Behavior
A big gray cat sitting in a human's lap.

What Cats Are Lap Cats?

What determines which cats are lap cats? Are there certain friendly cat breeds that are more likely to sit in your lap? Can you train a cat to be a lap cat?

Denise LeBeau  |  Oct 26th 2017


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: