Why Do Cats Loaf? Types, Meanings, and FAQs (With Pictures)

Cat with partial cat loaf sitting position

Let’s face it. Even after centuries of domestication, our cats can still be a mystery. We find our cats in many strange but adorable positions, and one of them is the iconic cat loaf!

While there is still a lot to learn about our cats, people have continuously tried to decode their body language.

Much like humans, cats can communicate with their bodies, and it’s up to us to try and understand them.

If you’re one of those cat owners who are interested in cat loafing, this article is for you. Let me share everything you need to know about the cat loaf position and the reasons behind this cute feline quirk.

What Is a Cat Loaf Position? What Does a Cat Loaf Mean?

Grey cat sitting in a cat loaf position

The cat loaf is a position where the cat’s legs and tail are tucked underneath its body, resembling a loaf of bread. It is a common position seen in most cats regardless of age and breed. Loafing usually indicates that the cat is feeling relaxed and comfortable. 

If you haven’t heard of cat loaf, maybe you’re more familiar with other terms for it, like turkey cat, potato cat, and even hover cat. It’s quite a universal feline pose, but not everyone is aware of the meaning behind it.

Generally, cats take this position when they’re feeling content and comfortable. Cats can loaf around anywhere, but you will most likely find them loafing around in their favorite spots. 

Experts say that in a loaf position, the claws are fully hidden. This means the cat feels safe and does not sense any danger nearby.

However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re entirely at ease like when they’re belly up. The cat loaf position allows cats to rest or nap comfortably while staying ready for anything at the same time. 

It’s why cats in the bread loaf position are more likely just down for a quick snooze and not deep sleep.

But the truth is, like with all other pets, cat owners can never be 100% sure of what the kitty loaf means. It can vary with every cat and every situation. We can only try to observe and understand our pets as much as possible. 

Types of Cat Loaf Positions 

There are subtle cat loaf variations, and I’m sure you’ve seen your cat do one or two. Let’s take a look at the different types of cat bread loaf positions: 

Full Loaf

Cat with full loaf sitting position

A full cat loaf is a bread loaf position where the cat’s body is upright, with its legs completely tucked and you’ll find the tail underneath.

In the full loaf, they look almost rectangular. With that shape and the average cat’s size, you would really be reminded of a bread loaf. 

Watch a cat get into a full loaf position in this video: 

Socks getting in her catloaf position.

It is said that the full loaf is less common than the partial loaf. If your cats tuck their legs fully, just take a few snaps and leave them be. It’s usually a time of relaxation that they want to prolong and enjoy. 

Partial Loaf

Yellow cat sits in a partial loaf position

If you see your cat in a bread loaf position but with its elbows peering outwards, that is called a partial loaf.

In this bread loaf position, the legs are not completely tucked in, and the tail is a bit loose. The partial loaf position is said to be common in kittens. 

Loaf Boat

Cat with loaf boat sitting position

The loaf boat is a sitting position very similar to the partial loaf. The main difference is that one elbow is a bit more extended outwards in this position than the other, although you’ll see both their paws tucked.

The overall shape is like that of a sailboat, hence the name.

Face Loaf

The face loaf is also called the collapsed loaf. In this position, the cat would be in a full or partial loaf but with its face planted downwards.

Cat lovers say that the face plant is likely because of losing too much energy, frustration, or if they’re just feeling extra lazy. 

As I said before, cats will typically just nap in a kitty loaf position. But when deep sleep takes over, you might find them with their faces on the floor.

It’s not very common, but it’s perhaps the most hilarious. Sleepy faceplanting cats are pretty popular all over social media! 

You’ll find their front paws or forepaws underneath their body, along with their collapsed face and nose.

Double Loaf

Double loaf two cats sitting in a cat loaf position

When you have two or more cats living together, you might find them both in a loaf position close to each other. This is the rare double loaf. It’s a pretty rare sight, so you would want to capture this memory! 

Cats like to mimic each other, especially bonded pairs. If your cat’s behavior is similar to this, know that it’s a way they learn and develop.

They want to imitate how other feline family members move, play, and interact with humans. It’s no wonder they like copying the comfy loaf position too. 

Triple Loaf

Triple loaf three cats sitting in a kitty loaf position

If you ever see three cats in a loaf position, consider yourself lucky. This triple dose of cuteness is an even rarer occurrence than the double loaf.

You may see multiple cats loafing together in the same area or in a row like an adorable loaf train! 

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6 Reasons Why Cats Stay in a Loaf Position

Now that we know the various cat loaf types, let’s take a more in-depth look at why your feline friend stays in this position.

Here, I have listed six possible reasons why your cat tucks its paws underneath and takes on the loaf position from time to time.

1. Comfort

Like I mentioned, cats sitting in a loaf position is not unusual. This position can bring them relaxation and contentment because if you’re still unaware, cats love comfort.

It goes without saying that this position of lying or loafing on the ground is physically relaxing for them and it eases their anxiety. I know it seems a bit uncomfortable, but feline skeletal systems are simply built differently. 

Think of it as the feline version of reclining on the couch. Cats loaf in their favorite spots and can stay comfortably in the same position for hours.

