What Cats Are Lap Cats?

A big gray cat sitting in a human's lap.
A big gray cat sitting in a human's lap. Photography ©Kichigin | Thinkstock.

Cats are among the world’s most adorable creatures. From their big saucer eyes to their oft-times twitching tails, everything about them screams cute. The first reaction for us cat lovers is to want to hold them or sit with them on our laps. While there’s been much ado made about lap dogs, lap cats are just as coveted by many pet guardians. So, what are the friendliest cats out there? What about the friendliest cat breeds? Can any cat become a lap cat? Let’s find out!

What are the friendliest cat breeds?

A ragdoll cat.
The Ragdoll is as a friendly cat breed and might be more inclined to becoming a lap cat! Photography by Anneka / Shutterstock.

There are over 60 cat breeds (and counting) currently vying for our attention, and some are perceived as cuddlier than others. “Maine Coons are considered ‘dog-like,’ greeting humans at the door and loving social interactions,” says Katenna Jones, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (CCBC) and founder of Jones Animal Behavior. “Ragdolls are typically loving and cuddly. They tend to go limp in your arms, hence the name. Birman and Devonshire Rex are also very social and affectionate breeds.”

Megan Phillips, CCBC, of Train with Trust, illuminates an interesting fact about breeding: “Cat breeds are a more recent phenomenon. Unlike dogs, who have been selectively bred for specific tasks through the ages, cats were mostly bred for appearance.” But she’s worked with many cats and has found the perceived friendliest cat breeds, like Maine Coons and Persians, to be more open to copious displays of affection.

While certain cat breeds are more predisposed to cuddling sessions, some folks believe other physical traits play a part in determining the behavior of cats. “Scientific studies are mixed on whether there are links between personality, color and sex,” Jones says. “I believe people are drawn to certain characteristics based on special cats from their past. I know some people who swear torties are more feisty and moody, while others think orange cats are pushy. But, it’s really based on a cat’s individual personality.”

Can you train your cat to be a lap cat?

A gray kitten sitting in a human's lap.
A gray kitten sitting in a human’s lap. Photography ©Kichigin | Thinkstock.

“One of the surest ways to get a lap cat is to adopt an affectionate adult cat,” says Mikel Delgado, Ph.D., and CCBC at Feline Minds. “By going to a shelter, you can observe which cats are more receptive to affection and which cats get in your lap!”

Besides selecting a cat with affectionate traits, there are ways you can train your cats to sit in your lap. Here are some pointers:

  1. Identify what your cat likes. “Some cats really like to play,” Delgado says. “And some cats like to be brushed. Find out what your cat likes and have a session with him. This will get him relaxed, happy and ready for more quality time with you.” Including positive reinforcement through high-value treats (like tuna) helps associate your together time as a wonderful experience.
  1. Don’t force your cat onto your lap. “Many cats don’t like to be picked up, and no cat likes to be forced into anything, especially close and confining contact,” Delgado says. “Many guardians with good intentions try to ‘show’ a cat that their lap is safe by placing them in it, but forcing contact can scare your cat and make him less amenable to interactions with you in the future.”
  1. Ask permission. “Don’t grab your cat while he’s sleeping in the sun,” Phillips says. “Pay attention to what your cat is doing, and respect his boundaries.” The best path to a lap cat is to have the cat come to you — again, by making it a rewarding and positive experience.
  1. Every session ends when your cat says it does. “Your cat’s behavior is being modified by experiences, so you’ve got to end it on a positive note. He’ll let you know when he’s done,” Phillips says.

Does your cat love you if he isn’t a lap cat? How else do cats show affection?

A calico cat in a lap.
Does your cat love you even if he’s not a lap cat? Photography ©AwakenedEye | Thinkstock.

Many guardians see cat cuddling as the surest way to tell that their cats love them, but there are other signs. Jones offers these surefire indicators that your cat is into you: side swiping, licking, laying against you, running to see you when you arrive and being “all over” you when you’ve been away.

Phillips shares a few additional steadfast ways that your cat is expressing his love. The cat slow blink is one way. Head bunting is another. Wrapping his tail around your legs and leaning into you is a sign of affection, too. These may not be obvious ways that we would say ‘I love you,’ but we’ve got to respect how our cats show us their affection.

While not every cat will be a lap cat, you can pave the way to a more affectionate relationship with any cat. And never say never — many a kitty has embraced the lap cat lifestyle because of a guardian willing to approach his persnickety personality with patience and positivity.

Thumbnail: Photography ©vladans | Thinkstock.

Read more about cat affection and cat behavior on Catster.com:

27 thoughts on “What Cats Are Lap Cats?”

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  7. Ragdolls are not lap cats I see this fiction everywhere. The LOVE being around their people but do not as a rule like being on a lap

  8. I think generally speaking rescue cats adopted from shelters or taken in as strays are more affectionate, they are grateful for what you have done for them and want to show their appreciation for the warm loving home, affection and food you give to them

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  10. Why does our sr cat now constantly want to be on our lap and pettied. She was very independent at a younger age and now the minute my husband or myself sit down. Here she comes. She is around 18years.

