Most cat owners will have seen their feline friends sitting in their favourite spot with their paws tucked underneath them. It seems to be a natural position for cats to get into, and they'll happily sit like that for quite a while.
But while sitting like this may make your moggy look like a neat furry package, there are good reasons why your cat sits choose to sit like this.
What is a cat loaf?
Picture your cat laying with their paws tucked in underneath them. What do they look like? That's right. They look like an adorable furry cat loaf. When cats curl their front feet up underneath their chest and tuck their back feet under the tummy, it miraculously transforms them into an adorable fluffy cat loaf.
Cat loaf meaning
The term cat loaf, cat loafing or just loafing, has become increasingly popular online as a way to describe a cat sitting with its paws, and sometimes even tail tucked under its body, forming a loaf-like shape. Loafing usually shows that a cat is comfortable and content. But it can also mean that your cat isn't feeling well, is trying to get warm or is conserving its energy. Learning the usual cat behaviour for your feline friend will help you determine why your cat is loafing.
Why do cats tuck in their paws when laying down?
There are several possible reasons, but to tell which is relevant for your cat involves learning to read your cat's body language. Here are a few explanations as to why cats loaf:
It feels comfortable
Your cat might tuck their paws in simply because they feel comfortable and relaxed in your presence. It's a sign that they trust you so much they feel they can let down their guard. When a cat tucks their paws, it can show that they don't feel they will have to defend themselves. This is especially true if they are happily purring away simultaneously.
To get warm
Sometimes cats tuck in their paws to maintain the perfect body temperature. A cat's normal body temperature range is between 38.3 and 39.2°C as opposed to a human's 37°C. Like our fingers and toes, a cat's paws will lose heat quicker than the rest of its body. Tucking their paws in underneath themselves helps to keep their paws warm and preserve their body heat without having to expend any energy. If you spot your cat in this position with its paws tucked in and its tail covering its nose or encircling its body, it could be that the room is too cold for them.
They are on alert
A cat may loaf because they are on alert. For example, you may notice your cat sitting with their tail and paws tucked in when they sit by a window and listen to the birds or other noises outside. You can tell they are not in an entirely relaxed state by their twitching ears and their eyes opening occasionally to look at the source of the sounds. A cat loaf position means that your cat can relax all the while remaining alert to its surroundings and being able to quickly untuck their paws so they can prepare to defend themselves or run if needed.
Do not disturb
While cats may sit in the loafing position because they feel comfortable and relaxed, this doesn't necessarily mean they want to be disturbed. If you see a cat sitting in the loaf position, it may not be the right time to try to play with them. See how they respond to a stroke, but don't be offended if they show no interest or move away. Let them be a loaf of bread for a while, and sure enough, they'll come running to you when they've decided they want some attention.
They don't feel well
Unfortunately, our feline friends are masters at concealing their minor aches and pains. When a cat tucks in their paws, especially if it's not their normal behaviour, it can signify that they are concealing some illness or injury. If your cat starts sitting like this more than usual, don't panic. Look out for other cat behaviour such as favouring one leg or excessively paw licking. If you see anything like this, it's a good idea to get your cat seen by the vet as soon as possible.
There may not always be an obvious reason your cat likes to sit like a loaf of bread. It could simply be that sometimes your cat wants to lie on its back with its tummy up, or it wants to lie on its tummy with its paws tucked in. After all, sometimes we choose to sleep on our backs, and then other nights, we might opt to sleep on our side or front. While loafing can mean that your cat doesn't feel well, it's more likely because your cat feels happy and safe or wants to keep itself warm.
Do you think your cat looks like a loaf of bread when they tuck their paws underneath their body?