Why Do Cats Loaf?

The cutest bread 🍞

cat in loaf position

Have you ever noticed that your cat sometimes looks like a little loaf of bread when he’s all curled up?

This super adorable position, commonly and appropriately referred to as a cat loaf, can actually tell you a lot about how your cat’s feeling.

The Dodo spoke to LeeAnna Buis, a certified feline training and behavior consultant with Feline Behavior Solutions, to find out why your cat likes to loaf.

What is a cat loaf?

A cat loaf is when a cat lies with his legs folded under him, which makes him look like a loaf of bread (as the name implies).

“While you may see variations on the theme, a ‘cat loaf’ is essentially when your cat tucks all their limbs under their body, forming a rectangular, loaf-like shape,” Buis told The Dodo.

Why do cats sit like a loaf?

Because cats can loaf for a few different reasons, it might not always be clear why your cat’s loafing.

To keep warm

Your cat might be trying to stay warm by curling up into a loaf shape.

“Cats have a higher thermoneutral zone than people,” Buis said. “This is the temperature range in which they can maintain their body temperature without having to use energy to heat up or cool off.”

Cats have a higher internal body temperature compared to humans (around 100 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit vs. 98.6 degrees for people), and they’re used to slightly higher environmental temperatures. Their ideal temperature in their environment is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you prefer the house to be 65 or even 68 degrees, that might be a little chilly for him.

If you’ve ever slept in a room without heat or with an overactive air conditioner, you know it can be pretty uncomfortable. So your cat might loaf when he takes a nap to stay cozy, the same way you might curl up under the covers.

“A cat’s temperature also drops slightly when they sleep,” Buis said. “The kitty loaf helps them keep a comfortable body temperature without expending much energy.”

When cats sleep, they don’t have any other ways to stay warm, like jumping or playing. So your cat may curl up into a loaf to conserve energy and warmth.

They feel safe

If your cat is loafing next to you while you’re watching TV, you can take that as a compliment — he’s probably feeling happy and calm.

“They’re comfortable and relaxed,” Buis said. “With cats, it’s all about body language. If they’re ‘loafing,’ it’s pretty safe to say they’re feeling content and secure because their best weapons (the claws) are tucked under their bodies.”

When cats loaf, they aren’t prepared to defend themselves against a predator because they have their legs tucked under them. So if your cat is loafing around you, he probably feels pretty safe with you.

They’re sick

Cats may also loaf if they feel sick.

“Some cats will hunker down and look a bit like a loaf if they’re not feeling well,” Buis said. “It can be the cat version of the human fetal position, curling up like a ball when we feel bad.”

If your cat is loafing due to illness, you’ll probably notice him doing it a lot, and you also might recognize other signs of sickness, such as vocalization or keeping his head low.

“You may also see the ears down to the side, whiskers straight instead of curved, eyes partially closed and other behavioral indicators,” Buis said.

Some cats will also loaf if they have an injured paw to protect it from getting even more hurt. If you notice your cat limping, licking his paws a lot and loafing more than usual, he might have a paw injury.

It’s comfy

Cats sometimes like to sleep in weird positions, and the loaf position might just be comfortable and relaxing for your cat.

Types of cat loaf positions

Cats can assume a variety of loaf positions depending on their mood.

“Like people, every cat is unique,” Buis said. “Some may prefer a tail or leg out of the loaf pan. It can also depend on why they’re in the loaf position in the first place. A cold cat is more likely to be fully tucked in to keep warm, whereas a cat who likes the loaf position for relaxing may have some loose limbs.”

Here are some common cat loaf positions:

Full loaf

cat in full loaf position

Your cat will have his legs and tail completely tucked underneath him. A cat might use the full loaf if he’s trying to stay warm.

Partial loaf

cat in partial loaf

Your cat’s elbows will be peeking out from the loaf position, and his tail might be slightly untucked.

Loaf boat

cat in loaf boat position
Rebekah Zemansky/Shutterstock.com

This is similar to the partial loaf, but your cat will have one elbow extended more than the other. Your cat might be more likely to do the partial loaf or loaf boat if he’s just hanging out and relaxing.

Face loaf

cat in face loaf
James Miling/Shutterstock.com

Your cat will be in a full loaf position with his head down, like a face plant. If your cat does the face loaf, it’s probably because he’s feeling super lazy or is totally out of energy (or maybe he just wants to let you get a funny picture).

So now you know why your cat gets into a position that resembles a loaf of bread — and if you ever want a good laugh, just Google ‘cat loaf on glass table’ (you won’t be disappointed).