What Does Your Cat’s Sleeping Position Really Mean?

9 Min Read | By Nat Took

Last Modified 20 December 2022   First Added 1 May 2021

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Cats are known for not only loving sleep but also sleeping in weird and wonderful positions. Just like humans, cats can have a favourite sleeping position. How your cat chooses to sleep can tell you a lot about them. As they’re mysterious creatures, taking a look at what position they sleep in can give insight into what they’re feeling. And as cats sleep a lot, this can be a good way of seeing how your cat is doing. So, next time your cat is taking a catnap, take note of the position they’re in.

Common cat sleeping positions and what they mean

It’s well known that our favourite sleeping position can give insights to our personalities. The same is true for a sleeping cat! And while they do often sleep in different positions, most cats tend to have a favourite. Here are some of the most common cat sleeping positions explained:

cat sleeping in a position with belly up

1. Sleeping with belly up

If your cat is sleeping on its back, showing you its belly, it may look hilarious, but this is a great sleeping position for your kitty to adopt. This position shows that your cat is very secure and happy with its surroundings.

By sleeping on their back, a cat exposes its belly which is an extremely vulnerable position. Not only does it not protect their soft belly and the organs there, but it’s a difficult position to quickly get up from if they need to flee. For a cat to choose this sleeping position, they must really trust the environment that they’re in. So, kudos to you; your cat really trusts the home you’ve created for them.

If your cat chooses this sleeping position whilst lying on or near you, this also shows their complete trust for you. So be sure to resist tickling that fluffy belly and waking them with a jump!

This cat sleeping position is normally only seen in indoor kitties. Cats that go outside are unlikely to gain this level of complete trust with their environment. It’s also true that cats who often sleep on their back are confident and charismatic.

cat in curled up sleeping position

2. The curled-up cat

A cat sleeping in a curled-up position can have a number of meanings. Although this position may look secure, your cat is actually protecting vulnerable body parts. This is the complete opposite of sleeping on their back. Therefore, when a cat curls up when sleeping, they’re resting in their most instinctive position. Because of this, it’s also one of the most popular sleeping positions seen in a cat. No matter how much you spoil them, and even though they know they’re safe with you, for some cats they just can’t shake those feline instincts that keep them on alert mode.

If a cat sleeps in this position, they almost definitely want to be left alone to sleep in peace.

Curling up and sweeping their tail around their body is also a great way for your cat to conserve heat. So if your cat doesn’t normally choose a curled-up sleeping position, but suddenly adopts it, they may be feeling a little chilly. In terms of personality, a cat that often chooses to sleep in this position is likely to be cautious and perhaps a little nervous. They also tend to have a strong sense of self and are happy that they can get your attention when they want it.

cat sleeping on its side

3. Sleeping on their side

If your cat lies on their side when they sleep, it’s likely they’re showing that they feel secure. As they aren’t protecting any vital organs, they’re showing trust in anyone near them and their environment. A cat in this position is often in a deep sleep and is likely to sleep for longer than when in other positions. Cats who favour this sleeping position are often relaxed and confident. They know they can get what they want, when they want it.

4. Sleeping under something

cat sleeping underneath a duvet

Sleeping under something, whether tucked into blankets or under the sofa, or even just hiding their face with a paw, is another sleeping position that harkens back to a cat’s natural instincts. A cat feels safe when under something. When sleeping in this position, your cat wants their own space to enjoy some peace and quiet.

This is another position a cat may adopt when feeling a little chilly. So if this is something your cat normally doesn’t do, they may be telling you it’s time to get the heating on! A cat that often tucks itself under something to sleep can often be an introvert. They like to spend time on their own and are comfortable with themselves.

cat sleeping with eye half open

5. Sleeping with an eye half open

This sleeping position is often seen in newly adopted cats, or those that live in noisy households. With their eyes half open (and maybe their ears outstretched), your cat isn’t sleeping properly, but is ready to wake up at the slightest sound. In fact, only half their brain is resting in this sleeping position.

Sleeping in this way allows the cat to be ready to spring into action at any time. Whether this be to catch prey that has ventured too close, or to jump out of the way of danger. Cats that sleep with one eye open may have trust issues, but give them time and they’ll come round to trusting their environment.

6. The cat loaf

Also known as the sphinx, this position is when cats lie on their front with their front paws underneath them. It’s unlikely that they’ll fully go to sleep in this position, instead they’ll simply relax. It’s almost like your cat is meditating and they can stay like this for long periods.

A cat in this position is quite comfortable in its surroundings, and doesn’t see any threat. However, your cat is also ready for some action if it appears, they’re not really sleepy, just using the time to relax.
If your cat regularly relaxes in this position, they’re likely to be laid back and calm. However, they’ll happily let you know if you do something to displease them.

7. Sleeping in a box

This cat sleeping position is sure to make you grab your camera. Many agree it’s one of the cutest things a cat can do, squeezing themselves into a box to get some shut-eye. This is another protective sleeping position for a cat, as the walls give them security. It’s likely that a cat living in a noisy household will find boxes to sleep in, away from anything that may disturb their sleep.

Cats have a skill for squeezing into small spaces to sleep. The smaller the space, the more security they have. Although this position is all about security, cats that prefer this sleeping position are often bold and feisty. They need the security as they expect others to pounce on them when sleeping – the way they would when they see you trying to get some shut-eye.

8. Fully twisted

cat sleeping in strange twisted position

Cats that have their front legs outstretched in one direction, and their back paws tucked in or outstretched in the opposite direction – fully twisting their body – are quite comfortable in where they are. Despite this, they’re still alert and this position is surprisingly easy for a cat to get out of if they need to spring into action. A cat that favours this sleeping position is likely to be an over-indulger and confident in getting what it wants. They’re confident and may come across as a bit naughty, but that’s only because they’re impatient when they decide they want something.

9. The contortionist

This weird cat sleeping position may have you scratching your head wondering how on earth your cat can be comfy. They twist their legs and body in all sorts of directions and have their head at a strange angle, but your cat is somehow comfortable. If your cat often sleeps in strange angles that look impossible to be comfy, they’re likely to love attention. They’re not needy, but confident and want you to see them and be aware of how incredible they are.

10. Sleeping on you

Whether your cat simply touches you or fully smothers you when they sleep, this shows that they trust you. Not only do they trust you to generally be around whilst they let their guard down, they actively seek you out before letting their guard drop. They’re seeking comfort from your physical presence if they choose to touch you whilst sleeping.

It’s the ultimate sign of trust from a cat. If yours loves this sleeping position, they might be a little needy but are also very loving. In terms of personality, they’re likely to be relaxed and caring, enjoying the small comforts of life.

Do sleeping positions really tell us about a cat’s personality?

A cats sleeping position may just be a personal preference, or it may show a little bit about their personality. It’s likely that a cat that never adopts a position that makes them vulnerable may be less confident. But there’s also likely to be some comfort considerations when cats choose how they sleep.

How long do cats sleep?

Does your cat seem to sleep the day away? Don’t worry, that’s completely normal. In fact, cats sleep for an average of 15 hours a day, some cats may even sleep for 20 hours! This hearkens back to their wild instincts. In the wild, like other big felines, cats conserve as much energy as possible so that they’re ready to pounce when they need to hunt. Even though domesticated cats do not need these hunting sprees, this genetic programming is often hard to shake.

Does your cat sometimes struggle to sleep? Check out our guide to helping your pets sleep on Bonfire Night which has tips for helping your cat sleep all year round. 

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