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9 Cat Sleeping Positions When Sick All Owners Need to Know

9 Cat Sleeping Positions When Sick All Owners Need to Know

Cats are famed for their love of napping, and getting enough beauty sleep is a top priority. A snoozing feline is undeniably adorable, but sometimes it could indicate a possible problem. So, it’s important for pet parents to understand common cat sleeping positions when sick.

On average, cats sleep around 12 to 16 hours per day. If you notice your fur baby sleeping more frequently in an unusual position, it could be a sign of a sick or depressed cat.

As such, you should keep an eye on your kitty’s sleeping behavior, especially when accompanied by other signs of sickness and pain. In this guide, you can find the most common sleeping positions of a sick cat and other symptoms of pain.

grey cat asleep in odd position

9 Cat Sleeping Positions When Sick & What They Mean

Although cats sleep for long periods, a sick kitty will become lethargic and often spend most of the day sleeping somewhere that’s quiet, private, and warm.

These curious creatures also love to bend their bodies in all kinds of positions, but sometimes it could be a sign of sickness. Below are some cat sleeping habits and positions to monitor.

silver cat asleep on floor

1. Cat Curled Up in a Ball

Sleeping curled up in a ball is one of the coziest positions and common in colder months. Felines might curl up as tightly as possible and tuck their ears and paws close to their bodies to keep warm.

As cats lose most heat through their footpads and ears, this position keeps them snug during cold weather. However, it can also indicate that your cat’s body temperature has dropped below 100 degrees Fahrenheit and could lead to hypothermia.

grey cat asleep curled up

If your kitty is sleeping curled up in a tight ball with its eyes tightly closed, ears pinned forward or experiencing short and shallow breaths, it may be in pain.

If you determine that your cat is struggling to stay warm, you can adjust your thermostat to an appropriate temperature.

The ideal room temperature will depend on the specific breed, age, size, and health condition of your cat. But, generally, you’ll want to keep it at around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

ginger cat asleep in curled up position cat sleeping positions when sick

Additionally, you can use heat sources like a soft blanket and a warm cat bed.

Note: If cats are in pain, you might also find them curled up in a small, enclosed space like a box. As cats feel more secure in tiny spaces, they generally hide while waiting for the pain to pass.

2. Cat Sleeping Flat on Stomach

Generally, this isn’t a cat’s go-to position, especially during deep sleep. But, you could occasionally find your feline lying flat on its stomach with all four paws outstretched.

This adorable position is known as splooting and helps to stretch the hip joints and ease muscle tension.

cat asleep on stomach

The cold surface can also help your kitty cool off during a hot day. If your cat is getting too warm, they need to cool down to reduce the risk of developing heatstroke. Here are a few ways you can help your pet cool down:

  • Rub your cat with a damp washcloth
  • Use a small fan
  • Provide easy access to freshwater
  • Use a pet cooling mat
  • Make sure your cat is well-groomed
  • Keep cool flooring uncovered

Sleeping With Paws Outstretched

A cat sleeping with its paws outstretched resembles a cute flying position. Divided cat paws can help cats quickly escape if they feel threatened. As such, it also indicates that the cat might feel vulnerable due to sickness.

tabby cat asleep with paws outstretched

The Loaf Position

When cats lie on their stomach with their paws and tails tucked under their belly, it’s known as the cat loaf position. This position is common for brief naps and is usually a sign of your kitty getting a comfy rest.

white and grey cat in loaf position
The Loaf

However, it could also indicate discomfort in your cat’s paws. Common paw problems include open wounds, ingrown claws, and sharp objects stuck in the paw pad.

It’s important to inspect your kitty’s paws, especially if you notice them limping as well. Keep in mind that it’s best to wait for your fur baby to wake up before touching their paws.

grey cat curled up as loaf asleep on sofa

3. Sleeping Flat on Their Back

If you have an affectionate cat that’s loving during the day and then sleeps on its back, it’s usually no concern. In fact, it may suggest that your cat feels secure and trusts you by leaving its paw pads and belly exposed.

kittten sleepy on wooden table sleeping cat positions

On the other hand, if your cat is sleeping flat on its back, it can also indicate that it feels threatened or vulnerable. By lying in this way, the cat has both its claws and teeth ready to protect itself.

