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Home > Cats > Why Do Cats Curl Their Paws? 8 Typical Reasons

Why Do Cats Curl Their Paws? 8 Typical Reasons

cat lying on his back looking at the camera

Cats are flexible, funny creatures. If you’ve ever caught your cat sitting in a strange position, you wouldn’t be the first cat owner to do so. Cat videos show cats love sleeping in boxes, sinks, and even on animals or people. But why might a cat curl their paws? Just like most behaviors cats display, there are many possible reasons.

In this article, we will talk about eight typical reasons that cats may curl their paws. The next time you spot your cat curling his paws, pay attention to his body language or the environment to help you determine why that may be.


The 8 Reasons Why Cats Curl Their Paws

1. They Are Relaxing

Cats love to nap. When your cat sits with his paws curled, that could be a sign that he’s settling down to doze or relax. This position can be comparable to humans crossing their legs when they sit down and relax.

If your cat feels safe in his environment, you may notice him curling his paws to settle down. This can be a comfortable position for cats. However, if you notice your cat constantly curling and then stretching his paws, that could be a sign that his paws are causing him discomfort instead.

ginger tabby cat lying on a sofa
Image By: Fox_Ana, Shutterstock

2. They Want to Conserve Body Heat

When trying to assess your cat’s behavior, consider his environment. If the temperature is changing, it is bound to cause different behaviors. For instance, in warmer weather, a cat may be less likely to curl his paws. But in cold weather, he may curl his paws often to conserve body heat.

If you notice your cat displaying other cold behaviors, you may want to find ways to help him warm up. Cat beds with bolstered edges can help your cat retain body heat while sleeping. If you are willing to spend a little extra, you can also purchase a self-heating bed or mat.

3. They Need Some Alone Time

Although cats are social creatures, they are also notoriously independent at times. Therefore, there may be times when they need to be left alone. When your cat curls his paws, pay attention to his attitude and body language. If he appears disinterested or irritated with you, there is a chance that your cat is looking to get some alone time. It’s best to give him some space until he seeks you out later.

If your cat is typically extroverted and playful, you may feel concerned by the apparent aloof attitude. No need to worry—this is perfectly normal, even in the most social of cats. Of course, if you are worried, there is no harm in taking your cat to the vet clinic for an impromptu checkup.

cornish rex cat lying on a checkered mattress
Image By: Andre_K, Shutterstock

4. They Don’t Want to Be Touched

Your cat may be curling his paws because he doesn’t want to be touched. This is also normal behavior in cats, so it shouldn’t be anything to worry about. However, if your cat is frequently curling his paws to avoid being touched, you should watch out for any signs that your cat is in pain1.

If your cat doesn’t want to be touched, you may notice that he appears irritated when you touch him. His tail may swish, and he may even try to bite. It’s best to give your cat space when he nonverbally asks for it.

5. They Are Being Vigilant

No matter how safe your cat’s environment is, he will still practice vigilance. This is because cats in the wild need to be constantly alert for prey and predators. Your domestic cat, whether he is an indoor cat or an outdoor cat, will retain these instincts.

Curling his paws allows your cat to relax while remaining alert. This is a position that your cat can easily move out of to adopt a more vigilant pose.

gray tabby cat lying on the ground
Image By: DiPres, Shutterstock

6. They’re Dealing with Discomfort

As mentioned a few times, pain may be why your cat is curling his paws. It can be difficult to spot pain in cats because they instinctively hide their discomfort. To rule out the possibility of pain, you must pay extra close attention to your cat’s behavior. Cats in pain may display other uncharacteristic behaviors, such as becoming aggressive when they are generally friendly. If you notice any other signs of pain, you should take him to the vet to determine the cause of his discomfort.

7. They’re Adjusting to a New Environment

If you have just moved to a new home or you have adjusted the layout of your home, your cat may be struggling to adapt. Cats notoriously love routine and familiarity, so change can be difficult to accept. If your cat is curling his paws, he may be doing so to remain vigilant in his unfamiliar environment.

Pay attention to your cat as he tries to adapt. Eventually, he should stop curling his paws and start exploring his environment, gradually growing more comfortable with his surroundings as he does. If he doesn’t relax, try helping him grow comfortable with toys and playtime.

orange kitten lying on red ethnic pattern cover
Image By: Hatice Sever, Shutterstock

8. It’s Just a Habit

When it comes down to it, it’s possible that your cat is curling his paws just because it’s a habit. Curling paws is not uncommon among cats, so there’s a good chance that this position is simply something your cat enjoys. If you notice that your cat curls his paws often, it may be one of his favorite positions to relax in.

As long as your cat does not appear distressed or in pain, there likely isn’t any reason to be concerned with your cat’s curled paws.


To Know What Your Cat Is Feeling, Pay Attention to the Tail

Even knowing why your cat may be curling his paws, it can still be difficult to tell why he is doing so. If only you could understand your cat, you could ask him directly. While you can’t communicate verbally with your cat, you can do the next best thing: observe non-verbal communication.

Cats communicate with us effectively through body language. As a cat owner, you will need to learn how to decipher your cat’s non-verbal communication so you can know what he is trying to express. Your cat’s tail will tell you almost everything you need to know. There are a few ways the tail may appear that can help you determine what your cat wants to say.

Wrapped Tail

If your cat wraps his tail around other people, this is his way of showing affection and love. It is also a sign that he is looking for attention and affection. Feel free to give your kitty plenty of pets!

If your cat is wrapping his tail around himself, it may be a sign that your cat wants to be left alone.

Cat welcomes his owner at home
Image By: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

Loose Tail or Tucked Tail

If your cat’s tail is loose (horizontal), he is likely relaxed or neutral. On the other hand, a tucked or lowered tail may suggest that he is feeling anxious, stressed, or otherwise tense. This is especially true if your cat’s tail is tucked beneath his body.

Upright Tail

A tail that is held high can indicate that your cat is feeling upbeat, energetic, or confident. Cats with upright tails are more likely to be social and eager to engage with others. If your cat flicks the upper tip of his tail, it may be an invitation for you to play with him or pet him.

Arched Tail or Puffed Tail

If your cat’s tail is arched or puffed, give him some space. This is a sign that your cat feels threatened and may respond aggressively. If something agitates your cat, try removing it from his environment. After some space away from the stressor, your cat should gradually calm down.

Wagging Tail

When dogs wag their tails, this often means they’re happy. In cats, that is not the case.

A cat will wag or lash his tail when distressed or agitated. It is your cat’s way of warning you or others away, or your cat may become aggressive. If you spot a lashing tail, stay away!


Final Thoughts

If your cat curls his paws, it is generally not a cause for concern. This is typical behavior if he’s not displaying any other concerning behaviors. The best way to determine why your cat is curling his paws is to observe his body language, particularly with his tail. Once you can read your cat’s non-verbal communication, you can decipher other behaviors he may display in the future.

Featured Image Credit: aesthetica, Shutterstock

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