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.
Cats like warmth, and people’s laps are generally warm, Marilyn says.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
Thumbnail: Photography ©Erica Danger.
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.