If a cat displays warning signs like prolonged periods of hiding and aggression, it could suggest that it feels the need to be on high alert.

sokoke cat yawning

It’s vital to visit your veterinarian for immediate treatment as it could point to medical illness, physical pain, or injuries.

4. Cat Sleeping With One Eye Open

Cats are highly intelligent animals, and the ability to sleep with their eyes open is another genius trait. Although it might seem a bit strange, it’s common for cats to do this when resting.

As both predators and prey, felines need to be alert most of the time, even during their daily naps.

cat with one eye open

This intriguing ability of cats is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep. It occurs when a cat sleeps with one eye shut and rests one half of its brain while the other half is fully conscious.

However, sick cats may also sleep in this way due to eye conditions. It may be painful for your cat to keep one eye open, and you’ll likely notice other signs such as red and swollen eyes, eye discharge, and excessive blinking.

A common eye disorder that cats suffer from is conjunctivitis. However, it could be more severe conditions like corneal ulcers, uveitis, or glaucoma.

A cat may also sleep with one eye open to prevent it from falling into a deep sleep due to breathing problems. Additionally, it could indicate a urinary infection as the cat may need to make a quick trip to the litter box.

If you notice these symptoms or have a closed eye when awake, it’s best to consult your vet immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

5. Cat Sleeping in Fetal Position

Similar to the cat curling up in a ball pose, this position provides cats with warmth. As the fetal position helps cats retain heat, you may find your feline sleeping this way during cold days.

However, it can also indicate that the cat isn’t feeling well or has incurred an injury. To determine if your cat is sick, you can check its temperature using a digital thermometer that’s suitable for pets. But be sure to do so when your cat is awake.

tabby cat asleep with tail

If the temperature is between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s considered to be normal. However, if it rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit or falls below 99 degrees Fahrenheit, it calls for a vet visit.

The fetal position can also suggest that a cat is protecting the parts of its body that sustained an injury. To check for discomfort or injury, monitor how well your kitty moves after waking up.

Unrecognizable veterinarian cleaning ears of a cat with cotton buds.

Possible minor injuries include dry and cracked paw pads and trapped splinters. If you can’t see a physical problem, but your cat doesn’t allow you to touch its paws, it’s best to consult your vet for an in-depth examination.

6. Sleeping on Their Side

Generally, a cat lying on its side suggests a relaxed and happy kitty. It is a vulnerable position and often indicates that your cat has a normal body temperature.

As cats tend to hide when they’re in pain, they usually don’t sleep this way when they’re unwell.

tabby cat asleep on bench

However, there are exceptions, and side-sleeping is not always a good thing. A cat lying stretched out on one side could indicate that it is having difficulty breathing or experiencing muscular pain.

In this case, cats prefer this position over others that may put pressure on their lungs, like lying flat on their stomach or curled up in a ball. If your cat has breathing issues, you will hear them wheezing and breathing deeply.

ginger cat asleep on red cushion

Other signs that you should be wary of include limping, panting, having trouble getting in their litter box, and refusing to run or climb. If your cat is constantly sleeping on its side with other symptoms, it’s best to arrange a vet appointment as soon as possible.

7. Cat Sleeping in Meatloaf Position

The meatloaf position looks similar to the loaf position. It is when cats lie in a hunched position with their backs arched upwards and paws tucked underneath their body. They will also have their heads pointed down with their chin on the floor.

tabby kitten asleep on a stool

Although it seems like an innocent and cozy pose, sick cats often sleep this way. If you notice that your cat is breathing irregularly in this position, you should get your fur baby examined.

This position can also indicate that a cat is suffering from severe illnesses like chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD is more common in senior cats. So, if you have an older cat, it’s best to seek immediate vet attention.

