Why Do Cats Fold Their Paws? (Find Out Now!)


why do cats fold their paws

In America, approximately 42.7 million households own cats, so it’s safe to say that the US loves our kitties. There is almost nothing cuter than seeing your kitty snuggle up into a ball, little paws all tucked up and cozy. Pets are known to increase their owners’ endorphins, and watching your pet in a peaceful mood is no exception. 

When cats fold their paws under themselves, or “the kitty loaf,” this signals that they are relaxed. This specific pose not only allows them to relax but also spring into action at a moment’s notice. So, next time you see your cat “loafing around,” just know that they are comfortable, relaxed, and happy. 

Cats have an incredibly specific communication style. Learning more about your cat’s positions can help increase your bond, decrease their stress, and increase their health. 

What Does My Cat’s Position Mean?

In the feline world, everything is intentional. Each position, meow, and look tells a different story. Once you begin to analyze your kitty’s behavior, you’re bound to discover that there is much more to the story.

Deciphering your cat’s behaviors is not an exact science by a long shot. For example, you might think a cat rubs against you out of love, but they’re really claiming ownership. Studying your cat’s unique behavior can help you understand their specific needs.

Folded Paws Position 

There are multiple ways that your cat folds their paws; underneath – the kitty loaf – and while reclining on their back. Both of these positions suggest a relaxed state, however, there are some slight differences between the two. 

When your cat sits in the loaf position, this means two things: they are relaxed and also prepped for action. This could be a great time to give your cat a pet. Make sure you are paying attention to their body language to ensure that they remain relaxed and comfortable.

If your cat is lying supine (on their back) with their paws folded on their chest, you should be celebrating. When your cat exposes their tummy, this is their way of showing you the ultimate sign of trust. This is reflective of wild feline behavior.

In the animal kingdom, felines travel in prides. Lying supine exposes them as vulnerable to potential predators because this prevents them from quick reflexes against potential predators. Domesticated cats have only moderate genetic changes from big cats explaining why this is such a trusting position. 

The Big Stretch

No doubt you have seen your cat in this position. This is a great sign that your cat is relaxed and comfortable. This is a common position for cats to sleep in.

Cats will commonly twitch and move while they sleep in this position. This is nothing to concern yourself with; it’s simply a sign that your cat is in a deep sleep. 

A variation of this is when a single paw is outstretched, but this is more common as a cleaning position. By having one paw under their belly, they are more stable to clean themselves. 

Wrestling 

This is a very common behavior for cats, especially younger ones. Play wrestling is a sign that your cat is happy and healthy. If you find that they have increased hyperactivity, it could be helpful to engage in play more frequently. 

Gentle biting or batting you with their paws are common play tactics and shouldn’t worry you. If your cat begins to play too aggressively, stop moving and avoid eye contact until they calm down. After this, it’s safe to resume play.

Hanging Around Your Electronics

Have you ever had a cat delete an important essay? The most common electronic devices that cats are completely obsessed with are computers. This can quickly become a frustrating and taxing situation, occasionally resulting in major issues. 

If your cat refuses to leave you alone while you are working on your computer, the reason is actually quite sweet. When your cat loves and trusts you, they seek to be what you focus on the most. When you are on a computer, that is taking all of your attention away from your cat.

The best way to handle this is to relocate your cat to a different area or room. It is essential to set boundaries with your pet, and this could be an excellent opportunity to teach healthy separation. You better watch out for those cute folded paws though, or you’ll be sharing your keyboard before you know it. 

How To Tell If Your Cat Is Stressed

We have discussed different ways to tell if your cat is content, but what if you don’t observe these signals? If you are finding that your cat is rarely folding their paws in, the most likely reason for this is because of high stress. 

There are many different potential causes of stress. If you are struggling with stress, it could be affecting your cat secondhand. Life changes are also a major factor in your cat’s well-being.

