Cat Sleeping Positions When Sick & Other Signs to Observe

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

cat sleeping positions when sick

Sleeping positions can hint if your cats are hiding or trying to ease certain pains. Often, a cat sleeping in a hunched position with its back raised and head lowered shows it’s hurting.

However, to find out if your cat is feeling unwell, there are more signs to pay attention to. Read on to distinguish which behavior is problematic. Here are all possible cat sleeping positions when sick.


Cats Sleeping Positions That May Indicate Sickness

1. Curled up in a ball


What does this look like: Sleeping curled up with their ears and legs close to their bodies?

Possible Issues and Treatment Recommendations:

  • Too Cold: Cats lose heat through their paws and ears the most. If they’re lethargic and they constantly sleep in this position, check their temperature if it’s below 100 degrees Fahrenheit as it can lead to hypothermia.

Move them to a warmer area in the house or give them a warm, soft blanket to help them regulate their temperature.

  • Injuries: If your cat is curling up tighter than usual and their heads are tucked into its chest, it might be trying to sustain some injuries or wounds. In such cases, cats often find a small space to hide and curl themselves still.

Gently inspect your cat to find any injuries and contact your vet for proper treatment.

  • Feline Peritonitis: Suppose you see your pet in a cat praying position, wherein they hold their chest on the ground with back legs in the air, and they sleep curled up in a ball. They are likely to suffer from peritonitis.

Get your cat checked by a vet to be correctly diagnosed.

2. Flat on their back


What does this look like: Their backs are on the floor, showing their belly. It means they’re comfortable if they’re usually affectionate with you.

Possible Issues and Treatment Recommendations:

  • Too much heat: This position means they’re feeling too hot, and this helps them release some heat during hot weather. You can help them cool down by using a cooling pad or small fan and giving water.

Increased temperature can lead to heatstroke. If you see these signs, contact your vet immediately:

  • Panting or breathing with their mouths open
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Falling unconscious
  • Trouble with moving around
  • Diarrhea
  • Red gums
  • Stress: Lying flat on their back is an easy way to have their claws ready at any time. Remove any possible cause of stress to help your cat calm down.

3. Flat on their stomach

What does this look like: If you see your cat lying flat on its stomach with legs out, they are sleeping in a position called splooting.

Possible Issues and Treatment Recommendations:

  • Muscle Tension: This is a common position to stretch out their hip joints. This isn’t a cause for concern but if they’re having trouble moving around, consider having them checked.
  • Too much heat: If they’re on a cold surface, this position helps them handle the heat. Keep their areas cool and make sure they’re hydrated to help them cool down.

4. Cat loaf position


What does this look like: The cat would be on its belly with their front paws tucked underneath like a loaf. This is generally a good sleeping position that indicates they’re comfortable.

Possible Issues

  • Pain: Hiding their paws could also mean paw problems such as:
  • Ingrown claws
  • Wounds
  • Stuck foreign items in their paws

Gently inspect your cat’s paws for any issue.

5. Meatloaf position


What does this look like: It looks like the cat hunched position version of loaf position in addition to the head down, cat face down. You will find your cat lying with its chin on the floor.

Possible Issues and Treatment Recommendations:

  • Feline Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): With the cat meatloaf position, sick cats are expected. If they seem lethargic and drink more water than usual, they might have CKD.
  • Dying / Old Age: The cat meatloaf position when sick can appear among dying and old cats. They need immediate medical attention.

These are critical issues that shouldn’t be ignored so have your pet checked immediately. Your vet will inform you on possible treatments or how to reduce your cat’s pain.

6. On their side


What does this look like: If you see your cat laying on side position, it is usually just it being relaxed and comfortable.

Possible Issues and Treatment Recommendations:

  • Breathing Difficulty: While this is not one of the common cat positions in pain, if they’re stretched out, and you hear them wheezing, they are struggling to breathe. Schedule a visit to your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

7. One eye open


What does this look like: This can be any position with the cat sleeping with eyes open. This is a natural behavior as part of their unihemispheric slow-wave sleep ability.

With one eye open, half of the brain is shut off, and the other half is entirely conscious and alert.

Possible Issues and Treatment Recommendations:

  • Eye condition: If they keep one eye shut even when awake, look for the following signs as they might have eye-related problems.
  • Excessive Blinking
  • Eye Discharge
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Sickness: Sleeping with one eye open helps a cat avoid falling into a deep sleep. They want to do this to monitor themselves, like their breathing while sick.

Your cat needs proper medical attention for these cases.

8. Headpress


What does this look like: Your cat will press their head firmly against something solid without rubbing their scent glands. They will fall asleep like this while hiding their face.

Possible Issues and Treatment Recommendations:

  • Sickness: It always suggests a severe health concern, such as hepatic encephalopathy. Schedule a visit to the hospital to give your cat the proper treatment.

Sleeping Habits That May Indicate Sickness


Sometimes, it’s not about determining which ones are sick cat sleeping positions. There are also health hints on their sleeping habits.

  • Sleeping With Other Cats – If you notice possible unwell cat sleeping positions when sick and they have a cat with them who’s awake, it might mean they have asked for help to protect them. This is rare as most cats do not like showing vulnerability.
  • Sleeping in the Same Position – If you see your cat lying down in the same position or in the same place every single time, they might have
  • Sleeping too much – Your cat might be sick if it is sleeping for more than 16 hours a day and they have trouble moving around, laying down or getting up.

Other Signs of an Unwell Cat


It is difficult to diagnose if something needs to be fixed with your pet with just sleeping positions alone.

For other positions, you need to observe other signs of illness. If you observe worrisome cat sleeping positions and these signs, it might be time to visit the vet.

  1. Sudden changes in interaction such as aggression
  2. Increase or decrease of activities
  3. Lethargy: sleeping more than 18 hours a day and slow response to stimuli during sleep
  4. Increased or decreased appetite and thirst
  5. Changes in weight, even without diet changes
  6. Decreased Grooming
  7. Excessive Vocalization
  8. Bad Breath
  9. Litter Box Issues

Frequently Asked Questions


Should I be worried about my sick cat not sleeping?

You should be worried about your sick cat not sleeping. Restlessness and meowing or crying might indicate heart disease.

However, if your cat seems healthy, it might be bored and have excess energy. You can give them more toys or play with them during the day.

My cat is sleeping in a weird way. Is there something wrong?

Thankfully, when you see your cats sleeping in funny positions, it usually just means they’re cozy. This position, often called the pretzel position, makes them unpredictable for potential predators.

Sometimes, a cat looks dead while sleeping; this just means they’re in deep sleep rather than their usual cat naps. If you notice that their pupils change size if you flash light into its eyes, they’re just unconscious.


Determining if your cat is sick can be difficult as they tend to mask their pain or discomfort due to instinct from an evolutionary holdover. In many cases, a dying cat sleeps in a meatloaf position.

Sleeping positions can get confusing, especially since some sleeping positions may look okay but aren’t really, and some look so bizarre but are completely natural.

I hope this helps you determine cat sleeping positions when sick. Some will require immediate attention, while most are just silly cat things, hence why we need to look at other signs of illness to give our pets the best treatment that they need.

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