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6 reasons why cats like laps and how to encourage them to sit on yours

long haired cat sitting on woman's lap

Even nervous cats can learn to love sitting on your lap! 

© evrymmnt - Shutterstock

Is there any better feeling in the world than a cat choosing to sit on your lap rather than on their bed, or on someone else’s lap? We didn’t think so. But why do they do this?

By Justine Seraphin

Published on the 12/09/2021, 17:00

Having a cat choose your lap to nap on must be one of the most empowering feelings in the world. Why? Because unlike dogs, it takes quite a bit of trust for a cat to decide they’re ready to cuddle with you. It may take time to get there, though some cats may never be lap cats.

So why do some cats like to sit on laps? Why do others steer clear of them? And how can you encourage a cat to sit on your lap? Don’t worry, we’ve got all the answers right here for you.

Why does my cat sit on my lap?

There are many reasons why your cat may like to sit on your lap - and most of them have to do with comfort!

1. You’re warm

If you have a cat, then you know how much they love warmth! They love to sit by the radiator in the winter and in any ray of sunshine they can find in the summer. Your legs are like perfectly sized and temperate radiators for your cat. Perfect for relaxing!

2. Your clothes are comfortable

What you wear matters! If you’re wearing rough denim or a vinyl raincoat for example, your cat is much less likely to pick your lap to sit on. If you have a fuzzy blanket on you, however, your lap may start to look a lot more appealing!

3. You smell and sound good

Cats are extremely sensitive to sounds and smells so if they like your body odour or your voice, you may be their spot of choice for a good nap. On the contrary, if they’re not a fan of your perfume or the pitch and volume of your voice, they may steer clear of you.

4. They love you

Yes, despite their reputation as being independent and aloof, cats are capable of love, just like dogs! In fact, most cats crave attention and feel lonely when their owners aren’t around. By sitting on your lap, they’re almost guaranteed that you’re going to pay attention to them, whether this is by gently talking to them or scratching them behind the ears! 

5. They’re marking you

Cats are also very territorial animals. They like to deposit their pheromones on various things in their environment so they know what “belongs to them”; AKA, where they are safe. If your cat likes to rub their face on you, they may be depositing facial pheromones on you. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean they don’t love you! 

6. They trust you

Sitting on your lap is definitely a sign of trust. Cats are in a vulnerable position and are subject to your every move! Putting themselves in this position means they really trust you. Don’t take it for granted!

Why does my cat sit on my husband's lap, but not mine?

Cats always prioritize their safety and comfort, especially when it comes to sleeping, since it puts them in such a vulnerable position. Because of this, they will choose to sit on the person that makes them feel safest and most comfortable! This could be someone with a bigger lap where they can stretch out more, or someone who radiates more body heat. It could be that a man’s deeper voice is more appealing to them, or that they’ve bonded more with the male owner. 

Whatever the case, don’t take it personally - just like us, cats can take more of a liking to certain people in the family. There are ways you can encourage them to sit on your lap too, though.

Why does my cat sit on my lap and then bite me?

It seems a bit contradictory, but remember, cats (and seniors in particular) are extremely sensitive! Your cat’s biting has more to do with you petting them than the fact that they’re sitting on your lap. Indeed, it could be that you pet them in a spot they don’t like to be touched. Repetitive stroking could also cause static electricity on your cat’s coat, and a small shock could induce a defensive response from them. 

Another reason for your cat biting you when you pet them is that they are overstimulated by your petting. The attention they’re getting from you has gotten them into a playful mood and now they want to initiate play by giving you a little bite! This is especially the case for cats who were encouraged to playfight with human hands as kittens…

Don’t let any of these reasons stop you from petting your cat! Petting them is great for your relationship, strengthening the bond between you! The trick is to know the signs that your cat is starting to feel uncomfortable: Tail swishing, tense muscles, widening eyes - these could all be signs that your cat isn’t feeling good and you should stop petting for a little while. Get to know your pet, their likes and dislikes, and hopefully, you’ll be able to keep biting to a minimum in the future!

Will my cat ever sit in my lap?

If your cat doesn’t sit on your lap, not to worry, there are ways you can encourage them to do so. However, please remember that if a cat isn’t sitting on your lap, it could be because they have lacked socialisation or positive associations with humans in the past - and they probably don’t trust you enough yet. Plus, some cats are just naturally independent and prefer to do their own thing than to sit on their human’s lap and cuddle. But if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, here’s what you can do to encourage your cat to sit on your lap:

1. Stay still

If your cat is nervous about sitting on your lap, constant movement is not going to encourage them to come towards you. The calmer you are, the more tempted they will be by your lap!

2. Wear something comfortable and comforting

If you place a soft blanket on your lap, it will be hard for your cat to resist! Particularly if your cat often sits on this blanket elsewhere, and the blanket is therefore covered in their pheromones.

3. Use treats as a lure

Treats will work wonders in this situation! Make a little trail of treats towards you, and place a few treats next to you. If your cat is brave enough to get close to you, make sure you remain calm and don’t scare them away. Over time, you can start to place treats on your lap and maybe even feed them to your cat out of your hand. When your cat places a paw on you or sits on you for the first time, make sure you reward that behaviour with lots of extra treats and scratches (if they like that!).

4. Don’t force anything on them

The worst thing you can do to get a cat to trust you is to force them into having a relationship with you. If your cat chooses to sit on your lap, and you then try to hold them there and stop them from leaving, they are very unlikely to remember that as a positive experience. Giving animals a choice is very important for their welfare. Always make sure your cat has the option to leave if they wish to. The more freedom you give your cat, the more likely they are to enjoy your company!

With all of these tips in mind, we’re sure you and your cat will soon enjoy a great cuddle session!

Frequently asked questions

What are some lap cat breeds?

Are male cats more affectionate?

Why do cats sit with their back to you?