Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > Why Your Cat Is Staring at the Ceiling: 5 Common Reasons

Why Your Cat Is Staring at the Ceiling: 5 Common Reasons

face red cat looking up

Cats are intelligent and curious animals, so they often do things that can amuse but also confuse their owners. We often forget that our domestic cats come from wild animals that couldn’t rely on humans to care for them. They often exhibit strange behavior they would be doing in the wilderness if they hadn’t been domesticated. Every cat owner has, at one point or another, caught their cat staring at an imaginary space on the ceiling.

In the article below, we are going to include several possible reasons for this kind of behavior. Before worrying about potential medical issues, make sure to consider the following scenarios.


The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Staring at the Ceiling

1. Getting Used to a New Environment

Sometimes it takes time for cats to get used to new places and environments. When cat owners move from one place to another, it can cause stress in our feline companions, and they can display some weird behavior, such as staring at the ceiling. When a cat moves into a new home, she will explore all parts of her new environment for the first few weeks. As the cat explores the ground spaces of the house, she will also explore the spaces above her, such as the walls, the stairs, or the ceiling.

So don’t be worried if you move to your new house and your cat is just displaying her natural curious behavior.

chinchilla persian cat standing indoor
Image By: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

2. Hearing Something

If you live in a building or have loud neighbors who live on the upper floor, your cat is probably just looking for the sound coming from the ceiling. Cats have a very sensitive sense of hearing, and they can hear much better than humans. Even though you might not hear the sound coming from above, your cat probably hears it and is simply trying to locate it.

3. Health Issues

Staring at the ceiling and other strange behaviors are, most of the time, nothing serious. However, occasionally this type of behavior can also be related to some health issues. This is uncommon, but it can be related to illnesses that cause hypersensitivity. The most common disease of this nature is Toxoplasmosis,1 caused by the parasite Toxoplasma. Your cat can get infected with this parasite by eating raw meat and eating rodents. The more significant concern with this parasite is that it can also cause human problems, so if you have worries, you should do a veterinary check-up.

The other potential medical issue that can cause this behavior is Feline hyperesthesia syndrome2—a condition that can cause irrational reactions to sounds, sudden movements, and even to human touch. The syndrome’s cause is still unknown, but medical treatment usually helps with recovery.

sick white cat lying on the floor
Image By: Iryna Mylinska, Shutterstock

4. Seeing Something

As we’ve mentioned above, cats have an excellent sense of hearing and an amazing sense of sight. In the wild, cats are great hunters, and one of their greatest assets is their sight. Cats also have excellent night vision, so many species of cats hunt at night. Most of the time, domestic cats behave as if in the wilderness, so there may be a spider or a little bug you don’t see on the ceiling, and your cat is simply observing its potential prey.

5. Strange Smell

As we already know, all cats’ senses are exceptional—and the same goes for their sense of smell. They are especially great at detecting differences between smells, which can be helpful if your cat is lost and wants to find a way home. Cats have a much better sense of smell than humans, so they can smell everything from a rodent roaming the attic to a small bug. They are very sensitive to an odor that comes from other cats, especially during the breeding season. One cat can smell another cat’s pheromones from miles away.

Pheromones are often used to mark their territory or to express sexual status. You may have a male cat displaying dominance in the neighborhood or just a female cat looking for a mate.

white cat with its nose up
Image By: cottonbro studio, Pexels



Staring at the ceiling isn’t anything to worry about most of the time. The reasons can vary from looking at a spider crawling across the ceiling to listening in on your upstairs neighbors. While all these reasons point out harmless scenarios, if your cat is displaying other strange behavior, you can always bring her to your local vet and get a proper diagnosis.

Featured Image Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets