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What does your pet’s sleeping position mean?

Do you ever look at your pet and think “HOW is that comfortable?” Well there is actually a bit more than meets the eye when it comes to the sleeping position of your cat or dog.
Written by Mayhew team
Updated 2 months ago

Your pet’s body language whilst they snooze can help you understand more about them and how they’re feeling. Read on to see what your pet’s sleeping position says about them…

Dogs’ sleeping positions

On their side

If your pup sleeps on their side, then they are likely feeling very comfortable both with the people in the house and the house itself. When a dog sleeps on their side, they are putting their belly slightly on show and providing access to their vital organs! So if they choose this sleeping position, they feel safe and relaxed. It could be a sign that your dog feels a strong bond with you.

On their back, showing their belly

Say hello to the most confident of canines! This dog is even more relaxed than those on their sides, as both their bellies and their throat are unprotected. If your dog sleeps on their back, they are one hundred percent comfortable with you. Dogs can also choose to sleep on their back if they need to cool down after too much excitement.

Curled into a ball

This sleeping position is sometimes called ‘The Fox’ as your dog will be curled up in a similar way to how we see foxes sleep. If your dog is curled up into a ball, they are protecting their throats, their organs and their paws. They might be trying to conserve warmth, or they could feel a bit worried about something around them, (for example loud noises from outside). Though, it’s worth noting that many dogs also sleep in this position simply because they feel particularly comfy curled up.

Superman

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s your dog laid out flat on their belly with their legs stretched out! Energetic and playful dogs tend to choose this sleeping position, as it allows them to get up quickly and easily when they wake. You’ll see puppies sleep in this position most commonly, but playful adult dogs like this one too.

Legs in the air 

Often called the ‘dead cockroach’, you might look at your dog and think ‘how can you sleep like this?’. Some dogs who choose to sleep on their back also like to lie with their legs up in the air at funny angles. Just like the other positions where a dog’s tummy is exposed, this dog is very relaxed and happy to expose their vulnerability. They feel completely safe in their environment. Dogs that sleep with their legs in the air are often calm and independent pooches.

Cats’ sleeping positions

Cats, like any human or animal, are individuals and so their sleeping positions are subjective. It’s important to remember that any sudden change in their sleeping behaviour can mean that your cat is unwell, so do take note of their sleeping habits and remember to contact your vet if you are concerned.

Unlike dogs, you might notice that cats choose to sleep in unusual places. They choose to sleep somewhere safe, usually up high, or dark and warm. For example, if they choose to sleep on the floor instead of their bed, this might be because they’ve found the heating pipes that run under your floorboards.

Many cats will have a favourite sleeping spot but they will often rotate through a number of different sleeping places. This is often seen as an instinctive, natural form of parasite control, and even a regularly flea treated cat is likely to display this behaviour.

Curled up 

In the wild, cats will sleep in this position to conserve their body heat, as well as making themselves a smaller target for predators. So this position is the most common for cats as it’s programmed into their collective consciousness. If your pet chooses to sleep like this, it could just be its commonality, could mean that they’re a bit chilly… Or if they assume this position under the bed or in another place where they feel safe, it could indicate that they feel threatened.

On their side

If your cat chooses to sleep stretched out on their side, they could be trying to cool down. This allows them to place a lot of their midsection against the ground, which helps them to reduce their body temperature. This position also shows that they are very safe, relaxed and comfortable in your home as at least part of their most vulnerable area (their tummy) is on show.

Belly up

Similarly to the side sleepers, if your cat is asleep on their back or in the ‘sea otter’ position (on their back and slightly curved), then they likely feel very safe and relaxed. Their entire midline is usually exposed in their position, so they feel confident that they are not under threat and their territory is secure.

Paw over the eyes 

One of the cutest sleeping positions for cats, you might notice your feline friend draping a paw over their eyes whilst they sleep. This is likely to be purely functional and they are trying to reduce the amount of light reaching their eyes. You might notice that they adopt this position much more frequently in the middle of the day. Their paw acts as their blackout blind so that they can have a peaceful kip.

The loaf

In this position, your cat will have their paws tucked underneath themselves, which means that they are relaxed and may be conserving heat. They might also sleep in a ‘semi-loaf’ where their front paws point forward. This position means that they are ready to move at a moment’s notice if danger is afoot.

In a box

Who doesn’t love a cat in a box? Cats sometimes choose to sleep in a box because they feel a bit scared. The box acts as a physical shield around them so they can relax a bit easier when they’re trying to sleep. You might also notice them trying to fit into other tight and invisible spaces such as drawers or behind cabinets. If they start doing this, there is likely something new happening in your home and they are feeling anxious.

*Please visit your vet or a pet behaviourist if you have specific concerns about your cat or dog.

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