Cats “loaf” when they sit or lie down in a position where their paws are tucked underneath their bodies and their tail is wrapped around them. This posture is common but can have a few different meanings.
Loafing is a natural and comfortable position. Tucking the paws under the body minimizes physical exposure and helps to conserve body heat. Cats commonly rest in loaf-style to feel secure and relaxed.
Cats rest in loaf position to conserve energy. The position allows them to lightly sleep while still being alert to their surroundings. The posture enables them to be in a ready position in case they suddenly need to be active.
The loaf position is also a protective instinct. By curling up and tucking their paws and tails close to their body, cats create a sort of barrier, making it harder for potential predators to access vulnerable areas.
The loaf posture is also seen when cats are not feeling well or nauseous. Because the position helps them conserve energy, cats will loaf in effort to rest if they are not well. Typically, when cats loaf if they are not well, they seek unusual places like under tables or in a closet. Other causes that cause cats to loaf include stiffness from pain or some other underlying health issue. If you observe your cat loafing and otherwise acting quiet and not following their normal routine, you should have your cat checked by your veterinarian.