Ah, the cat loaf. The pinnacle of all cat positions, ever popular, ever photographed, ever shared. If you are not a cat owner yourself, or if you’ve just opened up your home to your first feline, you may not yet understand it. Or, if you just like to follow cat hashtags on social media, you may be baffled by the fascination that seems to accompany it.
Let me explain what the cat loaf is, why cats loaf, and why this is my personal favorite cat shape of all time.
What is a Cat Loaf?
A cat loaf is when a cat rests on its belly and tucks its front paws under its chest. The sides of the paws may or may not be showing. The position resembles the shape of a loaf of bread, hence the name.
Being a cat loaf is called loafing, and it’s a proper online sensation, with thousands of humans sharing pictures of their cats on social media using the hashtag #kittyloafmonday (on Mondays, obviously). The #catloaf hashtag will unearth all sorts of kitty goodness too.
Some cat lovers call this position the sphinx, and there is certainly a lot of resemblance – however, the cat loaf just sounds so much better. Plus, the paws are not always outstretched.
There are several types of cat loaves – which I’ll get into a little bit later. Let’s discuss why cats loaf first. And watch my favorite cat loaf video of all time: the buttered cat loaf.
Why Do Cats Loaf?
Cats loaf because it’s comfortable, keeps them warm and it helps them conserve energy. They also probably like the attention they get when in this position, as humans tend to shower them with fuss.
Loafing is just something cats do. They like it, we like, what’s not to loaf?
Here’s my take on the cat loaf and all the possible reasons our kind felines may be observing this traditional position.
Loafing is very comfortable for cats, or at least so it seems. They are able to rest on their bellies and feel snug with their front paws around them, and their tail is also safely tucked in and out of the way. There is very little pressure on either front or back legs, and their weight is very evenly distributed.
They Are Relaxing
Cats often loaf when they are feeling completely at ease. They aren’t in any particular hurry, there’s nothing especially interesting to do, and they have just decided to chill for a while.
You can find cats loafing in front of the TV, fire or heater, on the sofa, bed or armchair, even on the edge of all the activity going on in a room. It’s their way of taking a bit of a breather and recharging their batteries.
They Feel Safe
Cats only tend to loaf when they feel very safe. If they need to bolt or are in an active mood, you won’t see them resembling anything like a loaf. Their paws will be at the ready and they will certainly not be lounging around.
Loafing requires the paws to be tucked in, either completely or at least partly. While showing their belly is the ultimate sign of cat relaxation and trust, which does not occur during the loaf, it is still a sign the cat feels secure.
As a family, we measure our success as cat parents in loaves. We monitor when our cats loaf for the first time, we observe how often they do it and where, and usually give ourselves a little congratulatory pat on the back when the loaf becomes so common that we don’t even notice it anymore.
They Are Keeping Warm
The internal organs of mammals (yours included) can’t operate at low temperatures. And since we produce heat by turning food into energy, body heat becomes a precious resource. Plus, we all tend to want to stay warm, as it’s more comfortable.
In the cat loaf position, cats are able to conserve body heat. When they tuck their paws under their body, they will stay warm and toasty. Just as your hands and feet tend to be the coldest part of your body, so do cat paws tend to be cooler than the chest and belly. Not that a cat’s paws are usually cold.
If your cat is also tucking its tail in very tightly around their loafing self, you can assume they are staying warm.
They Are Conserving Energy
The cat loaf also requires minimal energy expenditure, so cats will loaf to preserve energy and store it for a later time when they wish to be more active (usually just as you are about to fall asleep).
Their Paw is Injured
While not the likeliest reason to adopt the cat loaf position, a cat may opt for it when their paw is injured.
When they are in pain, animals tend to hide their injuries or wounds and retreat to a safe place while they recover. If your cat’s paw is hurting, they may curl it under their loafing body to protect it and keep it warm.
You’ll notice other signs of pain too: difficulty walking or using their paw, avoiding unnecessary movement, lethargy and prolonged naps.
Try to spot what the injury is without hurting your cat. Observe them for a bit and see how they behave. Some paw injuries heal completely on their own, just like a sprained ankle can in humans. If there seems to be no improvement, take your cat to the vet.
They Are Not Feeling Well
Since the loaf is so comfortable and tight, cats will also reach for it when not feeling well. Just like we burrow ourselves in our bed and curl into a ball, cats can curl into a loaf, hold their tail tight and rest their head on the floor.
If you notice your cat is lethargic and not as active as usual, if they are refusing to eat or drink, are shaking or trembling and are showing any other signs of being unwell, take them in to see the vet.
Also note that some cats spend most of the day loafing even when perfectly healthy, so excessive loafing isn’t a sign of distress on its own. There need to be other symptoms before you should start to worry.
They Are Getting Ready to Pounce
While the loaf tends to be a calm and relaxed position, there is a version of it that actually signals impending action, which I call the pounce loaf.
You can identify it via the outstretched front paws, head resting on them. The eyes are wide open, the tail is not as tightly curled around the body and the butt tends to wiggle.
The belly will be as close to the ground as possible and there will be a definite spring in the back legs that precedes a jump.
You’ll spot the pounce loaf whenever your cat is ready to attack something. You may be in the middle of a play session, they may have spotted an insect, or they may be playing with a friend. You’ll easily tell it apart from the relaxed version of the loaf, as there is nothing calm or serene about it.
They Know They Are Cute
It is my firm belief that cats do certain things because they know they are being cute. After all, they get so much attention for doing the most innocent things, they were bound to learn how to elicit a response.
Loafing is a prime example, at least in our household. All of our cats (Sasha’s our fifth) have been great loaves over the years, and I’m certain it’s partly because they know we love it so much.
Cats Loaf Because Cats Loaf
Cats will ultimately loaf because cats want to loaf. Just like cats will do whatever else cats want to do. Whether we like it or not.
In 99% of cases, it’s just a position they feel comfortable in and like getting themselves into. Luckily for us humans, it also happens to be quite photogenic.
Types of Cat Loaves
There are several different types, or stages of loafing, if you will. Here they are in no particular order.
The Full Loaf
A full loaf involves tucking the front paws entirely under the body (no idea how they actually do it). The tail will often also be tucked closely to the body, in an effort to stay warm.
Here’s a full loaf for you from Coco:
And a video of loafing seen from below:
The Partial Loaf
The partial loaf leaves a bit of elbow exposed and is not as tight as the full loaf. The paws may take on any position, still curled next to the body or pointing away from it.
Here’s Marmelade to demonstrate:
The Loaf Boat
Similar to the partial loaf, it will involve one front paw curled and one paw stretched semi-out.
Miss Bean has an excellent tutorial:
And here’s one from Sasha too:
The Face Loaf
The face loaf involves lowering the face so it practically touches the floor, chair, or whatever the cat is loafing on.
Like Isabella is doing here:
The Contemplative Loaf
Some cats will loaf when plotting their most complex plans.
Like Lemon here:
The Not Quite There Loaf
There’s also a pre-loaf position that cats assume (sometimes without actually loafing).
Phoebe here will show you what I mean:
The sphinx, as the name suggests, is a loafing position with outstretched paws, resembling the monument.
See Shadow here (on the left):
The Pounce Loaf
As you already know, the pounce loaf precedes an attack.
Here’s an attack sequence from Lilly:
The Double Loaf
The double loaf is exactly what you think it is:
The Triple Loaf
As is the triple loaf. Look at these three!
Do All Cats Loaf?
Most cats will loaf at one point or another, regardless of their age, breed or size. However, some cats tend to do it a lot more often than others, so don’t be surprised if your cat simply prefers a different position.
Each cat has its own personality and will assume certain positions when it feels a certain way. Every cat also tends to do something you’ve never seen another cat do, so they’ll never cease to surprise you.
Here’s an image of Sasha doing something you don’t see every day. Also, she’d probably get offended if she wasn’t featured in this post at least twice.
Where Do Cats Loaf?
Cats loaf anywhere and everywhere. They will usually look for a comfy spot, but they can loaf on the kitchen floor, on your pillow, even on your head!
There are no limits to the cat loaf. It will be seen on laptop keyboards, open books, kitchen counters, dirty socks, human chests and laps. It’s just like with boxes: if a loaf can reasonably fit, a loaf will materialize.
Are Cats Happy When They Loaf?
Yes, cats are usually very content when they loaf. They are feeling safe and secure and looking to relax and rest a bit.
Is It Normal For Cats to Loaf?
It is perfectly normal for cats to loaf. In fact, you can give yourself a pat on the back when your cat is spotted in the loafing position, as it means it’s happy in your home.
What Are Cats Doing When They Loaf?
Who knows! They may be meditating, having a cheeky catnap or contemplating world domination.
Why Does My Cat Loaf and Stare at Me?
For the same reason you stare at your cat: you’re doing something interesting. Or, perhaps you are just there and your cat is looking in your direction for no particular reason. Don’t be alarmed: it’s a sign of content.
Why Do Cats Loaf and Purr?
When a cat is loafing and purring it means they are quite happy with the way life has turned out. If you are petting them at the time, consider yourself a prime cat owner.
There is also a very miniscule chance your cat is loafing and purring because it’s not feeling well. Purring is a stress-relief for cats, so if you notice your pet is not their usual self and are showing any other signs of illness or distress, take them to the vet just to be sure.
Why Do Cats Sleep in the Loaf Position?
Do you really need to ask? Cats will sleep in every position imaginable, so the cat loaf is no exception. When they fall into a proper deep sleep, they will most likely change positions, but the loaf is a great place to start.
Wrapping It Up
The cat loaf is one of the most popular and most interesting positions a cat can ever assume. Does your cat loaf often? I’d love to see a photo if you have one online!