13 Common Cat Sleeping Positions & What They Mean

There are very few things more adorable on the planet than a sleeping cat. Even the most mischievous cats appear like innocent little angels when they’re curled up sleeping in your laundry basket. But what do those cat sleeping positions really mean?

Are they dreaming? Are they cold and curled up for warmth? If you’re like most cat owners, you’ve often wondered about your kitty’s sleeping habits. Let’s talk about the common cat sleeping positions and just what they might mean.

Common Cat Sleeping Positions

As you’ve likely noticed, cats will sleep anywhere. You’ll find them napping in that drawer you left open, on top of the refrigerator, or in a cardboard box. There’s no telling where that kitty of yours will cuddle up next.

You’ll find that the range of sleeping cat positions is more extensive than what we mere humans can manage. Their odd places and choices of sleep positions will make you wonder if there is any real meaning to them. As it turns out, your cat’s sleeping positions do reveal something about your furry friend.

Let’s take a look at the various catnap positions and what they mean:

1. All Curled Up in a Furry Ball

This is also called the ‘crescent,’ and it is one of the more common cat sleeping positions. One reason for that is it helps your cat maximize his body heat for added warmth. It’s also a sleep position that protects your fuzzy friend’s vital organs.

This is a common position for wild cats and is something that is part of their natural instinct to protect themselves while sleeping. In this position, curled-up cats often curl their back in a shape that resembles a crescent, and thus, the name for this position.

Your cat may also choose this position during times when they are feeling a little insecure. It helps them feel protected.

A donut cat bed perfect for balled-up sleepers

2. In a Cardboard Box

cat lounging in a box

Just like your kids love a good cardboard box to play with, your cat also loves to sleep in it. They offer your kitty protection from the elements and from enemies. It’s another sleeping spot that harkens back to their wild ancestors.

Cats sleep in boxes or other enclosed areas to stay hidden from any predators or rivals that might want to pick a fight with them. If your cat’s an indoor kitty, the desire to sleep in a box may indicate they are hiding from someone or something in the house. It might be a new pet or an old rival, but it could also be a person who is constantly trying to pet or play with your cat.

3. Belly Up

I like to call this position the ‘belly trap’ since I can’t resist patting that belly, and when I do, my cat attacks! This is such an adorable position it’s hard to resist. Your cat is just fully exposed while he gets a little shut-eye.

When your cat sleeps belly up, it’s a good sign that the two of you have an excellent relationship. It’s a vulnerable position so it indicates your cat completely trusts you and your home.

4. Loaf of Bread

The loaf is a popular position where your cat is sitting upright with his front paws tucked in under his body. It makes him look just like a loaf of bread. Your cat will often close his eyes in a sign of complete contentment.

When he’s in the loaf position, however, it’s likely a sign he’s not in a deep sleep. Usually, it’s just a quick catnap in this position, and he is usually still fairly alert. Even so, this is a very relaxed cat sleeping position that lets him get some rest while keeping watch over his realm.

5. Eyes Half Shut

You’ve probably seen your kitty appearing to snooze with his eyes half-closed and half-open. This is so they can wake up quickly if they need to since they don’t want to miss any possible threats that might come up.

If you see your kitty overlord in this position, it might be an indicator that he’s watching out for something in the home. Maybe there are unfamiliar people around or something has recently changed.

6. Contortionist

This is probably one of the weirdest cat sleeping positions around. In this position, your cat appears to be a veritable contortionist with his legs sticking out in all directions, his body half hanging off the couch, and his head twisted around. It doesn’t seem to be a very comfortable position.

If you’re wondering what it means, so do the experts. There’s no real science behind why your cat might choose this sleeping position. Maybe he just always wanted to be in the circus?!

7. Sideways

cat sleeping positions sideways

The sideways cat sleeping position is another common position, and it’s similar to the belly up position. It’s not quite as exposed as the belly-up position, but it is still a vulnerable position.

