Why Do Cats Sit On You? Here Are 6 Reasons

Ever wondered, “Why do cats sit on you?” From basic needs like safety to more obscure reasons, like the fabric of your clothing, here’s why cats sit on you.

A calico cat on a lap.
A calico cat on a lap. Photography ©Erica Danger.

Why do cats sit on you? Downtime would not be the same for me without a purring cat on my lap. One of the greatest joys of living with cats is when one of them chooses to lounge on top of me. This special bonding time is good for me, as it lowers my blood pressure, and is good for my cat, as it meets some of her needs. Not all cats sit on their humans, though, and some become lap cats later in life. Although some breeds like the Ragdoll are known to be lap cats, it still depends on the cat, and only time with that individual will tell.

All cats are individuals and it depends on the individual cat, says Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (CCBC), based in Redwood City, California, and author of Naughty No More! In general, cats seek out a few basic needs when they sit on a human’s lap. There are other factors that play into cats sitting on you, like your clothes. Let’s look at some answers to “Why do cats sit on you?” here.

why do cats sit on you
Why do cats sit on you? One of the reasons might be because you’re nice and warm! Photography ©PCbang | Getty Images.

1. Why do cats sit on you? You’re warm!

Cats like warmth, and people’s laps are generally warm, Marilyn says.

2. Why do cats sit on you? They crave connection.

Cats gravitate toward people they like, and they seek connection with their favorite people, Marilyn adds. Sometimes they’re seeking petting, because people often pet the cat on their lap. Petting resembles their mom’s grooming, so most cats love receiving petting from their favorite people. Some cats also knead while they sit on someone’s lap. When they’re kneading, they’re simulating their neo-natal days when they did that to their mothers to stimulate milk flow. “It can be a self-comforting behavior, as can purring,” Marilyn says.

3. Why do cats sit on you? It makes them feel safe!

One of the answers to “Why do cats sit on you?” is that some cats feel safer when they’re on their favorite person’s lap, Marilyn says.

4. Why do cats sit on you? Smell plays into it.

If you have a bathrobe that smells like you, your cat might sit on it whether you’re wearing it or not, Marilyn says. And if you’ve been to an animal shelter, your cat might detect a lot of other animal scents on you and avoid you. Don’t take it personally.

5. Why do cats sit on you? Your clothes matter!

Marilyn, who has three lap cats, noticed that her cats won’t sit on her when she’s wearing a plastic raincoat. My husband, Mark, noticed that when he wears his soft bathrobe, our cat Maddie, who usually sits on me, will sit on him instead.

I discovered the difference texture can make when a feral cat I helped take care of for about a year finally came and sat on my lap when I was wearing a soft fleece jacket. The first time I tried to pet her, she scratched me. But eventually, she let me pet her. Then she started sitting next to me on a picnic table bench and gradually started letting me pet her while sitting next to me. Then on a cold day, she rubbed up against my fleece jacket and, to my astonishment, climbed onto my lap.

Cats want to be comfortable and warm, Marilyn said when I told her this story, “and she trusted you.”

6. Why do cats sit on you? To show trust.

“They really do have to trust you to sit on your lap,” Marilyn says. She stresses the importance of not making a cat sit on your lap and giving the cat the option to leave. “When you give them that choice of sitting on your lap or not and leaving when they want to, they become more trusting of you.”

Featured Photo:  ©Erica Danger.

Read Next: 5 Fun Reasons for Cat Kneading



14 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Sit On You? Here Are 6 Reasons”

  1. I take care of feral cats and one took 2 yrs. before he jumped onto my lap, and now that's where he always wants to be! One big tom took 3 yrs. before he let me pet him, now he wants sugar all the time!

  2. My lean 20lb tabby sleeps with his arm around the front of my neck, with his face cheek to cheek with mine! While the others sleep on my body , my legs etc.

  3. I have some friends how have a trio of cats. Their names are Dan, Loki, and Thor. Thor is an orange cutie pie with a personality that will melt your heart. His brothers Loki (sky grey/white) and Dan (BIG handsome dude who’s like a brown mackerel tigerish tabby) are very sweet too. In the time that I’ve visited, all 3 have somehow managed to sleep on me twice. It’s the most hilarious & cute thing!!!!! These 3 trust me completely. They can’t seem to get enough of me, which is hilarious!!!

  4. When did the first cat discover the first human lap? Was it in ancient Egypt? Whenever and wherever it was, it’s been a joy ever since.

  5. We adopted a cat from a shelter and she has become really attached to me. She follows me everywhere I go even the bathroom. She sits on the counter even when I do dishes. She plays with my husband and son but is attached at my hip. Its sweet!

  6. Pingback: Why Do Cats Like to Sit on You?-Kittentoob

  7. Chester likes to get on top of me when I’m sleeping, and stretch out and sleep himself. We have several cats, and I think sleeping on me is a way of showing affection (he purrs loud enough to be heard in the next county) and it’s a way of showing possession. He’s making a clear statement that I’m HIS person. I don’t think it’s for protection, because in truth none of the other cats ever mess with Chester. In fact he’s something of a bully to the smaller ones.

  8. My kittens take turns sleeping on me. I have one who continuously flips from left to right on my neck/face and finally settles on my left side in the crook of my arm and turns onto his back exposing his little belly with front paws up and curled – too cute. His sister will knead my shirt and fall asleep. My full grown cat always find a spot to sleep on me. Such personalities on these adorable little ones – too bad they get a bum rap from people who do not know cats.

  9. Pingback: Why Do Cats Sit On You? 6 Reasons | PetTraining.org

  10. Pingback: Why Do Cats Sit On You? 6 Reasons – Info Body

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  12. Cali, my 3+ year old cat loves to sleep on my lap when I sit or lay on the sofa. She will not lay on me at night when we sleep.

    I never thought she would be a lap cat when I first adopted her, because she spent her first month with me staying under the bed, but at night she would sleep next to my pillow and I would hold her paw.

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