Cat Sleeping Positions When Sick: What They Mean

By Phil / January 15, 2020
Cat Sleeping Positions When Sick What They Mean

It’s the dread of any cat owner – thinking or finding out that our cats are sick.

We love our little balls of fluff, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s quite distressing when they’re ill because it’s so hard to read how much pain they’re in.

It’s often up to us to pick up on little signs and bits of body language when they’re sick. As well as finding them the best course of treatment as soon as possible.

What Can You Tell From Cat Sleeping Positions When They’re Sick? You can tell a lot from a cat’s body language, especially how they choose to sleep. Cats instinctively hide illness from us, so it’s up to use to decode their behavior. 

Various Cat Sleeping Positions When They’re Sick to Be Aware Of

Cat Sleeping Flat on Its Side

Cat Sleeping Flat on Its Side Meaning

If your cat is sleeping on their side, it’s not likely they are sick or in any discomfort. This is the go-to sleeping position for cats that are happy and healthy.

By exposing their tummies they are letting you know that they feel safe and secure. It can take a while for a cat to let their guard down like this, so take it as a positive sign.

Related contentWhy do cats sleep with their head upside down.

Cat Sleeping Flat on Its Back

When your cat is sleeping on their back, this is one step further to demonstrate that they are feeling really secure and comfortable.

I’ve never known a sick cat to lay out on their backs and sleep like this is. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible that there is something wrong with them, but it’s very unlikely.

Cat Sleeping Flat on Its Stomach

Cat Sleeping Flat on Its Stomach Meaning

This is a sleeping position you need to pay attention to as what a cat does with their legs and head while on their stomach can signal different things.

If they are in the loaf position (legs tucked in so they resemble a loaf of bread) this is a good sign. If they have their front legs stretched out, this is also a good sign.

However, if they are holding one paw off the ground or stretching their heads out, these are not good signs. They may have an issue with a paw or a joint in their leg if they’re not relaxing one limb.

Stretching out their neck instead of tucking it in could be a sign they are having difficulty breathing.

Cat Sleeping in a Hunched Position

According to Vetstreet, cats will often lie quietly in a hunched position when they are sick. This is probably the most understandable position to us, we also hunch over in pain when were sick.

If your cat is clearly hunched over, I’d call your vet and ask their advice at the very least. Look for other signs that they aren’t well too, such as not drinking, eating, or grooming properly.

Cat Sleeping With Chin on Floor

Cat Sleeping With Chin on Floor Meaning

If your cat is laying out flat on their stomach with their chin on the floor this is called the meatloaf position.

It looks kind of cute sometimes, but this position can mean they are either perfectly fine or in some serious discomfort. Cats suffering from some kind of respiratory difficulties or lung issues will often assume this position.

If you’re concerned, I suggest getting up close (without disturbing them) and watching and listening to how they’re breathing. If you see or hear anything that gives you concern get them checked out.

On the other hand, if your cat gets up and walks away with that look of, “why are you disturbing me, man?” you know they’re fine.

Cat Sleeping Curled up in a Ball

Cats typically sleep curled up in a ball to keep some extra warmth in. It’s also a position that comes naturally to them and commonly seen in the wild. Sleeping in a ball in the wild offers protection for their vital organs if they’re attacked.

It can also mean that your cat is in some discomfort as well, however. Last year, one of my cats had a serious bout of constipation. She actually started sleeping in a ball while it was painful when otherwise she usually a loafer.

If you notice your cat has started sleeping in a ball and it’s out of character for them, I’d give them a light physical to see if they’re in any obvious discomfort.

Related contentWhy cats sleep curled up in a ball.

Cat Sleeping With Mouth Open

Cat Sleeping Flat on Its Back Meaning

Cats do not pant, breathe with an open mouth, or sleep with their mouths open unless there is something wrong.

If your cat has been sleeping with their mouth open it may mean their respiratory system is struggling to cope or there is an issue with their circulation. It’s one of the more alarming sleeping positions, get them to a vet asap.

5 Signs That Your Cat Might Be Sick

Apart from sleeping positions, some other common signs that a cat is sick include:

Changes in Behavior and Habits

Cats are creatures of habit. You’ll know your cat best, and spot when they suddenly start acting weird or changing their behaviors and daily habits.

Some of the most common changes in behavior that alerts owners to a potential issue are:

Bad Breath

Ever had your cat snuggled up close to your face only to be shocked by how bad their breath is?

This can mean anything from a build-up of bacteria in their mouths, to something a lot more serious such as stomatitis and gingivitis.

If your cat has really bad breath – not the usual fishy cat food breath – but seriously offensive breath, you need to find out why. It might be as simple as changing their diet or giving them a dental chew but it needs sorting.

Not Grooming

My cats stop grooming when I go away, it causes them some anxiety. Lack of grooming and letting their coats get matted and scruffy is often the first sign that something is bothering them.

It could be something mental causing them stress or anxiety, or it could be something physical. Either way, there is almost certainly a health issue to investigate.

Weight Loss

If your cat is losing weight without any changes to their diet, this is a red flag that there is something is wrong.

They might actually be eating less, or it might be a sign of an overactive thyroid which is very common in older cats.

Eating or Drinking Too Much or Not Enough

You feed your cat, so you’ll know if there’s food left in their bowls or if they’re constantly bothering you to give them more food.

Either way, it’s a sign that something is up. You can’t stall on this issue too long, either. Any more than 24 hours without water and a cat is at serious risk of health problems.

In Summary

I hope this article has helped you better understand a cat’s sleeping positions when sick, and some of the common signs to look out for that might indicate your cat is unwell.

You know your cat better than anyone. If you notice a change in their behavior, how they’re sleeping, or anything else that raises concern, you have to get them seen by a vet sooner rather than later.

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