Why does my cat put his paw in my mouth while sleeping?
May 15, 2006 10:41 AM   Subscribe

CatFilter: Sometimes in the early morning my cat who sleeps near my shoulder puts his paw in my mouth...

Usually his claws are out but not enough to scratch me. I don't feel like that is his intention. He doesn't get too far before I wake up.
I am a mouth breather at night (better a mouth breather by night than by day...)

Is he trying to wake me up?
Or is he checking for breathing?
Or is he saying my breath stinks?
Or "stop breathing on me"?

He is 5 years old. The Alpha mammal in the house (over all humans and pets). He also still "makes biscuits" (his name is...Mr Biscuits). Other than that he is a pretty typical extremely lazy cat .

Has this happened to anyone else?
posted by TheLibrarian to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One of my cats will hit me on the nose/face on mornings that I don't wake early enough, so he can get his food. Do you feed your cats in the morning?
posted by Loto at 10:44 AM on May 15, 2006

My cat will also pat me on the face if he thinks I need to get up. My mom's cat does the same thing, but it's to be let outside (he's indoor/outdoor). He may not be trying to put his paw in your mouth, per se, just trying to touch you to wake you up, and he has bad aim.

I have no idea where this comes from, but I've seen/heard of all sorts of cats doing it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:53 AM on May 15, 2006

My cat sometimes while purring very gently touches my nose to wake me up.
Since I don't feed him in the morning it's just for the attention.

Just lock your cat out of your bedroom.

A cat paw in your mouth is not very hygienic I migh add.
posted by jouke at 10:55 AM on May 15, 2006

Interesting. It's possible that's just his way of waking you up. But it's weird that he actually puts his paw IN your mouth, consistently. I'd wonder if he's smelling something intruiging on your breath and trying to investigate. I know I've had cats get all up in my mouth after just brushing, as they're attracted to the mint. But even if you brush right before bed, for one your breath probably wouldn't still smell that minty by morning, and two, why would he wait until morning to go for it? I know my handsome guy's breath smells pretty much the same most mornings, and that's drastically different than how it smells when he goes to bed. (I can't tell on myself). Maybe there's just something very cat-friendly in your individual brand of morning breath.
posted by lampoil at 11:06 AM on May 15, 2006

jouke.... it's OK... cats have great immune systems and won't catch anything bad from humans!

I have lived over 30 years with a dozen cats total, and I can relate that they all had endearing and odd little habits... One used a single claw to pry open eyelids... another sneezed in my face if I slept too late... yet another one actually peed directly on my head one morning when I did not comply with the demand to let it out. It's all part of sharing a bed with a non-human mammal. We apparently haven't worked out all the cross-species communications barriers and social conventions, yet.
posted by FauxScot at 11:07 AM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah -- a paw on the face is the favorite way my alpha cat, Fergus, likes to wake me up or tell me to let him under the covers or to just express affection (and encourage me to scratch his tummy). As for hygiene -- eh. If you've lived with your cats for any amount of time, it's not an issue. You've already picked up whatever they have and vice-versa. It's a comfortable parasitic sharing situaiton!
posted by gsh at 11:18 AM on May 15, 2006

Oh my god, FauxScot, did you send that cat flying?

One of our cats has an incredible internal clock. He has been waking me up at exactly 4:37 every morning for the past two weeks, first by "making bread" on me, then by knocking over anything on the dresser if that doesn't work. I think he wants to be let out, which I can't do because I don't want to wake up the dog - so we just fight for an hour until regular wake-up time. (Really dislike this cat right now.)
posted by SashaPT at 11:19 AM on May 15, 2006

My 17 lb cat has learned the fine art of bladder jumping- only in the AM.

(what is it with cats? They sleep 23 hours a day, but have to wake you first thing in the AM to fill a feed bowl.)
posted by Gungho at 11:20 AM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I guess will right it off as another one of his annoying wake up routines
In addition to:
-running across the bed
-running across the bed while pouncing on my husband's balls
-running across the bed while pouncing on my husband's
- jump on bookcase head board, jump on to head/pillow
-chase tail
posted by TheLibrarian at 11:35 AM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would guess that he just wants to eat.

Next time, wake up before him and put YOUR hand on HIS mouth. Then say, "You like that? Didn't think so." Then walk away. He'll catch your drift...
posted by theholotrope at 11:39 AM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Bite him. He'll never do it again. (I'm serious.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:39 AM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Both my cats have their own methods for human waking. My older cat figured out a really fast way to wake me up. He will just barely touch my face with his whiskers. My sleeping mind invariably screams "BUG! SPIDER!" and I am awake like a shot. The first time he did it I was standing beside the bed before I even knew I was awake. Luckily my cat does not do it often.
posted by JigSawMan at 11:45 AM on May 15, 2006

oh, it has only happened a very few times (maybe 3 times total) in the past not at all on a regular basis... I am not so fond of cat paws that I would allow it to continue.
posted by TheLibrarian at 12:23 PM on May 15, 2006


Oddly enough, when the cat peed on my head, I immediately got up and took him out. I lived in a rural area at the time, and within 2 days, he had been killed by a stray dog. My wife at the time joked that I hired a hit man!

The cat's litter mate lived for nearly 20 years. Longer than my wife, actually.
posted by FauxScot at 12:34 PM on May 15, 2006

I would wake in the middle of the night or early AM with the sensation of my hair being yanked and cute little "ggghhghhch" noises. It was my boy digging at my hair with his paw, then grabbing a lock of hair with his teeth and pulling. I cut my hair really short a month or two ago, and woke up this morning to feel his teeth in my scalp, hearing "ggghhchh" again. I woke up enough to start cuddling with him, and he rolled into my arms. I think he's showing affection... I have found if I give him a few treats, he'll eat them and go away. Yes, I do realize I have trained him to be obnoxious.

Another cat pawed at my hair to wake me up, and a few times reached out curiously to paw gently at my eyes.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 12:49 PM on May 15, 2006

... and all of these posts contribute to why I don't like to let the cats sleep with us in the bedroom. :)

Occasionally we will let one of them sleep with us (otherwise, they decide to play WWF wrestling at 4am). One of our cats will play in the metal vertical blinds when he is ready to be let out of the bedroom, usually between 4:30 and 4:45. Another will meow at the bedroom door whenever he decides he wants out. The third one will sleep through the world ending, all night and all day, and never want out. I agree that he's probably wanting you to wake up and feed him/pet him/let him out.
posted by jeversol at 1:04 PM on May 15, 2006

Mine would do this and then very slowly, very gently sink her claws into my lips. Woke me right up, I'll tell you that.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:23 PM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Mr. Biscuits is such a cute name, by the way.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 1:27 PM on May 15, 2006

I've watched my cat (surreptitiously) gently touch my face with her paw to wake me up in the morning. Multiple times if I pretend to be asleep. It's very endearing (and annoying if it's too early).
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:45 PM on May 15, 2006

I sometimes avoid the wake-you-at-5am-for-food by using timed food dispensers. The dispensers aren't cheap, but Sunday mornings are much more pleasant.

Doesn't help for all the other reasons, but works well with my pair. Weekdays, they're better than any alarm clock. With them it's mostly vocal with only some batting of the face in extremis. It's a nice change from a previous cat who would stand on my chest and pull at my eyebrows with his teeth.
posted by bonehead at 1:56 PM on May 15, 2006

My sweet Lucy likes to wake me by stepping on my hair and then stepping on my stomach with surprising force.
posted by Sara Anne at 2:05 PM on May 15, 2006

Darling Grizelda has discovered the whiskers trick too, Jigsawman. Fortunately, she only uses it when she's decided she's cold and wants "in" under the blankets. It is, without question, the most effective wake-up mechanism ever.

I made a deliberate decision when we got her that the first thing I did when I got up of a morning was _not_ to feed her. I'll ablute, get dressed, THEN feed her. It seems to have worked, in that she doesn't try to wake us up in the mornings at all. Very nice, having a kitty that'll happily let you sleep in until 9 on a Sunday.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:02 PM on May 15, 2006

One of our cats used to very gingerly lick my eyelids just with the tip of her tongue. Sometimes I would be asleep; sometimes just had my eyes closed.

Nothing like snapping your eyes open to cat eyes an inch from your face.
posted by sevenless at 4:34 PM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I Second the suggestion to "bite" at the cat. The only rule our cat consistently respects is the one laid down by our dog (who sleeps in bed with us) to not disturb him while in bed. If she does, he snarls and snaps at her. She doesn't cross that line often but he 'corrects' her whenever she does. Its quite effective.

They're otherwise very affectionate which eachother. Its funny how they've worked this out amongst themselves.
posted by HK10036 at 6:02 PM on May 15, 2006

Do none of you have bedroom doors?
Of course now I'm working on a water spritzing device that sprays the area immediately outside the bedroom door, using a control beside the bed.
posted by fish tick at 6:38 PM on May 15, 2006

Our male cat, Sancho, uses Wet Nose (tm) to get us up in the morning. Finds the nearest exposed area of flesh (preferrably a foot for maxium ick factor) and rubs his cold, wet nose across it repeatedly. I honestly don't know how he manages to get his nose so cold and so wet. It's like he dips it in ice water beforehand.

If that doesn't work, he resorts to flopping down his full 18 lb weight upon my face. If that doesn't work, he wraps his front paws around my head and starts biting my skull.

The real genius in this is the female cat, Isabella. She just watches and waits next to the bedroom door, all too willing to let the other cat do all of the heavy lifting.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:34 PM on May 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can't believe I have to say this again. The mouth is how they get it out. You need to wear silver.
posted by Dunwitty at 11:00 PM on May 15, 2006

You know, a lot of these problems are eliminated by feeding your cats at night.

Playing with them before you go to bed can also tucker them out enough to stop with the shenanigans in the early morn.
posted by agregoli at 8:05 AM on May 16, 2006

My cat once tried to wake me up by sitting on my neck. Unfortunately, I woke up too fast and sat bolt upright. Said cat hit the opposite wall. She never tried it again.
posted by talitha_kumi at 1:51 AM on June 22, 2006

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