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Home > Cats > Why Do Cats Loaf? Reasons, Signs of Pain & FAQs

Why Do Cats Loaf? Reasons, Signs of Pain & FAQs

White tabby cat sit in the loaf pose on paper box.

Cats are enigmatic and lovable pets that are just as expressive as dogs. While a dog has many facial expressions that can tell you what they’re thinking, cats often speak with their bodies more. One of the most famous (and adorable) positions cats sit and sleep in is the “loaf” position when they lie on their bellies with their feet tucked in. Cats loaf for a few reasons; they loaf to keep themselves warm and conserve body heat, or they could be hunching to protect themselves if they’re in pain. Cats also loaf to relax while keeping all four feet ready, meaning they can jump into action if needed.

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What Is a Cat Loaf?

Cats get into the loaf position when they want to relax. They will sit and hunch down over their front paws, usually with the back paws covered. Some cats curl their front feet into each other, looking like they’re planning something! Their tail can be tucked into their body when they’re loafing or held out behind them. It’s called “loafing” or a cat loaf because the blocky, rounded rectangle shape looks like a loaf of bread, and it’s become a staple of cat-lover culture to recognize and point out.

Cats sometimes use the loaf position to get into comfy but compact spaces, such as boxes or sinks. No matter where your cat is loafing, it’s usually a sign that they’re relaxed and happy. However, there are some other reasons why your cat might be loafing, which we’ll look at below.

gray and white shorthair cat sitting in a loaf position
Image By: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

The Reasons Why Cats Loaf

A loafing cat with closed eyes and a relaxed body is probably just comfortable, warm, tucked in, and content. A cat’s body temperature is higher than ours, so they like to find warm spaces and positions to get into to keep toasty. Loafing is a great way for cats to retain body heat.

Cats also loaf if they’re comfortable but still want quick access to their paws. This doesn’t indicate that they’re scared or anxious; it just means they’re waiting for something (like loafing next to the food dish) or want to spring to their feet if needed. Cats are often on alert for potential danger, so loafing provides a comfortable and relaxed position while staying ready to jump into action.

A less common reason for loafing (or a position that looks like loafing) is if they’re hunched over in pain. If your cat is showing signs of stress or pain and is hunching over, it could be trying to alleviate discomfort or protect their internal organs. A relaxed, happy cat loafing will look different from a cat in pain.

Here are the signs to look out for if your cat is in pain:
  • Tense facial expression
  • Ears held slightly back
  • Whisker pads held forward in a “pinched” position
  • Eyes squinting and tense
  • Paws are usually not curled under

If you think your cat is in pain and loafing, you must take them to see a vet. Cats are incredibly stoic and will hide their pain from everyone. It can be challenging to tell if your cat is in pain, but using a feline grimace scale and looking for the signs above can help you. Cats also hide away if they’re in pain, and they could be loafing somewhere you’d usually not see them.

Do Cats Loaf When They Feel Safe?

If your cat is loafing around you all the time and isn’t sick or waiting for you to get their food, they feel comfortable and safe around you. Cats that loaf are often resting, and a curled-footed loaf paired with a loving facial expression means your cat feels secure around you. When their feet are tucked in, a cat’s best weapons (claws) are hidden away and not ready for use. This means that your cat is comfortable, and they probably love you! Other ways a cat shows they feel safe include the following:

  • Closing their eyes at you (the “slow blink“)
  • Lying on their side
  • Lying on their back with their paws up
  • Sleeping around you
orange cat sleeping in loaf outside
Image Credit: Alu Zheng, Unsplash

Why Does My Cat Loaf on My Chest?

If your cat loves to climb on your chest and loaf, they’re saying that they love you loud and clear! You’re comfy and warm, and they trust you; the loaf is the perfect position to be close to you while being ready to jump up if you need to sit up. Quite often, a cat loafing on their owner’s chest will eventually curl up and sleep if they’re not moved because they’re so comfortable. If you’re lucky enough that your cat loaves on you, they want to snuggle close to you.

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Final Thoughts

Loafing looks like a simple behavior, but there are a few reasons why your cat might be doing it. Most of the time, a cat will loaf because they’re comfy and it’s a comfortable position for them to rest in. They could be keeping themselves warm, particularly if they curl their tail around themselves or loaf in a warm place. Some cats will loaf or hunch over if they’re in pain, so paying attention to your cat’s other body language is important to ensure nothing is happening to them. If your cat blesses you by loafing on you, it’s a sign that they love you and that you’re warm and comfy, so enjoy the experience!

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Featured Image Credit: Seemly Fluffy, Shutterstock

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