Though they often seem to be in a deep sleep in this position, it’s usually more of a catnap position since it does make your kitty more vulnerable. As with the belly-up position, however, it does mean your cat feels very comfortable in your home and with you around.

8. Paws Across the Face

This is your cat’s version of a do not disturb sign. It’s a cat sleeping position in which your cat can fall into a truly deep sleep. It’s likely they put their paws in front of their face unconsciously perhaps as a natural instinct for protection. One thing to know is that if you wake your cat up from this position, he will not be in an agreeable mood.

9. Sitting Up

You’ll often see your cat napping in this position with his tail wrapped around his paws. Usually, he won’t stay asleep for more than 15 or 20 minutes, and it’s another one of those ‘stay alert’ cat sleeping positions. He wants to be able to wake at a moment’s notice.

10. On Top of You

why do cats lay on your chest

While this is often not one of the most comfortable positions for you, it is a good sign that you have a very positive relationship with your kitty. Your cat really wants to be close to you, and he is so comfortable with you that he really feels he can let his guard down by sleeping on top of you.

Your cat’s pretty smart too because he knows your arms and legs are more likely to move, so he will often choose your chest or even your back to sleep on. While you might not be able to sleep well, you can take satisfaction from the fact that this is a sign of trust from your friend.

11. Superman

cat sleeping positions superman

This is my personal favorite cat sleeping position. I cannot resist this one. It’s when your cat lies on his belly and stretches out his back paws behind him and his front paws as well. It looks like Superman in flight.

This sleep position is a sign of an extremely relaxed cat, and he can fall into a deep sleep in this comfortable position.

12. Tucked In

Many cats just love to cuddle up in blankets, on couches, in beds, in drawers, or otherwise covered up and tucked in. These positions maximize body heat for warmth and they also offer protection. It’s a cat’s natural instinct to seek out a safe space for times when he will be most vulnerable.

A cat bed perfect for tucking

13. In a Kitty Pile

Just like with puppy piles, kittens also sleep with their mother and siblings to stay warm and safe. It makes them feel more secure when sleeping with another cat. You’ll often see cats sleep in more exposed positions when they are in a pile with other cats.

If your cats are sleeping together, it’s also a positive indicator of their relationship with one another. It’s another sign of trust that they feel comfortable with their housemates.

General Cat Sleeping Habits

cat sleeping positions

In general, cats sleep on average 15 hours a day, but they can often sleep up to 20 hours. Why do cats sleep so much?

Cat Habits

Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. Though they are more active at night than during the day, they still tend to lay low during the darker hours of the night.

They also have the physiology of predators which means they are hardwired to hunt, and this takes place mostly at night. Your cute little domestic cat has much in common with wild cats like lions who also tend to sleep during the day and hunt at night.

Hunting actually takes a huge amount of energy which is why your kitty needs a little catnap every now and again. It helps him conserve energy even if he is only hunting a ball of twine or his favorite cat toy!

Should I Get My Cat a Cat Bed?

cat in a pet hut

There are a number of reasons why getting your cat a cat bed may help both him and you sleep better. It can help with his routine and it can also help with yours. If you get him his own bed, he’ll always have a place to feel warm and secure.

Aside from the instant comfort his own bed provides, it’s also a great place for him to regulate his body temperature. It also gives him his own place that’s especially for his comfort and relaxation.

If you do get him a bed, make it one that’s like a den. You can use his favorite cardboard box as a model. It may take a little while to get him used to the idea, but once he realizes this is just for him, he’ll likely fall in love with it. You and he will both sleep better as a result.

Final Thoughts

cat sleeping positions infographic

With your cat sleeping some 70% of his life, it’s no wonder he’s come up with so many different sleeping positions. He needs a safe position to fall into a deep sleep, but he also needs a position where he can lightly doze as he digests his high-protein diet.

By knowing a little more about your cat’s sleeping positions, you can better judge how he’s feeling in his home, and that will make you a better assistant to the real king or queen of the realm!