Why Do Cats Tuck Their Paws?

Why Do Cats Tuck Their Paws
Image: istockphoto.com / TheImaginaryDuck

Almost all cat owners are familiar with the loaf or bread position where their pets tuck in their paws. But what is the reason behind this position?

Why do cats tuck their paws?

Cats assume the loaf or Sphinx position because of comfort, body heat regulation or to hide their pain. Let’s take a closer look at all the three reasons:

1. Comfort

One possible reason why your cat is “loafing” is that he is happy and content where he is with you. No matter how long you lived with your cat, there will still be instances where he can still be skittish around you. But when your cat tucks his paws when you are nearby, it means he feels relaxed and comfortable when you are around. This is a sign that he trusts you so much that he can let his guard down.

When a cat tucks his paws, it can mean that he does not need to put his defenses up. This is particularly true if he is happily purring. Cats that are happy and content loaf when they are in a comfortable spot, like when he is in their favorite spot in your home or when he sits beside you on the sofa.

2. Thermal regulation

The body temperature of a healthy cat can range between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Within that range, your furry little pal has a thermo-neutral zone, a sweet spot, where he does not need to expend energy to feel nice and comfy.

Feline experts believe that cats tuck their paws to get to that sweet spot and conserve energy. Just like people, cats do not want to budge when they find a nice and comfy spot. That is also why your cat can spend an inordinate amount of time in a certain position.

If you notice your pet assume this position, observe his body language. If his tail encircles his body or if he is covering his nose, it may be a sign that your home is still too cold for him.

Humans barely notice when their cats are feeling cold because they feel warm. Take note that your cat has a higher resting body temperature and may feel cold even if you do not.

3. Hiding pain

Cats are masters of concealing discomfort and minor aches and pains. When a cat assumes the loaf position, especially if it does not usually do so, it can be a sign that it is hiding an injury or illness.

If your cat does not usually loaf or is loafing more than usual, observe his other behaviors like excessive paw licking or favoring one leg. Those are signs that he might be dealing with an injury. If you see these in your cat, schedule a visit to the vet as soon as possible to confirm your suspicions.

However, certain injuries or conditions like torn or ingrown claws rarely show visible signs. Here, you should watch closely for other signs like appetite loss, lethargy, and changes in bathroom habits.

Hiding pain
Image: istockphoto.com / Petra Richli

Understanding your cat’s body language

Apart from loafing, your cat can also exhibit a few other behaviors that can seem cute but puzzling. Here is a brief look at each of these as well as a short explanation of these behaviors.

1. Kneading

Also fondly called making biscuits, kneading is a behavior where a cat pushes its front paws alternately on a soft surface like blankets, pillows, other animals, or even humans. This behavior is often seen as a leftover instinct that cats bring from the time they were still kittens. Kneading mimics how kittens push on their mothers’ tummies to stimulate milk production.

Some cat owners believe that when a cat kneads a human face, it means that the feline is marking the person as his human.

2. Hugging and biting

You are playing with your cat and as he is lying on his back, you begin to rub his tummy. And suddenly, he grabs your hand with his paws and suddenly bites it. The bite is not hard enough to puncture your skin, but hard enough to catch you off-guard.

There is not much to worry about this behavior. Your cat is not being aggressive. In fact, he is totally comfortable playing with you. He is so comfortable that he allows you to touch his vulnerable area. Here, his bite is just a way of expressing his enjoyment.

3. Slow blinking

When your cat blinks slowly while looking at you, he is showing his affection for you. Cats also exhibit this behavior in the presence of other cats they trust.

You can reciprocate your cat by blinking slowly at him. This tells your cat that you also trust him and that you feel safe around him.

4. Sitting inside boxes

Sitting inside boxes
Image: istockphoto.com / oksy001

In the wild, big cats like to hide in cozy spots while hiding from other predators. While domestic cats do not have to contend with the same problems that their bigger counterparts have to deal with daily, they still like hiding in boxes because these provide them with safety and comfort.

5. Sitting on electronic gadgets

You are typing furiously on your laptop, trying to catch up with your deadline. And then your cat hops up on your desk and rests his body on the keyboard. Cats like resting their bodies on laptops and other electronic gadgets because they want to feel warm.  Apart from electronics, cats also like lying on top of laundry fresh from the dryer for the same reason.

6. Rolling on his back

Your cat enters the room and then suddenly lies on his back. According to feline behaviorists, cats exhibit this behavior when they are the most relaxed. When your pet does this in front of you, it means that your cat is telling you that he trusts you.

Remember, cats think of their stomachs as one of their most vulnerable parts. And when they expose their bellies this way, they are inviting their owners to bond and play with them.

7. Butt wiggling

When a cat wiggles behind, it is usually a prelude to a pounce. But why do cats do this? Scientists are still puzzled by this behavior but they have a few interesting theories.

They believe that wiggling their butts gives cats traction to push themselves forward to their targets. It can also be seen as a way for cats to prepare and coordinate their eyes with the rest of their bodies. Finally, butt wiggling might be a way for cats to warm themselves.

8. Chirping

Cats make chirping noises when they see birds, small animals, or even their favorite toys. But why?

Usually, chirping is a sound of excitement that cats make in the presence of prey. But sometimes, cats make this sound out of frustration.

Watching your cat’s body language

You can learn a lot about your cat by just looking at his body language. Your cat may not have the ability to talk to you but he can use his body in a variety of ways to communicate with you. Although loafing is generally considered benign, monitor your cat and look for unusual behavior. Your cat might be giving you a warning.