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Why do cats sleep on you?

Why do cats sleep on your lap? Tabby cat asleep on man's lap
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve ever wondered why cats sleep on you rather than in their beds, you aren’t alone. Many cats live in luxury when it comes to sleeping arrangements because we provide them with so many options! From the best cat beds and cat cushions to cosy armchairs and freshly made beds, as cat owners, we always do our best to ensure our favourite feline’s comfort! 

So why, with all the other options available, do cats still choose to sleep on our laps? Well, it turns out that it’s the ultimate compliment.

They feel safe

When your cat is in the land of nod, they’re unaware of their surroundings and therefore unable to defend themselves against any potential threats. For this reason, sleep is a time when a cat is at their most vulnerable and unprotected. The fact that your cat is willing to sleep on you, and expose their vulnerability, means not only that they do not perceive you as a threat, but also that they trust you to keep them safe from any dangers.

They love you

When your cat sleeps on you, it is a sign that they love you, and by sleeping and relaxing on you, they are helping that bond to grow. You may even find that they purr and knead on your lap before eventually giving in to sleep, which is the purrfect sign of feline affection!

You’re warm and cosy

Your body temperature combined with the softness of your lap provides a comfortable environment that is great for a catnap. Your cat enjoys your company and when they feel the warmth from your body as they sleep, it reminds them that you’re near and that they’re safe. 

You remind them of kittenhood

Cats are used to sleeping in groups. When they’re kittens, they curl up together with their mum after feeding, sharing each other’s body heat and reassuring each other. Whilst they slept alongside their littermates, they would have been able to hear their little squeaks as well as the sound of their breathing and their heartbeats. So, the sound of your breathing and your heartbeat will be a source of comfort to them, helping them to relax and reminding them of when they were with their mother.

You belong to them!

There are lots of behaviours that cats do to mark their territory. They have scent glands on their face, paws, and tail base, as well as some other areas, and by kneading or head butting, they transfer their scent onto objects that are ‘theirs’. When they sleep, there’s a lot of contact between them and you, meaning that a lot of their scent will be transferred to you. This is a great compliment since it means that they don't want to share the best sleeping spot with anyone else, and they want to keep you all to themselves!

So, why does your cat always sleep on you?

The special bond that you have with your cat means that they love and trust you as a sleeping companion and are willing to show you their vulnerable side. They feel comforted by your warmth and your presence and feel safe in your company. For your cat, your lap is the perfect spot for a snooze. Just don’t go sharing it with any other cats!

Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS

Dr Hannah Godfrey is a small animal vet with a love of dentistry and soft tissue surgery. She lives in Wales with her partner, son, and their two cats.