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Cat Sleeping Positions: What Do They Mean?

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: November 2, 2022 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: October 28, 2022  
Author:  Dexter Jones

If there's one thing that cats love to do, it's sleep. Without exaggeration, it's not uncommon for a feisty feline to laze around for almost 18 hours of the day - and that's only when they're young adults! 

As they age, this number can easily jump up to a full 20 hours or more. That's a lot of sleeping! But it's a part of a cat's natural instinct.

cat sleeping positions

Probably what is even crazier than their long sleep schedules is the fact that cats can sleep in some of the most bizarre and strange sleeping positions imaginable. 

Yes, they certainly have the ability of a contortionist. 

Sure you can get the odd ball-curl moments, but you're just as likely to find them sleeping in a toe-touch stance or a C-shape bend. It's really kind of amazing when you think about it.

If you're a cat owner, you've walked in on your kitty sleeping in one of these strange positions and thought, "why are they curled up that way?" 

Well, that's what we're going to break down here. 

In this overview, we'll get into why cats sleep in these crazy positions as well as go over 20 of the top cat sleeping positions and what they mean specifically. 

As you're going through, be sure to note which positions YOUR cat makes and sounds off in the comments below.

Cat Sleeping Positions: Why Do They Sleep The Way They Do?

When seeing cats sleep in some of their more unorthodox positions, it's only natural to assume that it has something to do with their nervous system. And while that may play a factor, the reason is surprisingly mundane.

Reason #1. Social Connections 

As it so happens, cats aren't nearly the aloof outcasts that they've led us to believe. 

Turns out their behavior when sleeping is largely derived from their social tendencies and the connections they develop with their surrounding family. 

That means you, your kids, their parents, other cats, and any other pets you have running around in their space.

Reason #2. Body Heat 

Cats also, while definitely warm-blooded creatures seek the warmth of body heat. I

t's because of this desire for body heat that cats can often find themselves nestled up between your legs or on your face. 

It's also one of the reasons why they sleep in some of the positions that they do; it's just the easiest and most effective way of having that key part of their body warm up the fastest.

Reason #3. Always On Guard

Lastly, cats have a long genetic history of being both predator and prey in the animal kingdom.

This has resulted in them always being alert of either scurrying prey to eat or a potential predator that could eat them. 

This is a popular position and allows them to always be on guard. 

This level of observance has resulted in them always being on guard and ready to pounce or scurry away at a moment's notice. 

As a result, sleeping positions like the aforementioned ball curl are perfect ways to immediately get up and get out the moment there's a loud noise or a sense that danger is around.

Cat Sleeping Positions & What They Mean

1. Cat Ball Curl 

The "Ball Curl" is probably the most common cat sleeping position, and probably what most people think of when they imagine a cat sleeping. As the name implies, the ball curl is where your cat curls up into a ball, marrying its nose with its tail.

This is the more well-known cat position largely because cats like to stay warm. 

cat positions

The ball curl is a great way of retaining as much body heat as possible. Not only that but because their back is up and their stomach is down, their vital organs are as protected as possible. 

Also, this is a great way of immediately getting to all fours and racing compared to many of the other positions, making it also an ideal way for a cat to move from sleeping to full-on action in as short a time as possible.

2. Belly Up

Interestingly, the next most well-known sleeping position that cats often take is the "Exposed belly-up position". 

This is where the cat sleeps on their back while its front legs are either outstretched over its head or resting over on top of its stomach.

The Exposed Tummy is particularly striking as it flies in the face of everything that cats are told to abhor. 

By showing their stomach, they're essentially opening themselves up to an attack on any of their vital organs. 

If you see your cat performing the Exposed Tummy, it's because they feel truly safe and secure in your household, understanding implicitly that they aren't in any real danger.

3. Cat Loaf Shape

Cats that sleep in "the cat loaf position shape" are cats that share a resemblance with a loaf of bread's shape while sleeping. 

Here, the cat's front paws are curled under its body while its head stays up, giving that signature "bread loaf" look.

Cats normally make that setup while sleeping as a way to handle their immediate scenario in a more relaxed and measured response while also being quick to the action of the time calls for it.

4. Superman

The Superman pose is where the cat lies on their belly with their forelegs and back paws stretched out in a forward and backward manner. 

As with many other positions, it is a mix of relaxed and calm movements that allow a cat to immediately be on the move if there is an issue. 

The Superman pose also is advantageous due to its protection from opponents that want to destroy them.

cat sleeping body language

5. Side Sleeper

Cats that enjoy sleeping on their side are less common compared to those that enjoy sleeping on their stomachs or having their legs stretched out while simultaneously keeping their stomach safe from attack.

6. Perch

Cats love to sit along high pieces of furniture or other appliances and preside over their environment. 

These cats due primarily due to the higher vantage point, ensuring they are safest from any potential predators.

7. Chest Perch

Cats that perform the "chest sit" tend to do so for several reasons. 

In most instances, the fact that the cat is willing to be so close is because its owner is deserving of choice and may just enjoy being together at night.

Other reasons may be due to the cat wanting to be close to your voice, regarding your chest as more of a closed game.

8. Standing To Attention

One of the more cute cats sleeping positions is the "stand at attention" pose. Here, the cat sleeps while sitting upright and apparently at full attention. 