A new pet, moving homes, or a new baby are all common reasons for heightened stress. One way to help your cat transition more comfortably to these life changes is a pheromone spray. This helps your cat feel more comfortable and dissuade certain aggressive behavioral changes. 

Stress can affect both behavior and physical health, same as humans. Here are a few typical changes that are linked to high stress in cats:

  • Spraying– Cats specialize in visual communication instead of physical. Spraying is a non-contact way for cats to tell humans or animals that they need to be left alone.
  • Scratching furniture– When cats scratch things, the pheromones in their paws spread their scent, marking their territory. Spreading their scent helps reduce your cat’s stress. 

Physical Health Symptoms Of Stress

Not only does stress affect your cat’s behavior, but staying in a stressed environment can cause serious health concerns. Weight loss, Feline Interstitial Cystitis (FIC), and infections are all common health problems linked to chronic stress. 

FIC is the most commonly linked disease to chronic stress in cats. This is a form of urinary tract infection and, if gone untreated, can be fatal. There are several symptoms that you should be looking for if you suspect chronic stress or FIC in your cat:

  • Frequent litter box use 
  • Blood in urine
  • Pain and howling during urination
  • Urinating around the house

The most important symptom to pay attention to is a urinary block. When the urinary tract is blocked, the risk of kidney damage is significantly higher. This is the most dangerous of all symptoms, so seek medical attention immediately because this is a fatal symptom.

Ways To Decrease Your Cat’s Stress

If you are missing those cute little kitty loafs, here are a few stress-decreasing methods you can try:

  • Creating more elevated surfaces– Because cats are still so similar to their wild feline counterparts, raised surfaces help them survey the room. For most cats, control is especially important. This is why having full surveillance of a room helps keep them comfortable and stress-free. 
  • Alone time– Having a hiding place for your cat when they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed can help health tremendously. This is one of the reasons that cats are so drawn to small hidden spaces like boxes. 
  • Avoid sudden changes– Changes are unavoidable, but there are ways to minimize the effect it has on your cat. Routines are important for cats, so keeping your schedule as much as possible during these big changes is the best thing you can do. 
  • Provide a specific scratching area– It’s common knowledge that cats love to scratch at things. When they spread their scent from the sebaceous glands in their paws, they are able to mark their territory. This helps manage stress by feeling like they are in control of their space.

Related Questions

Can you teach old cats new tricks?

Cats are notoriously labeled as ornery and antisocial. This doesn’t mean that they cannot be taught tricks or have training. Cats are wildly intelligent creatures, and training can be stimulating for them, helping decrease stress and energy. 

Can you bond with an adult cat the same as a kitten?

When it comes to purchasing or adopting a cat, kittens are typically more popular. Cat’s personalities change very little after the age of two. This does not mean that if you get a cat after the age of two, you will not bond.

Practicing some of the techniques mentioned in this article can help you identify your cat’s specific needs and preferences. Your cat may prefer to lay next to you instead of sitting on your lap.

Respecting your cat when they tell you that they’ve had enough is vitally crucial for their comfort. This is one of the best ways to solidify your bond with your cat.

Is it better to adopt or purchase a cat?

There is no right answer to this question because it all depends on personal beliefs, wants, and ethics. Choosing a pet is a huge decision, and you should consider all factors before selecting one. 

3.2 million cats need homes every year. Adopting a pet can be incredibly rewarding and sometimes a chance to save a cat from euthanasia. Adopted cats tend to have more behavioral issues, so this may not be compatible with everyone’s lifestyle.

Purchasing a cat is a wonderful way to appreciate the history of cat breeds. The most major issue found with purebred cats is health issues stemming from inbreeding. 

Stacy Randall

Stacy is a lifelong animal lover who truly believes life just isn’t complete without pets. She’s had pets her whole life (including three dogs and a cat living under the same roof, somewhat harmoniously). She currently resides in NOLA with her husband, son, and two pups, Scooby “Dooby” Doo and Zoey. Stacy always makes a point to learn everything she can about her fur babies, and she has been writing about the pet-parent life for over two years.

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