat for a month and she was very nervous when she came to us. She is feeling at home now and is happy to accept a fuss from me and will sit on my lap and loves attention. However, when my partner tries to give her a fuss, she runs away. If my partner slowly and gently tries to 'join in' when I am making a fuss of her she will still run away. Any thoughts?

Answer: Often it can come down to what socialisation to people she received during the kitten socialisation period of two-seven weeks of age. I would suggest that initially your partner ignores her and simply sits quietly on the floor nearby reading a book (to therefore avoid eye contact with the cat) while you are fussing her. This will help your cat to see your partner as non-threatening from her perspective. Also try getting your partner to feed your cat so she forms positive associations with them. If you have any problems then we'd recommend a referral to a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC). Best of luck.

Question: Our rescue cat that we've had for five months keeps jumping on the worktop and pinching bread (and cake if there is any!). At first we noticed he was hiding it and going back to it to eat but now he may have just a nibble and leave it. He was a stray from Cats Protection so we don't know any history. He is quite a big cat, he’s neutered and about 18 months old. He gets fed a pouch of meat in the morning, a small amount of biscuits mid-afternoon then another pouch of meat at about 10pm. Any ideas why he does this?

Answer: Sorry to hear you've got a food thief! While it could be his stray background, I would recommend getting him health checked by a vet to rule out medical reasons for the behaviour. It would be worth chatting to your vet about your cat's diet. For example, a satiety diet where the cat feels full and has a larger amount for the same calories as a light diet could be considered. Also think about introducing feeding enrichment so he gets to use his fabulous brain in a more productive way! Check out our boredom busters and feeding enrichment puzzles. Good luck!

Cat sitting on kitchen counter
A satiety diet helps manage hunger between meals. Photo by drew_anywhere via flickr / Creative Commons

Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection’s feline experts a question about your cat? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: Vet Vanessa Howie will answer veterinary questions on 18 November; Neutering Manager Jane Clements will host the Q&A on 3 December; and behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow returns on 17 December. All our Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!


  1. My cat won't sleep in her bed. I had two, brother and sister, but sadly her brother sustained injuries which resulted in him being put to sleep. It has been just over a week now but Stevie (girl) won't sleep in either her bed or his (beds side by side) previously she would sleep in either

    1. She might not ever want to use either of them again. Just like us cats will also need time to grieve a loss. If her food and water intake is normal than I would just give her time and consult your vet if her behavior changes anymore.

  2. I had my little boy castrated on Friday as yet no probs but he won't sleep on his favourite cushion, and prefers to sleep on the floor or on my bed help he looks sad but fine in all other ways

  3. I had bought a new house for my cat washed all his blanket's and now he won't sleep in it ,what should I do

    1. Cats are creatures of habit and often prefer things that are familiar to them. It may just take your cat time to get used to this new ‘house’. Also, cats perceive a lot of their world through scent as they have an exceptional olfactory sense. Washing all of the blankets would have taken away the familiarity of the cats environment. Pairing the new washed blankets (with the weird sense of smell) with the new house may be too strange for the cat. In future wash blankets in turn, always leaving one familiar smelling blanket.

      For the current situation, leave blankets out in areas the cat likes to rest, away from the new house, after the cat has lay on it a few times and the blanket now has the scent of the cat on it. Put that blanket into the house. The cat may be more likely to investigate the house if it smells like them. Additionally, hide valuable items like tasty treats (a few dreamies) or a toy the cat really likes, around the house. In the first instance, do not put it far inside the house as the cat may be reluctant to go in far first off. Effectively you want to encourage the cat to explore the area. Do this when you are not around the house putting pressure on for the cat to go in. Avoid trying to force your cat to examine the house or lure the cat into the house as this will like.

      Location is important as well, cats like to hide away and get in places as it feels safer so they may be able to relax better. Put the house in a quiet location in an area the cat likes to frequent.