The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 01-19-2012, 01:28 AM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Why do cats sit in a "loaf"?

Some cats sit in what I call a "loaf" position. If you have a cat, you may know what I mean; if not, here is an image (of my own cat) which illustrates the concept.

Some people I talk to, their cat never sits in a loaf. Mine does it all the time. I'll be playing with George, then go do something else for a second, and then turn around and seemingly out of nowhere, he will be sitting in a "loaf". Paws, and tail, completely tucked in, so that his body is an almost perfect rectangle.

While he often sits in a loaf in his favorite spots - on top of a certain recliner, on the corner of the bed, under one of the dining room chairs, etc - there are times when there seems to be no rhyme or reason at all to the area in which he decides to sit in a loaf. Sometimes I'll be doing something in the living room or hallway, and turn around, and right there will be a "loaf" of cat, facing a completely random direction and staring off into space.

Why do cats do this? Is there something particularly comfortable about that position? Does it help them conserve body heat or something? Does it help them regenerate their venom more quickly?

While we're at it - sometimes I'll walk into a room and he'll have his back fully arched (and often, his tail puffed up) and then, with his back still arched, he will take two little sideways "hops" in some direction and then run off. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the times when he does this; it'll just be totally out of the blue.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 01-19-2012, 01:35 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Dutch in the Netherlands
Posts: 8,014
I got nothing, but I wanted to say that in Dutch, if a cat in the loaf position shows a little more of both his curved front paws, we call it the "breihouding" which translates as the " knitting position".

I've got three cats and they al have different preferred positions to lie and sleep in. I guess it is just a matter of personal preference, much like why one person will usually sit with her legs crossed at the kneeand another with her legs crossed at the ankle.

Last edited by Maastricht; 01-19-2012 at 01:38 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 01-19-2012, 01:45 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Where the wild roses grow
Posts: 19,782
They are enigmas. Every single one of them.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 01-19-2012, 01:46 AM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
I'm thinking body heat. Cats have a high amount of area per unit of volume, especially on their limbs and tails.

Perhaps the front paws are tucked in to serve as a front cushion?



Or maybe cats are just animals that tend to pick up quirks and stick with them.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 01-19-2012, 01:47 AM
Maggie the Ocelot Maggie the Ocelot is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea."

-- Robert Heinlein
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01-19-2012, 02:06 AM
dougie_monty dougie_monty is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Gardena, CA 90248-3235
Posts: 7,751
Since I was a kid I have called this the "ridiculous position." The cat has the look on his face of "I'll do this no matter what you think." I even saw one in the ridiculous position in a street in a mobile-home park (not my own).
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01-19-2012, 02:41 AM
sandra_nz sandra_nz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
I was pondering this myself just yesterday, when my cat came to sit on my computer desk and assumed the meatloaf position (that's what I call it, because I always imagine her sitting in an imaginary meatloaf tin).

Nothing unusual in itself, but she did it with her face up against the wall, to the extent that she kept flicking her ears because they were actually touching the wall!
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01-19-2012, 02:53 AM
Eliahna Eliahna is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Victoria, Australia
Posts: 6,584
The ex said one day "Aren't cats funny, the way they sit like chickens on a nest".

I said "In some languages, the word 'cat' directly translates as 'fur chicken' ".

He excitedly said "Really?"

"No" I answered.

But henceforth that position was known as the fur chicken.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01-19-2012, 03:29 AM
Tabby_Cat Tabby_Cat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: No Gum Here
Posts: 2,256
Apparently because he didn't get a memory foam mattress.



Anyway, I call it the meatloaf position too! Strangely enough, the small cat's meatloaf is a lot "flatter" than the big cat's meatloaf.


Cats is weird.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01-19-2012, 03:34 AM
galen ubal galen ubal is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
We call it the "catloaf" position.
Anyway, I'd guess it is the body heat issue - I know our cats don't adopt it when it's hot.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-19-2012, 04:08 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
Creature of the Night
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Posts: 20,803
My own personal untestable hypothesis is that cats do this because of kittens. Ever seen a litter of kittens playing around the momcat? If her tail and paws are out, the kittens WILL play with those appendages. So momcat draws in her legs and tail.

The other explanation, of course, is just Cats Is Weird.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-19-2012, 06:12 AM
monstro monstro is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
I call it the roosting turkey position.

I think it must be comfortable. I take it as a sign that they are content.

