Cats are cutest when they are sleeping. Even the most mischievous kitten can look like a cute little angel when curled up on the couch or snoozing in the sun.
Cats can sleep almost anywhere and in any position, but where and how they doze off is not as random as it may seem.
So let’s examine some common sleeping positions and their implications, and explore whether your cat is relaxed, stressed, or in distress.
Are resting and sleeping postures important?
If you have a cat, you know that cats spend most of their time resting and sleeping. When resting, cats are inactive and still. They may sit or lie down, and their posture varies. The resting posture indicates either relaxation or tension, but the posture is not indicative of the underlying emotional state.
On the other hand, when cats sleep, their eyes are closed and their muscles are completely relaxed but may occasionally twitch, which may be associated with rapid eye movement sleep (ICatCare, 2010).
Although sleeping posture alone cannot determine whether a cat is healthy or not, a cat’s resting and sleeping patterns, site, and posture can be combined with other behavioral and clinical signs to determine a cat’s health status.
Sleeping postures of cats
The following are common sleeping postures of cats and their meanings
- curled body
This is the most common natural sleeping position for cats. Most cats sleep peacefully in a small curl when sleeping or resting. When sleeping, the cat’s head lies flat against the surface of the object on which it is lying, a position that keeps the body warm and protects vital organs.
- lying on its belly
lying on its back
When a cat is lying on its back, its abdomen is exposed, indicating that it is completely relaxed and healthy. The cat’s abdomen is the most vulnerable part of its body, and by lying on its back with its legs in the air, the cat is unable to escape immediately in the event of danger, a sign of complete trust. When a cat is napping in this position, do not touch its belly, no matter how tempted you are!
- side sleeping
Jose Miguel, side sleeping.
Side sleeping indicates that the cat is relaxed, but not necessarily in a deep sleep. The belly is exposed and the limbs are extended, but the cat is still content but alert.
The Acrobat’s Meny.
This is the strangest sleeping pose a cat can exhibit, in which the body appears to be twisted and the limbs are extended in all directions while the head is twisted in an uncomfortable angelic position. The scientific basis for this posture is not yet understood, but if the cat is comfortable and relaxed, enjoy the moment and watch from afar.
- Paws between the face
Jose Miguel sleeps with his face between his paws.
This is my favorite and cutest pose. When a cat puts its paws over its face, it is most likely letting you know that it does not want to be disturbed or that it wants to block out the bright sunlight.
- curl up
Bizzy lays down on the bed.
Some cats burrow under the covers with their noses sticking out of little slits to take in oxygen. Another reason cats burrow under the covers is to maintain body heat and seek warmth.
- Sleeping on its back
Jose Miguel sleeping on top of his owner Alexandra
If a cat chooses to sleep on you, take it as a compliment. Many cats show their affection by grooming or sleeping on their owners. Cats feel safe and comforted, and the human-animal bond is strengthened.
- Social group naps
Jose. Miguel and Jimmy sleeping on catnip.
Cats that belong to the same social group (with subordinate behaviors) may choose to sleep together. If you and your dog are close, you may prefer to keep them close together, but your cat and dog should have different pet beds.
Sleeping Positions for Cats When Sick or in Pain
When cats are stressed or in pain, they may rest, nap or sleep in unusual positions.
Let’s take a look at some of the resting and sleeping positions cats use when they are sick or in pain:
Curled up head down.
An unwell Daisy curled up in a chair with her head tilted downwards, trying to sleep in the chair because of an upset stomach.
Like unwell people, sick cats may exhibit nervousness, hunching, head tilted downward, ears exposed, whiskers standing up or away from the face, and a shedding or fluffy coat due to improper grooming.
Cat backs are common in cats with chronic kidney disease, osteoarthritis, feline distemper, pancreatitis, cancer, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Head and Neck Stretching
Cats that sneeze, cough or have difficulty breathing sleep with their head and neck extended may have difficulty sleeping in a normal position due to respiratory or heart disease and need immediate veterinary care.
If sleeping in an abnormal position
Snowball may feel uncomfortable after eating almonds and try to assume a comfortable sleeping position.
If a cat suddenly begins to sleep in unusual places or changes sleeping positions or patterns (continues to sleep or feints), this may indicate that the cat is in distress and is trying to find a comfortable resting position.
Other clinical signs to look out for include tense posture, squinting, changes in facial expression, loss of appetite and increased vocalization.
General Sleeping Habits of Cats
Cats sleep well during the day. On average, cats rest 2.8 hours and nap 7.8 hours per day. Indoor cats sleep more than outdoor cats.
Sleeping in Confined Spaces
Cats choose where they rest and sleep based on their temperament, mood and health. Unlike dogs, they don’t usually sleep on the floor even if they have a comfortable bed.
For both resting and sleeping, cats choose confined spaces, such as high or covered areas, or boxes, pet beds, cushions or outdoor bushes.
Anxious or timid cats prefer to hide or curl up in small, dark places (under a closet or under bedding), while confident cats prefer to sleep undisturbed in a box, passageway, or bag, and cats with joint problems prefer a warm, easily accessible cat bed.
Finally, cats prefer to rest in an area separate from their own beds and even like to snooze alone, so it’s important to provide comfortable and safe resting and sleeping areas in all areas of the house and garden that your cat frequents.
The Cruel Hunter
Cats are both prey and predator. They are active at dawn and dusk and have an innate hunting instinct. Therefore, they need adequate rest and sleep between hunts.
Cats’ sleeping habits change during winter, hot weather and rainy days, when most cats sleep longer.
Aging and Senescent Cats
As cats age, their physiology and behavior change. Senior and geriatric cats become more talkative, less active, eat and hunt less, and sleep longer (even outdoors). Some senior cats also develop cognitive dysfunction and altered sleep patterns, all of which require veterinary intervention.
Although not much research has been done on cat sleep, it is an important behavior for cats to adapt to their environment (including welfare).
Changes in sleep patterns, sleeping position or insomnia in cats may be due to stress or disease and should be discussed with your veterinarian for early detection and appropriate treatment options.