    1. your cat is older now and older cats have problems keeping warm on their own – humans are heaters. It also possibly has to do with pain – most SR cats have arthritis type pains, just like humans do as they get older. Sitting on your lap helps with the pain from the heat but also helps them feel safe and secure in a spot they feel safe and comfortable in. Consider pain medicine for your beloved SR furry baby and also a pet-safe heating pad for them to lay on. Know that them wanting to sit on your lap isn’t a bad thing at all – cherish the time you have with your SR cat and know she loves you. :)

    2. maybe she knows that her time here on this planet is limited now so she wants to spend the rest of it, however long showing you her appreciation for all you’ve done and showing you she loves you. It’s always best to get them checked out at the vets with any sudden change in behaviour in case she is trying to tell you something isn’t right. But I think the 1st guess would be the one I’d go with most as to the reason

  11. My niece lived with me while she was in college full-time. She brought her tuxedo cat with her (Brooklyn). My niece took a job in FL. She made the decision to leave Brooklyn with me when she moved to FL. The apartment where she moved to does not accept animals. Brooklyn used to sleep with my niece and would spend hours on my niece’s lap. Now, Brooklyn sleeps on my lap. She also sleeps at the foot of my bed. Brooklyn now follows me everywhere I go throughout the house. If I am doing chores around the house, Brooklyn will meow loudly as if though she is telling me to hurry up, sit down. The second I sit down, she hops up on my lap and goes to sleep for awhile.

  12. I met my tortie when she crawled up my body growling to headbutt me. She is Velcro kitty, currently on my lap burrowing her head into my armpit…

  13. Our local animal shelter does not take cats. Since many people around here know I have never turned away an animal in need I am frequently the captain of my own grounded ark. At the moment I am the lucky caregiver of eight cats. Within a few minutes of sitting down I will have at least 5 or 6 somewhere 0n my recliner. They are all ages and breeds and I am lucky for this to have been the norm most of my life. I think a lot of it is behavior cues from the cats I have had for years, I would like to think some of it is unlimited love on my part, since that is what I get back from them.

  14. I think the key to having an affectionate cat is, if possible, to start when they are kittens. ALL of my cats, and I have had many, loved being cuddled, petted, etc. because I did so from the very beginning. I currently have a Persian, adopted from foster care at 4 months old, who initially was not very friendly. I would pick him up on a regular basis and hold him for just a few seconds up to a minute, until he really wanted down. I did this repeatedly and eventually Cosmo became one the cuddliest cats I have ever had. He loves to sit next to me when I read, to have me pick him up and snuggle/cuddle him, etc. Right now he is sharing my office chair, snuggled up behind me and purring.

  15. My NFC is not a Snuggle kitty, he is a Near Me kitty. If I’m watching TV, he will climb into a chair directly across from me & snooze (one wary eye on me at all times). He does the tail wrap around the leg thing & he likes to groom my head when its within reach (Split Level Home). If he climbs into bed, its always at the foot & he rarely snuggles up next to me. I think it might have something to do with having a triple coat.
    I get lots of slow blinks, tail hugs, head buds, & the cutest little murrs & purrs. He will always greet me at the door. He is my Boy & I know he loves his Hooman.

  16. Perhaps there are certain breeds more pre-disposed genetically to cuddle and sit on laps. But I wish Catster wasn’t focused on breeds so much when there are literally many thousands of cats – and kittens too – needing adoptions. I know it’s mentioned at the end of article. But it needs more emphasizing.

    My cat, Tuulikki, was a very frightened feral (or perhaps abandoned stray). It took me months to win her trust before I could get her, at which time she’d had a tiny kitten (that a friend adopted). After a couple of months, she’d lie close to me when I sat on the soda but didn’t like being held or sitting on a lap.

    A few years later, she’s practically become a limpet! Every opportunity she gets, she’s on my lap or sometimes my son’s. Snuggles up on my chest when she and I first go to bed before moving off to sleep close to me. Loves being held like a baby by my son (his hands and arms are much bigger than mine so more comfortable for her).

    She’s also become the most talkative and expressive cat I’ve ever had. Her repertoire is incredible but she’s not loud. She’s truly a full member of our small family. Patience and unconditional love accomplished all this. And in return, she’s never grumpy or moody, always willing for cuddles and company and never scratches or too rough. Even though we live quietly aND don’t entertain often, when company and children visit, she’s happy to interact with them and never hides.

    When I rescued her, I rescued a gem! If she had been someone’s kitten once, they were an idiot for abandoning the best cat ever!! We adore her and vice versa.
    Photo of my Tuulikki

    1. I found my baby at a pet hospital he is a gray tabby and he was very timid. He was not what I was looking for at first because I also wanted a cat that would cuddle with me at night and he did not seem like he would do that but I felt a connection with him and I felt that even though he was not what I first wanted there was something about him that made me want to get him. He was very shy when I brought him home he hid under a recliner chair for like maybe a month or two but eventually he got comfortable enough that he now lays right next to me on my pillow.????

    2. Love your comment as it reminded me of my ‘Tank’. I adopted him from a shelter because he didn’t have a great ‘write up’ – he didn’t sound affectionate or sweet and I thought nobody would ever take him. I don’t have kids – it’s just me – so I thought I could give him a quiet, respectful home where nobody would fuss him. It was months before he sat on my lap, but he’s like a limpet too now. He sits by the sofa waiting for me to finish my chores or whatever and jumps on me as soon as I sit down. Don’t know what I’d do without him now. We did a good thing adopting not-so-easy cats (Tank was a stray) and we’re reaping the rewards. Your Tuulikki looks like a love.

  17. In my experience, spayed female cats are generally much less affectionate than neutered males. That’s probably why torties have such a reputation. But we love our tortie and respect her space.

    1. My Torty was a lap cat, but when she laid there facing me she wanted attention. When she was facing away she wanted to be left alone.

  18. Okay, okay, I just proofread my prior entry. Didn’t realize you couldn’t edit once you’d entered your contact info. in fields below.

    Correction – should read: lap cat, not lap cap. But you knew that already! :))

    With initial post, meant to mention, what with his flat-shaped face, and large bone structure, and overall large/largish size, I find Panzer, my British shorthair, to be devastatingly gorgeous. I realize the look is not for everyone. In fact, my husband used to say Panzer was butt-ugly. He now regards him as being truly handsome, in a unique way, of course. Put it this way, indubitably, if Panzer were a car, he’d be a SAAB. I love those, too! Haha!

  19. Okay, okay, just proofread my prior post; didn’t realize you couldn’t edit once you’d entered your name and email address.

    Correction -that would be: lap cat, not lap cap! But you knew that already! :))

    Also meant to mention I find the British shorthair, what with its distinctive flat-shaped face, and large bone structure, to be devastatingly gorgeous! The look is likely not for everyone, but it’s definitely my thing. He strongly resembles Scat Cat from the Disney movie, “The Aristocats.” Put another way, indubitably, were Panzer were a car, he’d be a SAAB. I love those, too! Haha!

  20. Another wonderful lap cat is, hands down, the British shorthair. I have just such a cat, (He’s a rescue I adopted when he was six years old, and that I aptly renamed, Panzer. He’s now nine years old, could even be older.) and he loves to cuddle. In fact, he sleeps in my arms every night. In appearance, he is dark grey in colour, with a tiny bit of white fur here and there, has a big-boned, very sturdy frame, (He weighs approx. 16+ lbs.) has a decidedly broad, somewhat flat-shaped face, and light greenish-yellow coloured eyes. For sure, a British shorthair is one of the most affable, even-tempered members of the feline species. Panzer lives with his true love, Tallulah, (A much younger Calico, who is just as madly in love with him!) and five livestock guardian dogs: one is a male pure bred great pyrenees; one is a female pyr/maremma cross; a biological brother and sister that are part maremma, part akbash; lastly a one year old female pyr/ karakashan cross. Most of our dogs weigh 100+ lbs., or close to it; our puppy is now around 70 lbs., and of course, still growing. Panzer absolutely demonstrably loves all of his dogs! He is frequently found snoozing on top of their tails, or at least right up against them, sometimes head-to-head. Naturally, all of our animals are well-acquainted with couches, armchairs, and beds. Panzer rarely does anything too fast, other than noshing. He lumbers about the inside of the house, (Our cats are kept indoors.) at times managing to get physically caught up in five large sets of dog feet as the dogs blast through the patio door between their outdoor compound and the interior of the house. Unless Panzer really gets inadvertently, heavily stepped upon, he doesn’t mind getting tumbled and tossed about by his dogs! I cannot recommend the British shorthair more highly. If you want an excellent lap cap, check out your local rescue, and/or breeders. You will never regret your decision! My husband refers to Panzer as being my familiar. He is essentially a dog who looks and purrs like a cat! A cat more laid-back than my British shorthair would be comatose! Well, that does it, I’m sure y’all get the picture! :)

    1. I got two British Shorthair Kittens aged 16 weeks ago both from a loving home they are now 30 weeks old so have had them 14 weeks. One of the kittens is very friendly from day one she is confident and always lays next to me on sofa but NEVER on my knee and will not be held in arms. Her sister is very shy sleeps on a blanket and will not come near me at all which is upsetting and I was told BSH were very friendly cats, when i stroke her she looks scared ears back eyes huge but never scratches she curls into a small ball to make herself invisible. How do i get her to be as confident as her sister she never purrs either and her sister purrs all the time they are total opposites. Should I handle her more as I do not want to scare her but do want her to be as friendly and confident as her sister is. She plays with her sister, keeps herself clean, eats well and uses litter tray she is just very scared when she sees anyone not only me and never comes to say hello not even in the morning so I feel sad that I do not have a cuddly lap cat. Any suggestions on what I can do to help her shyness.

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