Why Do Cats Curl Up When They Sleep?

Out of all the cute things your cat does, curling up to sleep will always be in the top 10. They curl their fluffy tails around their legs, tuck their cute little toes toward their bellies, and their adorable faces look incredibly peaceful. While some cats are pros at distorting their bodies into all kinds of crazy shapes when it comes to nap time, there’s something irresistible about the classically curled up sleeping position.

Every cat does it, and it’s not because they know how cute it looks. Your phone might be filled with pictures of your cat’s best interpretations of a furry bagel, but the reasons why cats curl up to sleep have nothing to do with making you say, “Awwww!”

cats curl up

Table Of Contents
  1. For Safety
  2. For Warmth

For Safety

Our pampered feline family members are several thousand years separated from their wild ancestors. They also have stark differences when compared to today’s feral cats that choose to live 100% separate from humans. Even still, all cats have natural instincts similar to those of truly wild animals. They instinctively know how to hunt even though they get all the food they need from a bowl. They also scent mark their territories even when they live inside safe from all intruders. These instincts are meant to help a cat survive, and their habit of curling up to sleep is no different.

It’s believed that one of the main reasons why cats curl up to sleep has to do with an instinctual need to protect themselves. Cats are most vulnerable when they are asleep. Outside the safety of a home, falling asleep means they could be caught unaware and attacked by a larger predator or a feline competitor.

Not only does curling up help them stay hidden, it also protects their vital organs. Your cat knows by instinct that their important anatomy is closer to the front of their body than the back. By curling up, they prevent a predator from taking a fatal swipe to their abdomen. 

cats curl up

For Warmth

Another important reason why cats curl up to sleep is to conserve body heat. Outside the comforts of a home, finding and preserving warmth is a matter of life or death. Even with their thick fur coats, cats are still at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and even freezing to death. By curling into a tight ball, they trap their own body heat to create a cozy cocoon.

They also choose this sleeping position because it allows them to protect their extremities from the cold air. They can curl their paws into the soft fur of their bellies or tuck their nose into their chest. You might also see your cat use their tail to cover and keep their nose warm. They also might be covering their face with their tail to help block out the light for a deeper sleep.

It’s generally advised that any temperature less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for a cat. As the temperature drops, even curling up into a tight ball won’t be enough to keep them warm.

Inside cats typically don’t have to worry about freezing to death, but they still curl up to sleep. In these situations, it’s less about survival and more about comfort. Cats love being warm and cozy. When they curl into that favored sleeping position, it’s like you getting bundled into your favorite fuzzy blanket. It’s not exactly necessary, but it sure feels nice and relaxing!

It doesn’t matter if your cat is young, old, inside, or outside, you’re guaranteed to catch them snoozing in this curled up position. It’s all about natural instinct, but you can’t deny that it’s also super cute!

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