Only one of my two cats does this, though. The other cat has too big of a tummy.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-19-2012, 07:16 AM
bardos bardos is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
My cats hardly use that position. I used to think it was a winter position to conserve heat by tucking in the paws.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01-19-2012, 08:26 AM
nofloyd nofloyd is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
The meatloaf position can also be an indication of a sick cat if it's a departure from normal behavior. Had a cat that suddenly meatloafed all over the place and it did turn out to be kidney failure. Pancreatitis can also also cause cats to lay that way to minimize pain.

http://www.felinecrf.org/symptoms.htm#crash
(scroll down to white cat for desc of meatloafing
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 01-19-2012, 08:43 AM
SmellMyWort SmellMyWort is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
My cat's favorite place to loaf is sitting with his nose about an inch from the wall. Just sitting there facing the wall. It's quite anti-social. On the other hand, the other behavior you mention, the "crab-walk" typically means he's ready to rough-house and be chased around a bit.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 01-19-2012, 08:44 AM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Shakedown Street
Posts: 12,369
Several years ago there was an artist/cartoonist that was known for (by "known for" I mean it's what I knew him/her for) his cat books. Or maybe cat book. Nice and vague, huh? But when he passed years ago I read about him in the Times so I figure he must have had some notoriety. Do any cat people out there have any idea what I'm talking about?

Oh, yeah, the topic. He just came to mind because I believe one of his books (or maybe just one illustration in one of his books) was dedicated to helping the reader distinguish between a cat and a meatloaf.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 01-19-2012, 08:46 AM
silenus silenus is online now
Hoc nomen meum verum non est.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 40,516
The loaf position also prevents appendages from being stepped on or played with. But I think it is primarily a heat-conservation technique.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 01-19-2012, 08:49 AM
Gagundathar Gagundathar is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by galen ubal View Post
We call it the "catloaf" position.
Anyway, I'd guess it is the body heat issue - I know our cats don't adopt it when it's hot.
Catloaf is what we call it here.
And yes, it is much more common during colder times.

In fact, 'Bama', my late tabby, used to do this and sit by the woodstove pointing at the stove with his paws down and with a pleased look on his face.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 01-19-2012, 08:49 AM
Dung Beetle Dung Beetle is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 13,276
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cazzle View Post
The ex said one day "Aren't cats funny, the way they sit like chickens on a nest".
My son was laughing just last night about our cat Lloyd "sitting like a chicken". However, I do prefer the term "loaf"...Lloyd has so much more in common with loaves. For instance, his IQ. And his squishiness. And how he stays right where you leave him.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:05 AM
Olentzero Olentzero is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
Several years ago there was an artist/cartoonist that was known for (by "known for" I mean it's what I knew him/her for) his cat books. Or maybe cat book. Nice and vague, huh? But when he passed years ago I read about him in the Times so I figure he must have had some notoriety. Do any cat people out there have any idea what I'm talking about?
B Kliban, perhaps?
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:08 AM
Lukeinva Lukeinva is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Maybe you should take George out to a bar once in a while.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:09 AM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Shakedown Street
Posts: 12,369
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
Several years ago there was an artist/cartoonist that was known for (by "known for" I mean it's what I knew him/her for) his cat books. Or maybe cat book. Nice and vague, huh? But when he passed years ago I read about him in the Times so I figure he must have had some notoriety. Do any cat people out there have any idea what I'm talking about?
I love you Internet!

The second link of Googling how to tell the difference between a cat and a meatloaf brought up the illustration I was thinking of.

The artist is B. Kliban. Apparently, he was well-known. I like the (uncited) trivia bit: "According to Art Spiegelman, Kliban invented the form of cartoon, popularized by Gary Larson and others, of a single panel with a third-person caption describing the action."
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:18 AM
Azeotrope Azeotrope is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Mine catloafs all the time in cool weather, and in fact one of his favorite ways to sleep is to just drop his chin down and doze off with his legs and tail still tucked in. I call that one the "cat wedge" because with his pointed nose expanding to big fuzzy butt he reminds me of a big cheese wedge.

I agree it's probably to conserve heat, because in warm weather he usually sprawls out on his side to rest or sleep.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:19 AM
Springtime for Spacers Springtime for Spacers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
One of my family cats used to do this when she was sulking, we called it the stuffed turkey (not chicken, she was too plump to be a chicken).
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:27 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
I've never heard this position compared to a loaf, but from now on that's what it is.

