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Cat ‘Yoga’: Understanding Crazy Cat Sleeping Positions

Cat ‘Yoga’: Understanding Crazy Cat Sleeping Positions

Posted by Armarkat on 21st Feb 2024

Tuxedo cat Luc-Luc lays on his back, his hind legs sprawled out while his front legs tuck inward as though he is hugging the air. Next to him, his fluffy friend Virgil is napping while halfway curled and halfway stretched, like a spring partially straightened out. It takes every bit of energy and willpower in me to do a full yoga routine, yet cats are doing yoga in their sleep!

“Cats, like humans, are individuals. We all sleep strangely,” cat expert Jackson Galaxy explains in his video on cat sleeping positions. He emphasizes that the reasons a cat prefers to sleep in a certain pose are not totally predictable, though there are some basic patterns. Cats who sleep with their legs tucked in (such as the cat loaf or curled positions) follow instinct from their wild ancestors, ready to run or leap if danger arises. When cats sleep tummy-up, they show they are feeling very safe because they are okay with exposing the most vulnerable part of their bodies while they sleep.

And what about sleeping cats who look like they’re frozen in the middle of a gymnastics routine? Well, we tend to compare cats to other animals on four legs, namely dogs, when we assume what is normal for them to do. However, cats are unique due to their incredible spinal structure. Veterinarians at PetMD write that “The discs in a cat’s spinal column are very elastic, allowing cats to twist their bodies into unusual shapes. Also, a cat’s shoulder blade is attached very loosely, giving them an extremely large range of motion in the shoulder joint.” Basically, what looks uncomfortable for us is actually not painful for cats.

Sometimes we also misunderstand the significance of where cats choose to sleep. I often see cats on ledges sleeping with one or more legs hanging off the side. To me, the pose looks dangerous, and I quickly assume the cat is unaware that they may fall off. However, Jackson Galaxy explains that cats in the wild, such as leopards, are used to sleeping in trees as a way to stay safe. Stretching across ridges of furniture may look precarious to humans, but cats have a sense of balance and the ability to move their spine in fluid ways that prevent falls.

Heights provide a friendly surrounding for cats. My little house panther particularly enjoys napping on the top tier of his cat tree. PetMD writes that sleeping on a high perch gives cats a sense of satisfaction about being able to survey their hunting territory, though “the ‘prey’ will most likely consist of toys or other pets, instead of mice or squirrels, but the motivation for your cat remains the same.” Every feline wants the instinctive security of being far above danger and the ability to know what is going on all around them.

While I marvel at the flexibility of my cats, I wonder if they are confused when they see their human struggling to mimic exercise positions that come naturally to felines. It’s physically impossible for me to be even halfway as flexible as my cats, but seeing cats’ natural ‘yoga’ abilities reminds me just how inspiring my cats are in my daily life.

Quote of the day: “Cats have it all: admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.” -Rod McKuen


Jackson Galaxy, “What Sleeping Positions Say About Your Cat”

PetMD, “20 Cat Sleeping Positions and What They Mean”