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

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Mekong Bobtail Male Cat

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 behaviors that many cat owners have observed is their tendency to walk in circles for a minute or two before laying down for a nap. This behavior has puzzled cat lovers for years, and several theories attempt to explain it.

In this article, we’ll explore the mystery behind why cats walk in circles before lying down and examine the fascinating science behind this seemingly simple behavior. The most common theory is that it’s a leftover instinct from their wild ancestors, but there may be more to it than that.

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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 circle their prey before pouncing, and the 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 ensure the area is safe and comfortable before settling in for a nap.

Some experts believe it’s simply a way for cats to mark their territory. All felines have scent glands in their paws, and 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. However, the science behind the behavior can help us understand it a bit better. For one thing, cats have an incredibly acute sense of smell and use it to navigate their environment.

When a cat walks in circles before lying down, they may be using their sense of smell to get a better understanding of the 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 them feel more secure and comfortable in their sleeping spot.

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

The type of surface a cat rests on can also affect their behavior. Cats may be more likely to walk in circles on soft surfaces like bedding or carpet than on harder surfaces like wood or tile. Soft surfaces may provide more sensory information for the cat to process.

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

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The Role of Domestication

One interesting aspect of this behavior is that it seems 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.

Cats may not have the luxury of circling their sleeping spot before lying down in the wild. 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 various 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, ensure your cat has a cozy bed or sleeping spot. This can be a cat bed, a soft blanket, or 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, ensure your cat’s sleeping spot is clean and free from hazards, such as sharp objects or choking hazards. 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 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 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 gently kneaded their mother’s stomachs to stimulate milk production.
  • Purring: Cats purr when they’re happy, but they may also purr when 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 help them 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 essential to consider the risks before making a decision. Outdoor cats are exposed to several dangers, including traffic, predators, and exposure to disease.

Additionally, cats allowed to roam freely may become a nuisance to neighbors or harm wildlife. If you decide to let your cat sleep outside, provide them with a safe and secure environment, such as a cat enclosure or a designated outdoor area free from hazards.

It’s also essential 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 depends on the pets and their personalities. Some cats and dogs may be perfectly fine sharing a bed, while others may not get along and could harm each other.

It’s imperative that you monitor their behavior and interactions closely, especially during the initial stages of introducing them.

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 essential to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

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Wrapping Things Up

Cats will always be one of the most interesting domesticated animals alive. While we still don’t fully understand why cats walk in circles before lying down, several theories and scientific explanations can help us understand the behavior.

As a cat owner, paying attention to your cat’s behavior and body language is vital. It can help you identify health issues or other concerns. By creating a comfortable sleeping environment for your feline friend and observing their behavior, you can ensure they’re happy and healthy for years to come.

Featured Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock

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