The reason, naturally, is that cats are born loafers.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:29 AM
Terraplane Terraplane is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
I think it's for heat too, to keep their legs and tail warm. When it's hot outside they seem to choose the 'dead bug' position over the catloaf.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:34 AM
Olentzero Olentzero is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
I love you Internet!
You're welcome!
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:35 AM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: South Carolina
Posts: 12,567
Lion Couchant? But to answer the OP, who knows. Cats just do it.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 01-19-2012, 09:54 AM
MikeS MikeS is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: New London, CT
Posts: 3,284
Quote:
Originally Posted by Argent Towers View Post
While we're at it - sometimes I'll walk into a room and he'll have his back fully arched (and often, his tail puffed up) and then, with his back still arched, he will take two little sideways "hops" in some direction and then run off. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the times when he does this; it'll just be totally out of the blue.
I've not seen a cat do it in person, but apparently it's not uncommon. See here, for example. It's basically a fighting posture: he appears larger by turning side-on to you, wants to keep facing you, but still wants to be able to move around. Either you genuinely startled him and it's a defensive mechanism or (more likely) he's being playful; in either event, I would assume that whether he does it depends on his state of mind when you walk into the room.

Last edited by MikeS; 01-19-2012 at 09:55 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 01-19-2012, 11:11 AM
purplehorseshoe purplehorseshoe is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Texas, USA
Posts: 7,783
One of our cats constantly loafifies, to the point that I've seen her lie down by going from a full standing posture to kneeling on her front legs, already tucking them in before the back half has even touched the floor. (Picture a camel kneeling down.)

I think the sideways dance is an invitation to play. Is your cat young, OP? Young cats get all cracked out sometimes, and tear-ass around for no apparent reason. They're just being playful and energetic.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:08 PM
Snickers Snickers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
I love catloafs. We've two, and they catloaf often. Most of the cats I've had do it. No idea why, but I love how they tuck their front paws in like that.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:13 PM
simster simster is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 6,897
it also protects thier underbelly, and allows for a quick jump and run response.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:15 PM
yabob yabob is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 7,221
Some non-feline animals also do that, for instance, sheep:

http://www.gilmertonfarm.com/images/onesheep.jpg

ETA:

and cows, although their legs are generally still visible underneath them.

Last edited by yabob; 01-19-2012 at 12:17 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:20 PM
lieu lieu is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Bedrock
Posts: 24,941
Well, as long as they're kneading their paws...
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:31 PM
Dogzilla Dogzilla is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
My kitteh tends to do this when he's demanded to go out on the porch, but it's really just a bit too chilly for him. I think it keeps his paws and tail warm. When he lays on the heater vents, he sprawls out belly up, with no regard whatsoever to the toothy pitbull who likes to nip at paws, tails, and whatever else she can get her teefs on.
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:38 PM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Of the various feline creatures we have owned or fostered over the years, some have been near-constant loafers--even in warm weather--and others have never gone into loaf shape.

I think there's a bit of protectiveness to the position more than of mere conservation of heat. Our second-youngest adopted cat likes to fill up one of the levels of the scratching post or find an obliging human to curl up next to. And the kitten we kept from the foster mom's litter just doesn't stay still long enough to go into loaf...when she falls asleep, it's either in a tight ball or all stretched out ("pork tenderloin shape" as I've called it). Both cats grew up around humans--the kitten from literally Minute One of her life--and I suppose don't feel the need to defend themselves.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:58 PM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeS View Post
I've not seen a cat do it in person, but apparently it's not uncommon. See here, for example. It's basically a fighting posture: he appears larger by turning side-on to you, wants to keep facing you, but still wants to be able to move around.
Yes! LOL! That's exactly what George does (though he is much bigger than the cat in that video and so it is ever the more intimidating.) Tail puffed up, double-sideways hop.
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:59 PM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeinva View Post
Maybe you should take George out to a bar once in a while.
?!!?
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 01-19-2012, 01:01 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
Domo Arigato Mister Moderato
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: On the run with Kilroy
Posts: 16,468
I always thought that was a moment (or more) of Zen for a cat. Just the state of BEING. Or what TS Eliot called the contemplation of his name.

Llama's too. Lady Chance and I refer to it as 'the llama has retracted his legs'.

http://comegetyousome.com/photo/1535...a-sitting.html

This place calls in Llamapillar.

Last edited by Jonathan Chance; 01-19-2012 at 01:05 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 01-19-2012, 02:14 PM
Jake Jake is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 3,395
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
My own personal untestable hypothesis is that cats do this because of kittens. Ever seen a litter of kittens playing around the momcat? If her tail and paws are out, the kittens WILL play with those appendages. So momcat draws in her legs and tail.