8. Sleeping With Other Cats

If you have a few cats in your home, finding them cuddled up together is extremely endearing. Cats that grow up in the same household often form an unbreakable bond. They will sleep together and groom each other.

numerous cats asleep in a basket

Finding two cats sleeping together is not concerning. But if one is awake while the other cat sleeps, it could indicate an underlying problem. It may suggest that the snoozing kitty is asking the other to watch over them.

Although cats can be loving to their furry friends, they’re also territorial and independent. So if your cat is seeking help from the other, it may suggest that they’re desperately searching for protection.

two tabby kittens asleep

9. Cat Sleeping in the Same Position

Cats enjoy sleeping in a variety of positions, from curling up tightly to lying on their side. These cuties love snuggling up in all kinds of ways.

So, if you notice that your cat is sleeping in the same position all the time, it could suggest that your kitty is sick.

tabby cat asleep in blanket

For instance, if your cat is sleeping curled up in a ball in a warm area all the time, it may indicate that they are constantly cold and at risk of hypothermia. On the other hand, if your cat curls up during one nap and sleeps stretched out on the next, there is little cause for concern.

Similarly, constantly sleeping with their eyes open can indicate that cats have an eye condition rather than just practicing unihemispheric sleep.

So, it’s important to monitor the frequency of your feline’s sleeping poses, particularly when accompanied by other signs of sickness.

tabby cat asleep with paw over eye

Other Signs That Your Cat May Be Sick

Felines rarely reveal when they are in pain. Some might say that they see it as a sign of weakness. As such, it’s important to monitor your furry friend’s sleeping positions and their frequency.

There are also other signs that may help you determine whether your cat is sick. Here are a few of the most common signs and symptoms of a sick cat.

1. Changes in Behavior

If your cat is usually very active during the day, constantly sleeping may be a sign of illness. Another sign of stress in sick cats is excessive vocalization.

grey kitten meowing at night

Generally, cats don’t meow for no reason. So, if you find your cat trying to communicate with you, it’s best to listen and monitor them closely.

Other concerning changes in behavior include growling, hissing, resistance to touch, and purring for no reason.

2. Change in Appetite

If you notice a change in your cat’s appetite and feeding routine, this could indicate that your fur baby is sick. For example, if your cat is experiencing a loss of appetite and sleeping in the meatloaf position, it may be suffering from kidney failure.

two Scottish kittens lap milk from bowl

A loss of appetite could be a sign of health concerns, such as intestinal issues, infection, dental issues, or cancer. On the other hand, an increased appetite might indicate that your cat is suffering from diabetes mellitus.

It’s always best to monitor your pet’s feeding habits and visit your vet for a more accurate diagnosis.

3. Reduced Grooming

Cats enjoy a good pamper session and will spend several hours cleaning themselves every day. So when their self-grooming stops, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

toyger cat grooming

When a cat is feeling stressed, it may result in reduced grooming. However, a cat letting itself get all scruffy might signal something more severe.

A possible reason for changes in cats grooming behavior is that it might be causing them pain. Some of the underlying issues for this could be swollen joints, arthritis, and dental problems.

grey cat licks its front paws

Alternatively, excessive licking can also signal that your cat is in pain. Your cat may be trying to bring relief to the affected area.

4. Decreased Activity Level

Lethargy is a common sign of a sick cat, especially if it’s a relatively active breed. When cats have low energy levels, they tend to be less playful and sleep more frequently.

Cute little red kitten sleeps on fur white blanket

Common causes of reduced energy in cats are infections and fevers. If your cat seems a bit down and shows a lack of response, it could be because all of its energy is going to its immune system to fight off the particular problem.

Your cat could also experience low energy due to sore joints or injuries. It’s best to consult your vet if you notice a significant reduction in activity or discomfort.

white cat asleep in human bed with coffee

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Final Thoughts on Sleeping Positions of a Sick Cat

A feline’s sleeping position could simply be a personal preference. However, pet parents should always ensure that their little fur baby isn’t suffering. One way that you can do this is by paying attention to their sleeping habits.

A cat will subtly show signs of sickness, so keep a close eye on its body language and behavior. For more information on feline sleeping habits, check out this guide on why cats sleep with one owner.

Veterinarian listening to cat's heart
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