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Why Do Cats Walk in Circles Before Lying Down? Facts & FAQ

Cats are known for their weird yet fascinating behavior, which can sometimes leave owners shaking their heads. One of the most peculiar things that many cat owners have observed is their tendency to walk in circles for a minute or two before actually laying down for a nap. This behavior has puzzled cat lovers for years, and there are a variety of theories that attempt to explain it. So here, we’ll explore the mystery behind why cats walk in circles before lying down, and slightly delve into the fascinating science behind this seemingly simple behavior.

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Theories Behind The “Circle Walk Around”

One of the most common theories behind why cats walk in circles before lying down is that it’s a leftover instinct from their wild ancestors. In the wild, cats would circle their prey before pouncing, so this behavior might be an instinctual way of preparing for rest. Another theory is that it’s a way for cats to test the ground before they lie down. By walking in circles, they can make sure that the area is safe and comfortable before settling in for a nap.

Some experts believe that this behavior is simply a way for cats to mark their territory. All felines have scent glands within their paws, so by walking in circles, they may be leaving their scent on the area where they plan to rest. This can help them feel more secure and comfortable in their sleeping spot. Finally, some experts believe that walking in circles before lying down is simply a way for cats to stretch and exercise their muscles before they rest.

How Cats Use Their Senses

While there are many theories about why cats walk in circles before lying down, the truth is that we don’t know for sure why they do it. However, there is some interesting science behind this behavior that can help us understand it a bit better. For one thing, cats have an incredibly acute sense of smell, and they use this sense to navigate their environment.

When a cat walks in circles before lying down, it may be using its sense of smell to get a better understanding of its surroundings. By taking a few laps around the area, the cat can pick up scents that might indicate the presence of predators, prey, or other cats. This can help the cat feel more secure and comfortable in its sleeping spot.

Cats also rely heavily on their sense of touch, particularly in their paws. By walking in circles, cats may be able to feel the texture and temperature of the ground more fully. This can give them important information about the safety and comfort of their sleeping spot. Finally, cats have excellent vision, and they may be using this sense to assess the area before they lie down.

cat sits on a sofa and sniffs owner finger
Image Credit: Soloveva Kseniia, Shutterstock

The Influence of Environment on the Behavior

Another factor that may influence a cat’s tendency to walk in circles before lying down is its environment. Cats are creatures of habit, and they often prefer to sleep in the same spot every day. If a cat has a favorite sleeping spot, it may be more likely to walk in circles before lying down in that spot.

The type of surface a cat is resting on can also play a role in this behavior. Cats may be more likely to walk in circles on soft surfaces like bedding or carpet, as opposed to harder surfaces like wood or tile. This is because soft surfaces may provide more sensory information for the cat to process.

Finally, the temperature of the environment may also play a part. Cats prefer to sleep in warm, cozy spots, so if the area is too cold, they may be more likely to walk in circles to generate body heat before they settle down for a nap.

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The Role of Domestication

One interesting aspect of this behavior is that it seems to be more common in domesticated cats than in wild cats. This could be because domesticated cats have been bred for thousands of years to be more tolerant of human environments. Domesticated cats are also more likely to sleep indoors, which can create a more controlled environment for them.

In the wild, cats may not have the luxury of circling their sleeping spot before lying down. They may need to rest quickly and in whatever spot they can find. However, domesticated cats have the luxury of taking their time and choosing the perfect spot to rest. This may be why they’re more likely to engage in this behavior.

Grey cat sleeping in the bathroom
Image Credit: Burunduk’s, Shutterstock

Understanding Your Cat’s Behavior and Body Language

As a cat owner, it’s helpful to pay attention to your cat’s behavior and body language. Cats communicate in a variety of ways, including through their body posture, vocalizations, and behavior.

If you notice that your cat is walking in circles before lying down, it’s likely nothing to worry about. However, if you notice any other unusual behaviors or changes in your cat’s behavior, it’s important to take note of them. This can help you identify any potential health issues or other concerns.

Tips for Creating a Comfortable Sleeping Environment for Your Cat

If you want to create a comfortable sleeping environment for your cat, there are a few things you can do. First, make sure that your cat has a cozy bed or sleeping spot. This can be a cat bed, a soft blanket, or even a cardboard box.

Next, pay attention to the temperature of the room where your cat sleeps. Cats prefer warm environments, so make sure that the room isn’t too cold. You can also provide a heating pad or warm blanket to help your cat feel more comfortable.

Finally, make sure that your cat’s sleeping spot is clean and free from any potential hazards. This means removing any sharp objects or choking hazards from the area. You should also wash your cat’s bedding regularly to keep it clean and fresh.

cat sleeping comfortably on a bed
Image Credit: Александар Цветановић, Pexels

Other Common Cat Behaviors and Their Possible Explanations

While the behavior of walking in circles before lying down is certainly intriguing, it’s not the only strange behavior that cats exhibit. Here are a few other common cat behaviors and some possible explanations for them:

  • Kneading: Many cats will knead their paws on soft surfaces like blankets or pillows (or your stomach). This interesting behavior is believed to be a leftover instinct from when they were kittens and would gently knead their mother’s stomach in an effort to stimulate milk production.
  • Purring: Cats purr when they’re happy, but they may also purr when they’re in pain or anxious. Some experts believe that purring may be a way for cats to self-soothe and calm down.
  • Hiding: Cats are known for their love of hiding in small spaces, like under beds or in closets. This behavior may be a way for them to feel safe and secure.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Should I let my cat sleep outside?

It depends. While cats are known for their independence and love of the great outdoors, it’s important to consider the potential risks before making a decision. Outdoor cats are exposed to a variety of dangers, including traffic, predators, and exposure to disease. Additionally, cats that are allowed to roam freely may become a nuisance to neighbors or damage wildlife. If you do decide to let your cat sleep outside, be sure to provide them with a safe and secure environment, such as a cat enclosure or a designated outdoor area that is free from hazards. It’s also important to ensure that your cat is up-to-date on their vaccinations and has been spayed or neutered to reduce the risk of health problems and unwanted litters.

cat sleeping outdoors
Image Credit: hapibu, Pixabay

Should I let my cat sleep in the same bed as my dog? Is it safe?

While there’s no definitive answer to this question, it ultimately depends on the individual pets and their personalities. Some cats and dogs may be perfectly fine sharing a bed, while others may not get along and could potentially harm each other. It’s imperative however, that you monitor their behavior and interactions closely, especially during the initial stages of introducing them to each other’s company.

Why does my cat stare at me when I sleep?

While it might be a little unnerving, there’s usually a harmless explanation for this behavior. Cats are curious creatures and they often observe their surroundings, including their humans. They may also be seeking attention or trying to gauge your mood. Some cats even see their owners as members of their “pride” and want to keep a watchful eye on them. However, if your cat’s staring behavior is accompanied by other signs of aggression or discomfort, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.


Wrapping Things Up

Cats will always be one of the most interesting domesticated animals alive. And while we still don’t fully understand why cats walk in circles before lying down, there are many theories and scientific explanations that can help us better understand this behavior.

As a cat owner, it’s important to pay attention to your cat’s behavior and body language. This can help you identify any potential health issues or other concerns. By creating a comfortable sleeping environment for your feline friend and observing their behavior, you can help ensure that your feline friend is happy and healthy for years to come.

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Featured Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock