6 cat sleep positions: What they tell you about your kitty

Bengal kitten sprawled out at top of cat tree adopting the side sleeper, one of six common cat sleep positions
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Weird and wacky cat sleep positions won't be unusual to you if you share your home with cats. Since they spend anywhere between 12 to 20 hours per day in the land of nod, the most obvious thing to do would likely have been investing in one of the best cat beds. One thing you may not have considered, however, is that how they sleep can help you to understand their behavior better.

The different positions they adopt give a glimpse into what they might be thinking and feeling. From relaxed and content, to on guard and seeking alone time, every pose that your cat strikes tells a different story. Discovering how to uncover the meanings behind this will help ensure that you and your cat share a harmonious living environment.

Whether you’ve purchased a smaller cat bed that lets your cat curl up, or a luxury cat bed that allows them to have a stretch, here are the six most common cat sleep positions, and what they tell you about your cat.

1) The cat loaf

Ginger cat on the lawn assuming the cat loaf cat sleep position

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When your cat tucks their paws underneath their body and curls their tail around, while keeping their head in an upright position and their eyes closed, they have assumed the ‘loaf’ position. 

So named due to it resembling a loaf of bread, this  demonstrates a laid-back but attentive attitude, and indicates that your cat is ready either for sleep or a surprise attack. Aware of their surroundings, the loaf  allows your kitty to remain alert, while at the same time allowing them to snooze without slipping into too much of a deep sleep. 

If you see your cat in this position, it’s a sign that they’re feeling content. You may  notice them adopting this pose more frequently in the cooler months, as it’s a more efficient way of retaining body heat. If your cat likes to stay warm, we recommend the K&H Thermo-Snuggly Sleeper Heated Pet Bed – it’ll leave your kitty feeling as warm as toast.

2) Belly up

Tabby cat lying on sofa stretched out and adopting the belly up cat sleep position

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the most hilarious sleeping positions, the belly up has your furkid on their back with their hind legs sprawled open and front paws stretched out. When you see your cat in this position, you’ve got one blissed-out little kitty on your hands.

Exposing the stomach is a vulnerable pose for a cat, so they won’t do it unless they feel safe and secure. It’s a sleeping style that conveys complete relaxation and demonstrates that they feel utterly at ease in their environment and trusting of whoever is around. 

3) Curled up kitty

Birman cat asleep on the bed in the curled up cat sleep position

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is a timeless position. Also known as ‘the crescent’, in which a cat tucks in their legs and tail, with the head and neck curled towards the center of their body. This creates a secure sleep style, and is commonly adopted by wild cats as a protective measure in order to keep all their vital organs safe from the possibility of attack.

This might sound alarming, but don’t worry if you see your cat adopting this pose; it’s hardwired into their DNA, so even the most pampered pet will sleep like this out of natural instinct. It’s also a great position for retaining body heat, so they may simply be trying to get warm. Whatever the reason for them doing this, a cat in this pose is generally asking to be left alone to get some sleep.

4) Eye still see you

Ginger cat lying on bed with eyes half shut

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve ever wondered why your kitty tries to sleep with their eyes half-open, it’s because of their predatory nature which drives them to constantly be alert for threats. Keeping the eyes slightly open allows them to get the rest they need while still allowing them to immediately react to any sudden noise or movement.

You might notice that rather than both eyes being partially closed, that your cat will keep one eye open and one eye shut. This kind of sleep, known as unihemispheric slow-wave sleep lets half of your cat’s brain go unconscious while the other half remains awake. 

While it can look a little strange, as long as there’s no underlying eye infection that’s preventing your furkid from closing their eyes, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just one of many kitty quirks that keep us humans amused. 

5) Side sleeper

Tabby cat stretched out asleep on tiled floor

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just like us humans, sleeping on their side is one of the most comfortable positions for a cat. When a cat lies on its side with paws stretched out in front, it’s able to easily enter a state of deep sleep.

A kitty that sleeps on its side feels at peace and at home in their surroundings. It’s a trusting pose that demonstrates your furkid has a strong emotional connection with you and isn’t afraid to relax. 

When you spot your cat in this pose, you can guarantee they’re getting some serious shuteye and it’s not unusual to see the muscles twitching, a sure sign they’re deep in dreamland. 

6) The hidden face

Have you ever spotted your cat with their paws covering their face or their head buried in a blanket? There are several reasons they might adopt this pose. If the paws are over the eyes, this can often be a way of keeping their nose warm or blocking out the sun. 

If the head is buried, that’s a sign your cat wants to be left alone. Burying the head in a dark and secure spot helps your kitty feel safe and protected and sends the message that they want some peace and quiet. It’s best to leave your furkid be when they’re like this and avoid patting them, unless you want a cranky kitty on your hands!

Have a cat that won't go to sleep no matter how hard you try? Then check out our piece on Why won’t my cat sleep?  It's full of tips and tricks to help your kitty nod off at night.  Check out this behaviorist’s guide if you’re questioning, ‘Why does my cat sleep on my chest?’

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.