Cat Sleeping Positions: What Do They Tell You?

Cats are odd sometimes – but maybe that’s why we love them so much.

unpredictability and downright silliness of a cat’s character are perhaps what makes them the most popular four-legged companion pet in the world.

Unusual behavior and entertaining antics have practically become the cat’s middle name, to the point that they’ve become the unintentional face of the internet meme-verse.

Cats’ Idiosyncracies

Our favorite felines are known to display some distinctly bizarre behavior. Kneading is where cats will pretend to be massage therapists and rub their paws on any surface (including you). They love to perform and be the center of attention, showing-off amazing feats of agility by jumping and leaping in the air through invisible hoops. They’ll randomly run from one end of the house to the other for no good reason at all.

Another adorable activity that cats are well-known for is spying – whether it’s peeking through windows or staring at you from across the room.

Additionally, cats are famous for their extraordinary sleeping positions. Although there are many wild animals that display similar traits, cats are unique in that they can sleep anywhere, anytime, and in virtually any position. Naturally, this results in some very picture-worthy moments.

But their sleeping positions aren’t just indicative of their positively eccentric personality. Veterinarians and certified animal behaviorists have determined that a cat’s sleeping position is executed with purpose. Each different style of posture while asleep corresponds to a different need that the cats have or a certain emotion they’re exhibiting.

Different Cat Sleeping Positions

Learning about each of the cat’s sleeping positions and knowing what they mean will help you to understand your cat and all cats in general, better. By studying their behaviors, you’ll be able to more innately interpret their actions and respond with appropriate care.

funny cat sleeping position

The Cat Loaf

This position takes form when the cat tucks all four of its feet under its body and curls its tail around. Meanwhile, its head and the rest of the body remain in an upright position.

The rectangular shape that the cat’s body forms when in this position resembles a loaf of bread, hence the name “cat loaf”. Other pet names for the cat loaf position are the potato cat, the hover-cat, the cube cat, and the bread cat.

Cats that are in the loaf position are generally alert and ready to respond to any imminent threat of danger. The posture is more of a defensive position and has the additional benefit of keeping the paws warm.

A cat that sleeps in the loaf position has usually not entered deep sleep. You may see cats sleeping like this in households with children and generally noisy environments. The cat doesn’t necessarily expect something to happen, but nature’s instincts give it the foresight to choose the most advantageous position.

Other variations of the cat loaf include the partial loaf wherein the elbows are exposed, the loaf boat which has one elbow exposed in the front, giving the appearance of a sailboat, and the double or triple loaf where multiple cats assume the loaf position while slumbering.

Sleeping on the Side

One of the most comfortable sleeping positions is side-sleeper. In this position, the cat lies on its side and stretches out its arms in front. The paws may be curled upwards or resting gently on the ground. Cats are able to easily enter deep sleep using this position.

Side-sleeping means that the cat is relaxed and comfortable in its environment. The fact that it lies down in this manner means that it feels there isn’t any danger or reason to be afraid.

Side-sleeper cats probably have a strong bond with the family members in the household and have no fear of humans. If you don’t meet one or more of these criteria and your cat is side-sleeping, it’s probably just lazy.

Curled Up

One of the classic slumbering feline positions, the cat curled up sleeping move is timeless and it enjoys the same day in and day out. The stance is characterized by having all the legs and the tail being tucked in and with the head and neck curled towards the center of the cat’s body – giving the appearance of a ball of fur.

According to Dr. Kat Miller, the director of anti-cruelty and behavior research at the ASPCA, many mammals sleep this way in order to preserve body heat and stay protected. “It’s also similar to the way a bird tucks its wings in or tucks one foot up into its feathers. It’s an easy way to retain heat,” she explains.

Cats either push into small spaces to have some security with solid walls around part of their body so they can’t be snuck up on, or they roll into a tight ball.

Sleeping in Enclosed Spaces

It’s quite normal for cats to seek out perceived places of safety where they can snooze in peace. Whether it’s a basket full of dirty clothes, a quiet corner of the house, under the bed, or even in a cardboard box; a cat has no problem with slumbering in dark and tight places.

Allowing your cat to sleep under the covers isn’t a good idea though – it’s unhygienic and your kitty will get hair all over the place.

Cats are hunters by nature, and a good hunter knows how to get into a strategic position. Having their backs to solid walls or other objects allows a cat to observe their surroundings from a distance. It provides a sense of security and also allows the cat to retain more body heat.

The Contortionist

This is certainly one of the most amusing positions that cats can sleep in. The cat leaves its limbs hanging in opposite directions and twists its head at an odd angle to give the impression of a spread-eagled furry feline pretzel of some sort.

My cat loves to sleep on my legs like this and it cracks me up every time. Although it looks like the contortionist cat might be hurting itself, don’t worry. Cats have very flexible spines due to a special elastic cushioning on the disks of their vertebrae.

As for the motive, there probably isn’t one in this case besides the fact that it’s probably just a comfortable position for them. Perhaps they are aware of the amusement that they provide their human family members and do it on purpose to make us laugh.

Belly Up

Another typical but hilarious cat sleeping position, this one is performed with the cat sleeping on its back with the legs open and one or both sets of paws in the air doing some kind of Michael Jackson impersonation. The belly is exposed and tail curled or flopped down nearby.

The belly-up position means that the cat feels safe and secure in its environment. A cat’s stomach is one of the most vulnerable parts of its body, so flaunting it while sleeping is a way of saying, “I trust you”. A cat in this position doesn’t have a quick method of escape nor is it alert to the possible sudden arrival of predators.

Avoid touching the cat’s belly while it’s sleeping in this position. Although it might be alluring, resist the temptation. If caught with your hand on its stomach, it won’t be pleased and may respond by attacking. Don’t betray its trust and let it continue dreaming in peace!

Head Pressing

Some cats like to sleep with their face down or pressed up against another object. They can do this while in any of the aforementioned positions. Head-pressing can occur when the cat is awake, while sleeping, and even while eating. While this is typically normal behavior for cats, in some cases it might be an indication of a health issue.

Head-pressing can be induced by hydrocephalus, tumors in the brain, head trauma, or inflammatory types of meningitis and encephalitis. It’s important to be able to distinguish unnatural head-pressing from normal cat behavior.

You can do this by observing your cat even when it’s awake. If you have a cat sleeping face down, then everything is normal. But if it’s visibly pressing its head against a wall when awake and is obviously not relaxed, it might be time to visit a vet.

Other symptoms that can alert you to potential health problems in your cat are disoriented behavior, walking into walls or in circles, sudden depression, and an affinity towards drooling.


In short, you can learn more about cats’ sleeping positions by setting up some time to observe them. If worse comes to worst, bring your pet to a vet to take a few tests and determine if there’s an underlying secondary health condition afflicting them.

We can spend all the time we want laughing at these cute creatures; but when it all boils down, they’re a permanent member of the family. Losing a cat friend can be difficult and we hope that the information contained in this article can help you to learn more about cats and the statements they make with their sleeping poses.

Dr. Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA is an award-winning veterinarian known for her passion in the profession, enthusiastic pet advocacy, and of course, her seemingly contemptuous yet very passionate pet health writing.

1 thought on “Cat Sleeping Positions: What Do They Tell You?”

  1. One of our cats loves sleeping belly up in the middle of my bedroom. It is hilarious. He’s sleeping in this position right now and is so deep in his sleep, he’s twitching as well 😆. I love him.


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