The Hervey Foundation for Cats
Decoding Your Cat’s Sleeping Position – What Does it Mean?

Decoding Your Cat’s Sleeping Position – What Does it Mean?

Sleeping cats can be both cute and hilarious, depending on the position they are lying in. What makes them choose to sleep the way they do? Is it based on anything? Is it dictated by how the mood strikes them in the moment? Luckily for us, humans have lived with cats for thousands of years so we have a bit of an idea of what some of these positions could mean.

What’s the Meaning of All This?

While we’re looking to find out what certain sleeping positions might mean, it might be a bit presumptuous to use the word mean. Cats, being the expressive, lively creatures they are, often do things as a result of a feeling. Attributing meaning to things is a very distinctly human trait, so for the purpose of this piece, we’ll look at the different positions cats often sleep in, and what might cause them to sleep that way vs what they might be trying to tell us.

Curled Up in a Ball 

Also commonly known as The Crescent, sleeping curled up in a ball is an extraordinarily common position for cats to sleep. This position is great for a cat for two reasons; it compounds body heat by trapping it in the centre, and it protects vital organs while they are asleep. Some theorize cats might use this sleeping position as their go-to when feeling a little insecure, but plenty of cats sleep this way when feeling relaxed as well.

In a Box 

Cats have a lot of reasons to like boxes. Some feel soft and grainy, and some smooth! The sound they make when fur brushes over the cardboard is one cats seem to enjoy, and they are perfect little forts! Cats love a good box because it satisfies their senses while simultaneously providing them with an extra layer of safety. Safe and sound!

Belly Up

Arguably the most vulnerable position for an animal to sleep in is belly up. Since cats make most of their decisions based on survival, the decision to sleep on their back, with their tummy facing the ceiling, shows a lot of trust for the people around them. 

The Loaf

When your cat lays on its tummy and tucks all its hands and feet in, this is called the loaf. Like a loaf of bread, your cat somehow finds a way to make it seem as if they are limbless. This position is usually accompanied by squinty eyes and a brief catnap. Since the position requires them to hold their heads up, you won’t usually see a cat go into a deep sleep in the loaf, but it’s a great sign they are content. 

Eyes Half Shut

Some cats take to a light nap vs a deep sleep if they feel a lot is going on, or there is potential for something to happen on their watch. Being dedicated to sleeping as often as they do, cats aren’t about to miss out on some sleep just because something might happen, but they will keep it light so they can be ready if they need to. 

The Pretzel

Some cats sleep contorted like a Cirque du Soleil performer mid-air. Sometimes their legs will be pointed in a different direction than their arms, their legs will be above their head, or perhaps they like sleeping best while half-falling off the couch. There could be a number of reasons for this one, but deep sleep makes the most sense here. Sometimes when we are deep in sleep, we don’t notice how we contort our arms and legs!

Sideways Belly

This might be the most commonly seen sleeping position for cats besides being curled up in a ball. Cats lay on their sides with their belly hanging forward, similarly to how they would on their backs, but on their sides. With the belly exposed, it’s another sign they are comfortable with their home life!

Paws Over the Eyes

This is a sign your kitty has entered a deep sleep. They block out the brightness with their paws and settle in for the long haul. In a way it’s nice they are willing to show such vulnerability to fall into a deep sleep in your presence – just don’t try to wake them up as they will not be happy.

On Top of a Human

Some cats love their people so much they fall asleep on them. This is a major sign of trust, with your cat feeling so safe around you they just fall asleep. Everything is so good to them in that moment they just shut their eyes and drift off – you should be proud!

The Superman

Stretched out with arms in front and legs in the back, the Superman is a funny one that not all cats opt to try. It’s a good sign your cat is relaxed as they’re basically falling asleep in a position that isn’t seen as defensive or strategically useful. 

In a Pile with Other Cats

Some cats are lovers, not fighters. Sleeping with another trusted cat not only keeps them warmer, but it provides an extra layer of security. It’s harder for a perceived threat to make a move on two cats vs just one. It’s also a great indicator that the cats in question have a great relationship!


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