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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
A blissfully snoozing cat is one of our favorite things. But all cuteness aside, could there be more to your cat’s preferred sleeping positions than meets the eye? Could her fondness for sleeping on her backside be telling you something about her personality—or even her well-being? And when (if ever) should you be concerned about the way your cat sleeps?
To clear up any confusion and settle any fears you may have about your cat’s sleeping habits, we spoke with Dr. Mikel Delgado, cat behavior consultant and postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis.
Curious about your cat’s baffling sleeping positions? Here’s what we learned about why our kitties sleep the way they do.
1. The Cat “Loaf”
Ah, the cat loaf. AKA the “Hover Cat,” the “Tugboat,” or the “Sphinx.” Of all the adorable sleep positions our kitties assume during naptime, this has got to be one of our favorites.
The “loaf” is exactly what it sounds like: your cat’s front and back paws are tucked underneath their body, their tail is wrapped around them, and their head is upright. Typically, when your cat transforms herself into a perfect little brick of fur it indicates relaxation. At the same time, the “loaf” position lets your cat spring into action if necessary.
Cats also “loaf” because:
- they’re seeking warmth
- It’s just plain comfy
2. The Crescent
Another popular position, the crescent refers to kitties who sleep curled into a tight ball, with their head tucked into their body and their tail wrapped around themselves. This is a common position seen among cats in the wild, and it calls to mind your cat’s natural instinct to protect vulnerable body parts while resting.
Cats like sleeping this way because it:
- Retains warmth
- Protects abdominal organs
- Makes them feel secure
3. The Sideways Sleeper
Humans aren’t the only species that finds comfort sleeping on their side. When cats sleep on their side with legs outstretched, it usually demonstrates trust. It shows that they feel safe enough to let their guard down and that they share a comfortable bond with their owner. So you should consider yourself lucky (and loved) if your cat prefers this position!
Dr. Delgado also tells us that cats assume certain sleeping positions based on the temperature. “Cats can sleep in lots of different positions based on how hot or cold it is—a cold cat is more likely to curl up into a tight ball, whereas a warm cat will be more stretched out.” So a habitual sideways sleeper with outstretched limbs could indicate he’s feeling warm.
A cat sleeping on their side:
- Indicates relaxation
- Shows a high level of comfort
- Suggests a strong bond between cat and owner
4. Belly-Up and Exposed
Does your cat have a thing for laying on her back with her legs either outstretched or tucked onto her chest? This is a personal favorite of mine that never fails to delight. The belly-up position is similar to the sideways sleeper in that it leaves your cat exposed. Again, this suggests trust and a super chill kitty. With her tender belly out in the open, your cat is demonstrating that she doesn’t feel threatened by you or her environment.
The belly-up position indicates:
- a cat at ease
- a healthy bond between cat and owner
5. The Superman
In this position, your cat lies on her belly, with her front and back legs extended outward like Superman soaring through the air.
For the most part, this sleep position shows that your cat is extremely comfortable and probably in a deep state of sleep. The Superman position also protects vulnerable organs by keeping them covered and out of sight.
6. The Paw-Across-The-Face
If your cat is sound asleep with a paw draped across their face, consider it your warning to leave them in peace. While hard to resist, this means your cat doesn’t want to be disturbed. It could be your cat’s way of blocking out other disturbances like light and noise, and it may indicate a cat who’s in a deep state of sleep.
7. On Top of You
Does your cat frequently seek out your lap, chest, or head when she’s ready to snooze? While some cat owners live for this (myself included), it doesn’t make the habit any less baffling. Why do cats like to sleep on their owners?
By and large, it’s your cat’s way of seeking out warmth. Cats also do this because:
- They want to be close to you
- Your rhythmic breathing and heartbeat are soothing
8. Stuffed in a Box
Another classic, cats often sleep crammed into the smallest box they can find. While laughably cute, cats do this because it gives them a feeling of security (not unlike a the way babies enjoy being swaddled.)
While there’s nothing concerning about a cat who favors tiny boxes for naps, a cat who always seeks out hiding places to sleep (such as under a bed) could indicate a stressed-out feline, according to Dr. Delgado.
9. Tucked Under The Blankets
Sleeping cozily underneath a pile of blankets makes your cat feel safe, warm, and protected from any perceived threats.
But is this safe for your cat? According to Dr. Delgado, the answer is a resounding yes. “Most cats have no problem sleeping under the covers,” she tells us. “They can get plenty of oxygen through the blankets, and if it gets too stuffy, they will usually just leave when they’re no longer comfy!”
So no worries if your kitty likes to cozy up under the covers. It’s a safe place for your cat to rest: just be careful not to squish them! This position also:
- Calms cats with the familiarity of your scent
- Allows cats to escape stressful noises and chaos
10. With Eyes Slightly Open
No, your cat’s not spying on you while you sleep. Resting with their eyes half-shut could mean they haven’t yet entered a deep state of sleep, or that they’re dreaming. As Dr. Delgado explains, “Many cats are actually just ‘at rest’ when they appear to be asleep. Or their eyelids may be slightly apart during the stages of sleep where they are dreaming and there may be some eye movement.”
In short, resting with their eyes partially open lets your cat get some much-needed rest while still remaining on guard. Luckily, Delgado confirms this is nothing to worry about. “In general, you don’t need to worry unless your cat seems otherwise unwell.” If you’re unsure whether or not your cat is sick, she advises checking in with your veterinarian, just to be sure.
11. Partially Upright
Like sleeping with her eyes half open, sleeping in a semi-upright position means that your cat is still slightly alert and ready to spring into action if needed. Your cat may also assume this position because:
- It allows them to groom their belly more efficiently
- May support back muscles
12. The Cat Pile
A pile of cats? Be still my beating heart. If you have multiple cats who get along, they may seek each other out when it’s time to sleep. Unsurprisingly, cats curl up in a cozy pile together for extra heat and comfort.
13. The Contortionist
Cats are known for being flexible. So if your cat looks like an aspiring gymnast while she sleeps, there’s little cause for concern. In truth, experts don’t really know why cats work themselves into a pretzel during nap time. But, we have to say: it slays every single time.
No matter how your cat prefers to sleep, you can count on it taking up a sizable chunk of their time. Up to 20 hours per day, in fact! But we don’t mind letting them snooze the day away: especially when they look so cute doing it.