A cat near his human on the couch and computer.
Human looking up veterinarians for her cat. Photography ©hocus-focus | Getty Images.

What If Your Cat Isn’t a Lap Cat?

Does your cat love you even if she isn't a lap cat? And why are some cats lap cats while others avoid lap snuggles at all costs?


Although certified cat behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger’s cats are lap cats, they didn’t all used to be. Marilyn, who clicker trained her two Bengals and Savannah, has an early generation Bengal who was not a lap cat when she was younger. So, what if your cat isn’t a lap cat? Let’s look into what makes cats lap cats … or not!

1. Age matters

A gray cat curled up on a woman's lap.
Age might be a factor in determining if a cat is a lap cat or not. Photography by vladans/Thinkstock.

Age can be a factor, because while they’re young with high energy levels, they may be more interested in running around and exploring their territory than relaxing on a lap. Some cats become lap cats when they lose some of their athletic ability as they age. They might feel more vulnerable when they’re older and will seek security by sitting on a trusted human’s lap.

2. A cat’s backstory comes into play

It could have a lot to do with their history, Marilyn says. All cats have their own history which influences how secure or insecure they feel about socializing and lap sitting, she explains. For example, a cat may have been raised in an environment that included a lot of handling and petting. Others may have had little socialization and, as a result, will end up more fearful of humans. “Years ago I rehabilitated a feral cat I trapped,” Marilyn says. “It took one year until he felt comfortable enough to venture out from under the couch, another year until he let me pet him and then finally, about three years after I trapped him, he sat in my lap.”

3. Some cats just aren’t lap cats!

Some cats might never become lap cats, because that’s just their personality, and that’s OK. “Some show their affection sitting next to you. They want to be near you but don’t want to sit on your lap,” Marilyn says. Just as we all have our preferences and love languages, if you will, cats also have their preferred ways of showing and receiving affection. So far, my cat Sophie is not a lap cat, but she gets brushed five times a day because I’m convinced that being brushed is her love language.

Tell us: Are your cats lap cats — or do they show their affection in other ways?

About the author:

Susan Logan-McCracken is an award-winning author and editor who shares her home with her husband and two red tabby domestic longhairs.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home. 

Thumbnail: Photography ©hocus-focus | Getty Images.

Read more about cat love on Catster.com:

6 thoughts on “What If Your Cat Isn’t a Lap Cat?”

  1. My Tiggy is not a lap cat at all. But, he loves to be near me, and greets me at the door with many purrs, and rubbing against my legs. He will lay next to me as I watch TV, or lay by my office chair when I am on my computer. He also sleeps on my bed, on the extra pillows next to my pillow. Sometimes he will lay by my feet when I am asleep. But, he will always go to bed within 5 minutes after I go…..I know he loves me….he just prefers it on his own terms!!! I am not a big cat person….more dog lover….but I would sure miss him if something happened to him!!!

  2. I have a 1 year old calico that does not liked to be picked up or held, but absolutely loves laying in my lap. She rolls over and sleeps with all 4 feet in the air, spread across my lap and legs. Go figure.

  3. My 6 year old brown mackerel tabby, Lady Alice (aka Allie) is not a lap cat and doesn’t like being held. The rescue agency, from which I adopted her 5 years ago, was quite clear about that beforehand. Allie had been overlooked in previous adoption blitzes. I took her because of her sweet look. The physical rejection bit was not an issue for me. From the start, Allie loved being petted and brushed. I tried to pick her up but she wiggled away. Point made. However, persistence pays off and she now will lay quietly in my arms for a full minute. Once, only once, I got rewarded with a purr. I was over the moon. Often, now, Allie will “ask” to be picked up and held for a brief time. She follows me everywhere and always sleeps near me at my desk or by my chair. She sleeps beside my pillow at night. That’s affection, I think. Too, she asks for extended (my arm hurts LOL) tummy rubs and I can nuzzle my face in her warm belly without danger. When she has had enough, up come those strong back legs (“the enforcers”) — no claws– to push my hand away. We are a team who recognise each other’s needs and respect each other’s limits. Isn’t that what real love and affection are all about ? I’m 74, retired, and Allie is my best friend.

  4. I grew up with cats and never really had a lap cat. The cat from childhood didn’t spend any time sitting near or on us until she was too hold to hunt anymore. My new kitten is about 9 months old and is slowly becoming a lap cat. I have never had a cat that was so social and required so much attention before! One big difference though is indoor only vs indoor/outdoor. We always had indoor/outdoor cats and they were just much more independent and wild then my indoor kitten is.

  5. I have a semi feral girl Magique who was adopted from a shelter. She has been with me for over 2 years and lets me pet her 2-4 times only at a time. She does hang around the rooms I’m in but, she really shows her affection by rolling in my sweaty clothes.

    1. The part about some cats never being lap cats is so true. And you’re right, it might just be their personality just like how some people aren’t “huggers” or otherwise enjoy physical displays of affection. Like Barb said, this is especially true if they’ve been feral for part of their lives. Since many cats are typically solitary creatures, I think when these non-lap-cats are willing to be near us it really shows that we’ve built trust with them and that’s a display of affection in its own way.

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