The other explanation, of course, is just Cats Is Weird.
Lynn, your explanation is the best so far.
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 01-19-2012, 02:20 PM
blondebear blondebear is online now
Shouting Grasshopper
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Meridian/280
Posts: 10,370
Slightly OT, but one of the cats in our apartment complex has figured out where the hot water pipes run close to the surface--on cooler days, you can always see Minnow lounging in one of a couple of choice spots.
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 01-19-2012, 03:08 PM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
Much like pigeons, they do it because it feels good.
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 01-19-2012, 03:21 PM
OttoDaFe OttoDaFe is online now
Duke of Bilgewater
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Soviet of Washington
Posts: 1,935
I tend to think of it in terms of how a nun (in the Good Old Days) would commonly sit with her arms folded under the front part of her habit.

As for "why," I think it's a tie between Jonathan Chance and Lynn Bodoni.
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 01-19-2012, 03:25 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Lethbridge, AB.
Posts: 48,088
Quote:
Originally Posted by ugly ripe tomato View Post
Mine catloafs all the time in cool weather, and in fact one of his favorite ways to sleep is to just drop his chin down and doze off with his legs and tail still tucked in. I call that one the "cat wedge" because with his pointed nose expanding to big fuzzy butt he reminds me of a big cheese wedge.<snip>
That's one of my cat's favourite sleeping positions - tail and back legs tucked in, front legs tucked in but head and neck stretched out in front. Cat wedge, indeed.

She also does this sometimes, because she's a cat and they're weird. (That's not my cat - just a picture similar to what she does.) She also sleeps with her face right in the corner of her loveseat, for a similar reasons.
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 01-19-2012, 06:50 PM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Sad to hear B Kliban passed away. I have most of his books.

I call the position the Sphinx position. Curiously, of my two cats - who are brothers from the same litter - one uses the position as part of of his set of standard poses, whilst the other rarely does. The temperament difference between the two is that the one that likes the Sphinx position is more timid than the other, and it seems he adopts it when he is less comfortable about his surroundings. When he is totally relaxed he will adopt all the ultra-cute (on his back, paws splayed) positions to sleep in, but if he is more alert and wishing to relax whilst being vigilant, it is the Sphinx.

A very long time ago there was an article in Scientific American that showed a series of cat poses, and related them to levels of alertness, and implicitly levels of threat perception.

Last edited by Francis Vaughan; 01-19-2012 at 06:52 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 01-19-2012, 06:56 PM
TBG TBG is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Maybe a certain site (meme?) should have been "I can haz meetloaf?"

I don't think either of my current cats assumes the position too often. One's just a big huge fuzzball and just likes rolling over on his side and/or curling up, and the other prefers a more "lounging" position with his hind legs pointing out behind him.
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 01-19-2012, 06:57 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Sturgeon Bay, WI USA
Posts: 17,527
I have on my desk right now, a Kliban coffee mug showing two Kliban cats. One is sleeping on top of a computer monitor, obviously tuckered out from a chat session. The remnants of said session are still on the screen, and look a lot like: "Meow meow meow meow meow..."

The other fat cat is playing with a mouse. The computer mouse, of course. Kliban was pretty hip.

"Meow meow meow meow meow..."

Why do cats sit in a loaf? Just loafing around, of course.

Last edited by Musicat; 01-19-2012 at 06:58 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 01-19-2012, 07:17 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: NE Ohio (the 'burbs)
Posts: 22,701
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandra_nz View Post
. . . assumed the meatloaf position (that's what I call it, because I always imagine her sitting in an imaginary meatloaf tin).
I've always called it "impersonating a meatloaf," and have occasionally thought of squirting ketchup on its back. I don't think I've ever had a cat that didn't do it.
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 01-19-2012, 07:27 PM
TBG TBG is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by TBG View Post
Maybe a certain site (meme?) should have been "I can haz meetloaf?"

I don't think either of my current cats assumes the position too often. One's just a big huge fuzzball and just likes rolling over on his side and/or curling up, and the other prefers a more "lounging" position with his hind legs pointing out behind him.
And right on cue, as if to make a liar out of me, cat#2 is now on the back of the couch next to me, assuming the meatloaf position, lol
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old 01-19-2012, 07:41 PM
madrabbitwoman madrabbitwoman is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Aussie
Posts: 1,680
When my cat sits with her feed out front I call it the sphinx position. When her feet are tucked in I call it the loaf of bread position. All my rabbits get into the loaf position too.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:56 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.