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What Your Cat’s Sleeping Position Reveals: Pet Experts Decode Those Quirky Poses

Plus, cute pictures of kitties dozing that'll make you smile

Is there anything more precious than a sleeping cat? We think not! Cats are known for being the masters of dozing (they can sleep up to 16 hours a day!), and they get into some pretty cute configurations while they do it. Like with humans, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all cat sleeping position. Just as some of us tend to sleep on our sides while others tend to sleep on our stomachs, cats vary up their “doze pose.” You might see your cat sleeping curled up in a ball or sprawled out, and they might look totally cozy or — let’s face it — kind of strange but still cute. Read on to decode the nuances of cat sleeping positions with some help from the pros.

What are the typical cat sleeping positions?

“Often, a cat’s sleeping position is dictated by a combination of three things: the ambient temperature, the surface they’re trying to sleep on and the cat’s comfort level in the space,” says Dr. Annie Valuska, pet behavior scientist at Purina. These factors typically lead them to rest in one of the five cat sleeping positions listed below.

1. Sphinx

If you’ve ever watched your cat sleep, you’ve likely noticed that they’ll often be in a semi-upright position. When cats sleep in the sphinx position, they are upright with their paws out, in a pose reminiscent of the mythological ancient Egyptian creature. (We always knew cats were majestic figures!)

Orange cat sleeping in sphinx pose
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The sphinx pose can be a bit tricky to decode: Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, cat behavior expert for Rover, notes that cats can “feign sleep,” explaining, “sometimes their eyes are closed but they are maintaining awareness of what is going on in their environment. They may rest in an upright position that would allow them to act quickly if something changed in the environment.”

2. Loaf

When a cat sleeps upright with their paws neatly tucked in, it’s known as the loaf position. Yep, your cat will look like a fuzzy little loaf of bread when sleeping this way, and it’s totally adorable. This cozy position can be a sign of contentment — since their paws are tucked, they’re not preparing to get up anytime soon.

White cat sleeping in loaf position
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Sleeping in loaf position may be more common when it’s cold. “When cats are chilly, they tend to ‘tuck’ their bodies more,” Dr. Delgado says. When kitties tuck in their paws and tails, they’re not just asking you to photograph them (cat loafs are highly photogenic — there are images of them all over social media for a reason!), they’re also keeping toasty.

3. Side

Many cats are side sleepers. When sleeping this way, they’ll usually be either stretched out or tucked into a ball. If a cat is snuggled up on their side, that can help keep them warm, similar to loaf position.

Orange cat sleeping in side with arms and legs out
Getty

Sometimes cats will cover their faces with their paws while sleeping on their sides. “Cats covering their eyes is like a functional ‘do not disturb’ sign,” explains Stephen Quandt, a certified cat behaviorist in New York City. The position “gives a sense of security. And it’s comfortable!”

Black-and-white cat sleeping on side curled up in ball
Getty

4. Back

Occasionally, you may even find your cat going belly-up and sleeping on their back! Dr. Delgado says this sleep position is a sign of trust, explaining “A cat who feels safe and relaxed may like to sleep on their back, and generally speaking, the warmer or more relaxed they are, the more stretched out they will be.”

Multicolored cat sleeping on back with head upside-down
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Dr. Delgado notes that this is the least common of cat sleeping positions. The belly is a cat’s most vulnerable spot, and they don’t typically show it off while sleeping unless they’re feeling particularly chilled out. The temptation to rub their belly may be strong, but try to avoid it — Dr. Delgado says no matter how sweet a cat looks, petting them may disturb their sleep.

5. Superman

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … a sleeping cat? Yep, sometimes you might find your cat sleeping on their stomach with their front and back legs stretched out, in a position that’s reminiscent of Superman mid-flight. Dr. Valuska notes that the stretched-out limbs here indicate comfort, and says that her own cat will often position himself like this on the couch, in a variation she calls “the monorail.”

Gray-and-white cat sleeping in superman pose
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Bonus position: Next to you!

If you’re lucky enough, your cat may even sleep in one of these positions while cuddled up to you! “If your cat chooses to sleep in contact with you, take it as a compliment!” says Dr. Valuska. “Resting in contact with others is a very important ‘affiliative’ (friendly and bond-building) behavior for cats and indicates that your cat feels safe with you.”

Cat sleeping in bed with owner
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Whether you’re resting up next to your feline friend or watching them snooze from a safe distance, cat sleeping positions are truly special things.


Read on to learn more about cat behaviors!

Try This Slow Blink Trick to Bond Even More With Your Cat — Vets Share the Easy How-To

How to Stop Cats From Scratching Furniture: Experts Reveal the Tricks That Really Work

Why Do Cats Like Shoes So Much? Vets Reveal the Reason for Their Quirky Obsession

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