Cat Sleeping Positions When Sick

Cat Sleeping Position When Sick

If you are used to seeing your cat sleeping in a loaf position but suddenly notices her asleep while curled in a ball, be vigilant. This may mean that your cat is not feeling okay.  Are you confused about why your cat is sleeping in a weird position lately? Read on and let us discover the reasons why. 

Cat sleeping positions when sick 

These are the typical sleeping positions of cats when they are sick:

1. Curled up like a ball. 

Cats usually curl up when they sleep to keep themselves warm and cozy.  They need a room temperature of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit to remain comfortable and if their body temperature drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit they may suffer from hypothermia. Illnesses that may result due to low body temperature in cats include shock, respiratory infection, toxin consumption and heart failure. 

While sleeping in a curled up position is common among cats, it may also be an indication that your cat is ill. Observe and see if her eyes are tightly closed, her ears are pinned forward on the head, she has short and shallow breaths or if she is purring loudly. 

2. Sleeping in a fetal position. 

Just like the earlier sleeping position, the fetal position allows cats to retain body heat. They may sleep like this during cold nights but may also do this if they are sick. Check if your cat has a normal temperature and if so, consider other possibilities like an injury.

If your cat refuses to have her paws touched, it may mean she has an injury or a splinter is trapped in the paw pad. It may also mean she is sick due to a respiratory infection and this sleeping position keeps her protected and secure while managing the pain. 

3. Sleeping flat in the stomach. 

Cats that sleep flat in the stomach are not planning to have a deep sleep and it may also be indicative that they are sick or in pain.  There are two variations to this sleeping position:

The loaf position 

Cats in a loaf position will tuck their paws and tail under their belly and this usually means that they want to take a brief nap.  They tuck their paws and tails to keep themselves warm but will keep their head upright to stay alert. However, if they are asleep their heads may drop and this is the so-called collapsed loaf position. 

Sick cats do not usually sleep in a loaf position as they tend to curl up or hide in enclosed spaces. But some sick cats may also sleep like this since they want to stay alert. They tend to go for micro-naps instead of deep sleep.

Sleeping with paws outstretched

This sleeping position resembles the flying position where the cat’s paws are sprawled and not tucked.  Sleeping in this position means a cat can quickly escape if she is threatened or attacked. It may also mean that a cat is sleeping like this since she feels vulnerable due to an illness. 

4. Sleeping flat on the back. 

While sleeping flat on their backs with their belly and paws exposed may mean cats feel relaxed and secure, it may also mean that they are threatened.  This sleeping position gives easy access to their claws and makes it easier for a cat to defend herself.  Be wary when your cat is sleeping flat on her back and displaying warning signs like aggression and prolonged hiding as she may have a medical illness, arthritis or physical pain and injury. If you suspect that your cat is ill, bring her to the vet at once for immediate treatment. 

5. Sleeping flat on the side. 

Cats sleeping on their side usually means they are relaxed, comfortable and happy. However, they may also do this when they are feeling sick as the body temperature is regulated and they do not feel muscular pain because there is no pressure in the joints and breathing becomes easier.

Nevertheless, most sick cats will not sleep flat on their side as it leaves them vulnerable, exposed and defenseless. 

6. Sleeping with one eye open. 

Cats sometimes sleep with one eye open which is normal. Although the eye may appear open, cats have a transparent third eyelid that closes, the nictating membrane. Cats do this to stay alert and they can still capture potential threats allowing them to react quickly. 

However, sick cats such as those with urinary infections may also sleep with one eye open. This will allow them to have a quick trip to the litter box while cats that have difficulty breathing may also do the same so as not to fall to deep sleep. 

7. Sleeping with other cats. 

Cats sleeping with other cats may appear a normal occurrence in a multi-cat household. However, it may also mean that one of the cats is not feeling well and may be searching for protection. 

Signs that your cat is sick 

Here are common signs that indicate your cat may be sick:

  • changes in behavior – this may include excessive meowing and yowling, wandering around restlessly and not sleeping well
  • not grooming herself anymore 
  • losing weight 
  • eating or drinking water too much or not enough 


Cats have an array of sleeping positions that allow them to relax and flex their bodies and will only sleep in certain positions when they feel secure in their surroundings. However, they may also sleep in a certain way when they are sick including sleeping flat on their back or side, in a curled or fetal position and with one eye open. 

Image: / Ilya Rudyakov