Lap time, nap time: Why your cat chooses to sit on you

If you’re anything like me, you love it when your cat decides to lie on you. Even though it can be annoying when you’re trying to do other things (like writing articles so you can afford to buy them cat food), you still let them stay. They chose you, after all, so how could you disturb them (even if you have had to go to the bathroom for hours)? But why do cats decide to bestow this honor on their owners? Why do cats like laps? Keep reading to discover a few of the surprising reasons why your cat may choose to sit on you.

They seek connection and attention

Despite their reputation for being aloof, most cats crave attention (especially from their favorite people). Cats get lonely when you’re not around and will beg for attention when you are. One way they do this is by sitting on your lap; it’s hard to ignore them when they’re right on top of you! They also come to you for connection and love. Usually, a cat on the lap gets affection, so your cat may come to you when she wants to be petted and feel loved.

You’re warm

Whether it’s by the radiator or in a sunbeam, kitties love napping in warm spots. One of the coziest places in your home happens to be wherever you are because of the heat your body emits! This could be why your cat likes sitting with you. They may choose to sit on your lap because they want to soak up all your body heat. Luckily, it’s not a one-way street; your cat’s body heat and fur can help keep you warm, too. With your cat on your lap, you’ll both stay nice and cozy.

They trust you

Cat sitting on someone's lap while they're reading
Impact Photography/Shutterstock

Sitting on top of you is the ultimate sign of trust. Cats only sit in the laps of people they really feel safe with. This is especially true if they nap on you. Your cat is essentially saying she trusts you to protect her against any predators while she’s napping. To build even more trust with your pet, make sure you’re not forcing her to sit on your lap, and you’re giving her the option to walk away when she wants. By acknowledging her freedom and leaving your lap open to her, you’re encouraging your cat to trust you even more.

They like the way you smell and sound

Your body is like a white-noise machine for cats. They find the noises human beings naturally make, like breathing and heartbeats, to be very soothing. It helps them relax into an easy slumber. Your cat may also be attracted to your unique scent. Smelling you may make your cat feel safer, making it easier for her to fall asleep. This can also explain why your cat always seems to love sleeping on your clothes, bed, and other possessions.

Your clothes feel nice

Have you noticed that your cat sleeps on your lap only when you’re wearing certain things? Cats love to nap in warm, comfy spots. They’re also sensitive to certain textures, favoring soft, fuzzy materials over scratchy ones. If you’re wearing a fluffy fleece sweatshirt or a soft bathrobe, your cat may be more likely to cozy up to you. But if you’re wearing a vinyl raincoat, she may not be as interested.

They like you

In addition to trusting you and wanting your attention, a cat sitting on your lap usually means that they like you! Lots of cats choose a favorite human. Cats have many ways of showing their affection, like purring, nudging you, and sitting in your lap. It’s high praise coming from a cat. They’re more likely to rest next to their favorite person than anyone else in the room.

They’re marking their territory

Many cats naturally feel the need to claim their territory, which might include you and your bed. Cats rub their heads and leave behind pheromones on whatever they feel is theirs. Then, when other cats come along, they can smell those pheromones and will recognize that they’re in another cat’s territory.

By walking, lying, and rubbing himself on you and your bed, your cat may be marking his turf just in case another cat comes along to try to claim you.

yurakrasil/Shutterstock

Where your cat sleeps

Your cat may sleep on different parts of your body for different reasons, too. Some cats delight in sleeping on their human’s head. This might be uncomfortable for you, but your cat might prefer it because your head doesn’t move often as you sleep. Your head also radiates heat, so your cat might curl himself up on your pillow to stay warm during the night.

Some cats prefer to sleep on your chest. As you sleep, your slow and steady breathing could be appealing to your cat. Your chest also creates a broad, relatively flat area where your cat can soak up a lot of your body heat.

Understanding cat body language

Looking at your cat’s body language can give you extra insight into what’s motivating him to join you to sleep. A cat who is relaxed, content, and happy to be snuggling up with you may exhibit various signs. He may stretch out on his back, exposing his belly — a vulnerable part of his body — and truly relaxing. He may sleep with his legs extended out from his body instead of curled up tight. He may purr and look at you with squinted eyes, blinking slowly. Your cat might even rub his head against you, marking you with his scents and claiming you as his own. In all these movements, he’s demonstrating that he’s happy and relaxed.

A cat who assumes a different posture might be seeking you out for security or warmth. In these cases, your cat is likely to be curled up tightly, protecting his belly. He may only half-close one or both eyes as he dozes, leaving himself alert enough to easily be fully awake in just seconds. Some cats may assume the “bread loaf” position, where they tuck their front legs under their bodies. In this pose, your cat can lightly doze yet easily jump to his feet if he feels threatened.

Signs of trouble

In most cases, your cat’s choosing to sleep on you is perfectly normal, especially if your cat makes a regular habit of it. A cat who frequently seeks you out for naps may just be highly attached to you or looking to deepen that bond. Every cat is different, so you’ll need to spend some time observing your cat’s preferences to get a sense of whether he likes to regularly join you in bed at night.

Your cat’s sleeping habits can also alert you to potential health issues he might have. If your cat rarely sleeps with you yet suddenly starts sleeping on you constantly, it could indicate that he’s not feeling well. If this behavior is paired with your cat being unusually sedate or sleeping more than usual, then it’s important to schedule an appointment with your vet to have your cat checked out.

Your cat’s sleeping habits can vary with the seasons, with household changes like the addition of a new pet, and even with his moods. However, paying attention to your cat’s sleeping habits over time can help you stay aware of how he’s feeling and might warn you when a health issue is starting.

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