They do this to try and imitate humans though it is also a great way to help groom them and support and strengthen their back and back leg muscles.

9. The Contortionist

While the cat positions noted already are interesting, very few can be labeled as "strange". That's because cats don't prefer to sleep in many of these crazy scenarios if given a choice.

The issue is that, while they aren't fans of it, can indeed still bend in some of the stranger and more complicated positions due to being very lucky spin.

10. Smothering

Cats that have "the smotherer" position are those that will sit on or near their owner's head. While it may seem a bit vindictive at first, it's not personal. 

Most cats that sleep on your head do so because they want to be around you and feel your head makes a great pillow.

In most instances, you can sit them right next to your head to ensure you aren't being smothered and they still have someone that protects them.

cat sleeping positions meaning

11. 'Hooman' Love

The sleepover cat position is where the cat sleeps next to its owner and that's it. 

These moments are more wholesome than anything and show that your pet loves and trusts you while largely just wanting to be close while sleeping.

12. Human Nesting

Whenever you see a cat in deep sleep between its owner's legs, you know that that cat is both very close to that person while also seeing them as a warm, safe, and nest-like location. 

It is easily one of the best ways to signify how much your cat cares about their own safety and comfort compared to theirs.

13. Furry Socks

Also known as "the furry socks" when a cat chooses to enter. something that can lead to them being in trouble. 

Whether they are sleeping in or not. 

Cats also sleep around the feet due to comfort and a sense of security.

14. What is it With Boxes?

A cat, as a prey animal, tends to want to hide in anything it can find that is on the smaller end of things. 

This is often why a cat will take refuge in a box, particularly when they are feeling stressed or harassed by a fellow animal. 

These boxes, while useless for us, are a source of warmth and security for most cats while also offering an easy exit. 

The smaller boxes in particular are known to help them feel more swaddled, further strengthening their attachment to them.

15. Smelly Bed

Watch out for this one!

For those that have pet cats that find themselves lying in or sleeping in a used litterbox, this isn't a normal thing and almost always is rooted in some type of medical issue. 

Things like digestive problems or urinary issues are often the root cause, so be sure to get them checked out if you happen to notice this issue starting to happen.

16. Spying

Unlike humans, who can only ever sleep with their eyes closed, cats can sleep with eyes that are either fully or partially open. This can be true even as the cat in question is entering REM sleep (also known as rapid eye movement).

The reason for this is that, whereas humans only have one eyelid, cats have three. This includes a third eyelid that is translucent and protects the eye even if the first two are open. 

This third eyelid is instrumental in keeping the eye protected from drying out or becoming irritated while the cat is sleeping.

The point behind this is fairly self-explanatory cats, as predators and prey, would need to be able to both immediately shift between sleeping and awake at virtually any sound. 

Just as well, this is also great as a deterrent for other animals that may assume the cat is awake when they otherwise aren't.

17. It's a Family Thing

Depending on the situation, multiple cats in a home can either be a nightmare or one of the most heartwarming things you've ever seen. 

In the former setting, the best you can hope for is two pets that don't outright hate each other, instead merely tolerating one another in the home. 

On the other hand, you could have two cats that are like two peas in a pod, even going so far as to sleep in the same bed/area as one another.

In the cases where the cats enjoy one another's a company, they will often sleep alongside one another as evidence of their bond and closeness as well as to produce comfortable amounts of heat and warmth. 

Cats that sleep in groups also benefit from the sound of another cat purring.

18. Bonding With Rivals

Just as some cats may enjoy sleeping with other cats for a sense of comradery and a bond, so too can other cats like the prospect of sleeping with their natural enemy, the dog.

Now, technically speaking, dogs are not the cat's natural enemy. 

However, it's also true that some cats and dogs do have a prey/predator relationship more often than not. 

It's actually why these introductions are meant to be much slower than with other cats and should be done with a lot of strict supervision.

In instances where the cat and dog have developed a long-standing relationship with one another, you can expect to see the kitty sleeping with their big canine friend. 

These bonds are fairly similar to the ones you develop with your cat and can lead to the pets enjoying each other's company while also sharing warmth and comfort with one another in a way not too dissimilar to two cats sleeping with one another.

19. Going Undercover

For cats that like to sleep under the covers with their owners, while a part of it may have to do with their love for them, another part enjoys the heat that their owner's body emits while under the blanket.

In addition to warmth and familiarity, cats also seek to hide under blankets as a way to reduce the stress that may come from their outside environment. 

This includes things like rival pets or stressful sounds and noises. 

These cats also tend to enjoy the feeling of being swaddled like a newborn.

20. Covering Face with Paws (Being cute!)

For most people that see a cat covering their eyes, it's hard to guess what the point is outside of looking cute and maybe blocking out extra lights. 

While that is true to a degree, it's also missing a lot of key factors.

The Sleep Mask sleeping position is used by cats as a way to create both warmth and insulation while also protecting their face from harsh lights as well as dust, dirt, pollen, and any other free-floating debris they may come across.

Cat Sleeping Positions: Summary

As you can see by all the cat sleeping positions above there are multiple reasons for why they have so many different positions.

They really are napping royalty and it all boils down to a cat's natural instinct...and they are super lazy too! 

But, in all honesty, there's nothing better than your kitty having a snooze on your lap is there?

About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.