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10 cat sleeping positions and what your cat's favorite snoozing pose means, according to vets

Emily Swaim,Sorin McKnight   

10 cat sleeping positions and what your cat's favorite snoozing pose means, according to vets
  • Cats are very flexible, so they can cozily nap in positions that seem uncomfortable to you.
  • A tightly curled cat may be cold, so consider adjusting the heat or setting up a heated pet bed.

If you live with a cat, you've probably seen how creative your furry friend can get with their sleeping positions — squeezed into an empty flower pot, for instance, or contorted into a living knot, snoozing without a care.

"Cats like stretching and keeping limber, and their physiology lends to flexibility and different comfort positions," says Russell Hartstein, certified pet behaviorist and trainer in Los Angeles and founder of Fun Paw Care.

So, a position that seems downright painful to you may feel very soothing for your cat. However, some sleeping styles may signal that your cat is stressed or ill. Read on to uncover the secret body language of cat naps.

1. Crescent

The most common position cats sleep in is called the Crescent, according to Zac Pilossoph, consulting veterinarian at Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Some people also call this pose the Donut.

In this pose, your cat curls up in a ball, with their head bent toward their feet and their tail tucked in.

According to Pilossoph, your cat may sleep in the Crescent pose for two reasons:

1. They're conserving body heat.

2. They're protecting their chest and tummy from predator attacks.

"This sleeping position was important for survival when they lived in the wild – and still is for wild cats," Pilossoph says. Even though most domestic cats have never met a wolf or bear, they still have the instinct to protect themselves while they sleep.

2. Loaf

In the Loaf, another common position, your cat sleeps with their body upright and their paws and tail tucked in. They take on a very square shape, much like a loaf of banana bread fresh from the oven. But unlike your bread, they can get up and move at a moment's notice.

Similar to the Crescent, cats often sleep in Loaf pose to conserve body heat. As winter approaches, then, you may catch your furry friend sleeping in these compact positions more often.

Note: The ideal temperature for indoor cats is around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you notice your cat constantly trying to stay warm, consider turning up the thermostat or buying them a heating mat.

3. Filler

Cats love to sleep in containers of all shapes and sizes, from shoeboxes to mixing bowls to a tall boot. They may take on an almost liquid quality to "melt" into the shape of their chosen bed.

Your cat is more likely to seek out a hidden sleeping spot if they feel threatened — like when they're wary of a strange-smelling visitor, or in the middle of a spat with a fellow feline.

Quick tip: If you catch your cat hiding away for their nap, it's best to leave them to it. Try not to fuss over them, since backing them into a corner or giving them too much attention may only add to their stress.

4. Side sprawl

A cat in a Side Sprawl lies on their side, legs out and belly half-exposed. This sleeping position usually means they feel relaxed and safe.

That said, factors like the time of year, temperature, and time of day can influence your cat's sleeping style, Hartstein says.

For instance:

  • In cooler weather, they may bask in sunlight or on blankets.
  • In hotter temperatures, they may sprawl out in the shade or on cool surfaces, like bathroom tiles.

Note: If you see your cat's whiskers or paws twitching, that's perfectly fine — your furry friend is just dreaming. You may want to avoid interrupting the dream, though. Much like humans, cats aren't always friendly when jarred out of deep sleep.

5. Belly up

The Belly Up position is exactly what you might imagine: your cat lies on their back, tummy fully bared. Their legs may be stretched out or flat at their sides.

Sleeping belly up exposes a cat's vital organs to the world. So, if your cat sleeps with their belly faced completely upward, you can take that as a sign they feel extremely comfortable around you, Pilossoph says.

The Belly Up pose can also help your cat regulate their body temperature.

"When it's hot, sleeping on their back with their belly exposed to the air helps them cool down," says Sophie Whoriskey, veterinarian and senior writer at Floofy Doodles.

6. Monorail

Many cats enjoy surveying their domain from a high perch. Resting on a shelf or rafter keeps them out of reach of sticky toddler hands or the dreaded vacuum. It also helps them spot potential prey.

But keeping watch can be tiring, and some cats may drift off. This is when you may notice them taking the Monorail position, with their body resting on the perch and their legs and tail dangling down on either side.

Important: If your cat dozes off atop a doorway, do not move the door — you may accidentally get their tail or paws caught in the hinge.

7. Pretzel

Sometimes cats sleep with their head and limbs in every direction. It may even seem as if they're about to tie themselves in a knot. This position goes by the name Pretzel or Contortionist.

"Sleeping in strange positions makes it more difficult for potential predators to predict their next move. It also helps them to stay alert and aware of their surroundings," Whoriskey says.

While you might find it impossible to sleep in a similar position, your cat may feel perfectly cozy. Generally, this sleeping position is harmless — as long as your cat can untangle themselves when they wake up.

Important: Some cats may take a contorted sleeping position in order to help keep their weight off a sore body part, according to Amanda Takiguchi, veterinarian and founder of Trending Breeds. Take note if your cat seems stiff when they sleep or in pain while awake.

8. Faceplant

In the Faceplant position, your cat rests their face flat on the ground, often with their paws covering their eyes.

Whoriskey says your cat may sleep like this for a few different reasons:

  • To keep their head and neck low to the ground, unseen by predators
  • To stay warm
  • To signal they want to be left alone

Your cat might also cover their eyes in a bright room, so dimming the lights or drawing the curtains may help set a better mood for naptime.

9. Cuddle

Some cats are generous enough with their cuteness to participate in snuggle time. Your cat may fall asleep "hugging" your arm, or they might burrow between your neck and pillow as you doze.

If you have more than one cat, friendly felines may even cuddle up to nap together.

Cuddling is a sign of trust and affection. It's also a great way to share body heat and get cozy.

Just keep in mind you can't force your cat to cuddle — and research suggests cats are much happier when they initiate human-cat contact, including snuggling. So rather than picking up your cat and plopping them in your lap, let your feline friend come to you.

10. Headpress

The Headpress position is when your cat firmly presses their head against a wall or solid furniture and falls asleep in this position. You won't notice them rubbing their scent glands on anything — just sitting still with their face hidden.

Unlike the other sleep positions on this list, headpressing almost always suggests a serious health concern. Most commonly, it happens as a sign of hepatic encephalopathy, a neurological condition caused by liver dysfunction.

Potential causes of hepatic encephalopathy include:

  • Head trauma
  • Lead poisoning
  • Fungal infection
  • Tumors

If you see your cat in the Headpress position, whether they're awake or asleep, take them to the vet as soon as you can for an evaluation.

Insider's takeaway

Every cat is different, so your cat may prefer some sleeping positions more than others.

"Being in tune with your cat's preferences will help you understand what is behaviorally out of the ordinary for them," Hartstein says.

If you're concerned about your cat's sleeping behaviors, your veterinarian can help determine whether your cat is ill and recommend the right treatment for any health concerns. If it turns out your cat is simply stressed, an animal behaviorist can help you set up a more soothing environment for your furry friend.

No matter how your cat likes to fall asleep, you can count on one thing: they're going to look adorable doing it.

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