2. Thermoregulation 

Directly related to their comfort is their body heat. Cats need to be at their thermoneutral zone of 86 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (30 to 38 degrees Celsius), which is significantly higher than ours. 

Similar to how we cross our arms when it’s cold, cats try to preserve body heat by tucking in their legs. The extremities get colder easier because of the absence of fur and so, loafing is a way to keep them warm. 

Thermoregulation is also why cats have their legs tucked under the sun and on top of warm objects like electronics. It’s a reason why they love boxes too! 

3. Happiness and Safety

When your cat gets into a comfy position, it is feeling happy and secure in its environment. If your cat usually loafs around you, it’s one way of saying that they are content and that they trust you. 

Aside from feeling secure in their surroundings, the cat loaf position also gives them stability. The loaf allows them to stay upright and not fall or tip over easily. The cats’ vulnerable sides are not exposed to the environment too. 

When loafing, the cats’ heads also usually remain upright, so they can stay aware of their surroundings. The position also makes it relatively easy for them to run or move in case something happens. 

4. Illness

In some cases, loafing can be a sign that your cat is having discomfort. It’s a position where the cat’s vital organs are not exposed, so this position is perfect for protecting a painful area in its body. 

In older cats, it can be one of the signs of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). Loafing, in this case, can look a little different.

The cat will still lie on its belly, but the head will be planted down, and the forepaws will be outstretched. 

This loaf variation is also called the meatloaf position, and it is said to relieve some pressure from the organs.

If you see your cat in this position, look out for other symptoms such as loss of appetite, vomiting, and increased drinking and urination. 

Observe your cat, especially if it seems to like pressing its head on surfaces. A face plant is harmless most of the time, but constant head pressing can be a sign of neurological disease. Bring them to the vet immediately if this persists.

5. Injured Paw

Cats are masters at hiding pain or illness. They like to keep their injured paws close to their bodies, so loafing is one of the perfect ways to do it. It protects their paw from external elements and further injury.

If you notice that your cat is loafing more than usual, try to observe more attentively. Check for other signs of injury such as limping, excessive licking of the paws, and unwillingness to put weight on one paw. 

6. No Reason at All

Just like humans, cats may want to sit in a loaf position just because they want to. Sometimes, there is no meaning behind it other than your cat simply wants to sit like that. No sense to be curious about it.

Cats are strong-willed and independent creatures. You can be sure that they will sit the way they want to and where they want to! 

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Other Types of Cat Positions

Much like humans, cats have a variety of other positions they’re comfortable in. These positions are usually indicative of the cats’ state of comfort or well-being. 

Belly Up

Beautiful grey cat lying in a belly up position

If you’re a cat parent, I’m sure you’ve seen your cat sprawled out and belly up in a comfy spot! When cats are sleeping in this position, it usually means that they’re completely relaxed in their environment. 

They trust that there is no imminent threat near them, so they could sleep and roll around to their heart’s content. Cats sleeping belly up aren’t worried at all about being in a vulnerable position. 

Curled Up

Red and white cat lies curled up on a wooden platform

Cats are also often seen curled up in a ball somewhere sleeping. They would look like fluffy balls of cuteness, but resist the urge to pet them!

With their face, paws, and tail hidden and curled up together, it’s a visual cue that they don’t want to be disturbed. 

Curling up into a ball to sleep is also very natural for cats. It can be traced back to their wild ancestors that slept exposed to the elements. For them, this position helped preserve body heat and protect their vital organs. 

Side Sleeper

Small kitty side sleeper

A cat lying sideways is typical when they are sleeping. They can sleep like this anywhere they feel safe.

You might notice they love sleeping on their sides on the sofa or the bed with you! Like the cat loaf, it’s a good indicator that they are happy and relaxed in your presence. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Cats Loaf When They’re Happy?

Yes. Cats sit on a loaf when they’re happy and relaxed. When they do this, it means they feel secure in their environment. They enjoy loafing in their favorite spots around the house or near the people they love. 

What Is the Meatloaf Position in Cats? Is it Similar to Bread Loaf Position?

The meatloaf position looks very similar to the cat loaf. In the meatloaf position, our feline friends will be sitting with their backs arched and their heads down like in a face loaf. Their forepaws will be close to their bodies, and their eyes shut. 

While the kitty loaf is adorable, the meatloaf can indicate that the cat is in pain. If you see your cat in a meatloaf position and you think something’s amiss, don’t hesitate to consult your vet.

Why Do Cats Sleep in a Loaf Position?

There are various reasons why a cat sits or sleeps in a loaf position. Tucking their legs underneath their bodies is comfortable for them, and it helps them regulate body temperature. 

However, cats sometimes sleep in a loaf position because they’re trying to hide an illness or protect an injured paw. Always be sure to pay attention and check for any sign of discomfort in your cats.

Final Thoughts

All cats have unique and sometimes hilarious ways of communicating with us humans. Especially for cats that aren’t as vocal as other breeds, we could learn a lot from their body language. 

Sometimes, a cat sitting in a loaf can be indicative of some underlying pain or discomfort. You have to be attentive and take note of any unusual behavior.

But the good news is that most of the time, the cat loaf indicates that the cat is happy and comfortable. If you see your cat loafing around you, you can take it as a sign that you’re doing an excellent job as a cat parent!

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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