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Why Does My Cat Sleep On My Legs?

Curling up with a fuzzy, purring friend is one of the joys of being a cat owner. There’s nothing quite so calming and relaxing as leaning back in your armchair while your cat dozes on your knees. Not all cats are lap-cats, of course, but some absolutely love to go to sleep on your lap. Other cats prefer to wait until you’re lying down before draping themselves over your legs. It’s common for cat owners to wonder exactly why their pets are choosing to do this. What’s so special about a human’s legs that they are deemed the perfect sleeping spot?

Why does my cat sleep on my legs? Your cat might sleep on your legs for a number of reasons. A person’s legs are warm and comfortable. Your lap is a familiar spot where your cat feels safe. If you’re lying down, your legs provide a slight elevation for your cat to perch on.

You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about your cat’s sleeping habits. Maybe you’re wondering why your cat likes to sleep curled up in your lap. Maybe your cat likes to lie across your legs when you’re in bed. Perhaps your cat likes to wrap herself around your ankles when you’ve got your feet up. Maybe you’re concerned that your cat has some kind of issue that’s making her clingy, or perhaps you’re just curious about this aspect of feline behaviour. Read on, because we have all the answers that you’ve been looking for.

Why Does My Cat Sleep on My Legs?

Some cats are inveterate lap cats. My American Shorthair and my domestic shorthair are both cuddle bugs and love nothing more than to climb onto my lap. The domestic shorthair, a rescue, is especially clingy, and can sometimes get quite fractious if I try to dislodge her before she’s done with nap time. My British Shorthair boy prefers to get comfy on a nearby perch, where he can watch me, or lean against my leg while sitting next to me. He’s a very typical British Shorthair in that regard.

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There are a lot of reasons why your cat might choose to sleep on your legs. The first and most obvious is simply that your legs make a nice warm spot for napping. Cats are drawn to warm areas for sleep. You might also have seen your cat dozing in a sunbeam, on top of the radiator, or trying to get comfortable on top of your computer. They just love to curl up somewhere cosy.

Cats are also social creatures, and it’s very normal for them to want to be close to you and enjoy your company. Your cat might feel safer sleeping on your legs than in her bed. She sees you as a friend and caregiver and trusts you to look after her while she sleeps. It’s quite touching, really — although it can be a bit inconvenient if you have things to do other than be a cat bed. It’s particularly tricky if you have one of those cats who tries to resist removal by digging her claws into your thighs. Detaching a particularly tenacious cat, one set of sharp little needles at a time, can be a delicate process.

Some cats really don’t like being left alone and have figured out that if they’re sleeping on your legs, you might be a bit more reluctant to get up. It’s a form of kitty direct action. My cats know when it’s time for me to go out, and will resort to all sorts of tricks to try and keep my home: jumping into my lap if I happen to sit down, parking themselves on top of my work bag, or engaging my shoelaces in mortal combat.

Sometimes your cat will insist on lying across your legs when you lie down. There are a lot of reasons for this. For one thing, cats often want to be in the room with you when you sleep, at least for part of the night. They like to keep an eye on you when you’re in bed. I’ve had to make my bedroom a cat-free zone as a concession to my allergies, but when my cats were still allowed in, my American Shorthair used to love lying across my knees or finding a comfy spot on the end of the bed.

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As well as presenting a warm spot for a cat to lie on, your legs are usually slightly elevated from the bed. This makes them attractive to cats, who often like a perch that they can see the rest of the room from. Cats love to play “king of the castle”, sitting in spots that give them a height advantage.

Why Did My Cat Suddenly Start Sleeping on My Legs?

We’ve seen that sleeping on your legs is simply a part of normal feline behaviour. It’s not usually something to worry about, just something that cats like to do. Sometimes, though, sleeping on your legs can represent a change in behaviour, and that might be something you need to investigate.

Cats sometimes seek closer contact when they’re not feeling well. It’s common for cats to slink off when they’re sick or injured, finding a quiet place where they can recuperate, but sometimes the reverse happens and they want to be as close to their favourite people as possible. Check your cat over for signs of injury or ill-health. These can include blood or discharge in her fur, joints that feel hot or swollen, and inflammation or discharge around the eyes or nose. If your cat seems thinner than usual or is showing signs of lethargy or fever, you should talk to your vet and make sure everything’s okay. Cats are masters when it comes to hiding their symptoms, especially when it comes to injuries, so you may need to make a special effort to spot the signs.

Sometimes it may simply be part of your cat’s developmental process. Skittish “teenaged” cats (under a year old) often calm down and become more affectionate as they mature. Senior kitties often become more cuddly in later life, although the reverse can certainly happen too. One of my older cats was terribly standoffish until her later years when she wanted nothing more than to snuggle up on my lap.

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How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Sleeping on My Legs?

While a slumbering cat on your lap can be very restful, you might find that having your cat sleep on your legs all the time gets a little inconvenient. Some cats are quite heavy and having them lie on your legs can become uncomfortable. If your cat insists on lying across your shins every time you go to bed, consider keeping her out of the room at night. As I say, I’ve had to make my own bedroom a cat-free zone due to my feline dander allergy, but waking up with pins and needles is another good reason to leave your cat outside the room at night.

If your cat struggles to sleep anywhere other than your lap, there are things you can do to help her relax elsewhere. It may be that she’s craving the heat from your lap, so providing her with a heating pad for her pet bed might help. Cats who are clingy often respond well to having an item that carries your smell; an old sweater or t-shirt, placed in her bed, might make an alternative sleeping location more appealing.

If I don’t want my cats to jump into my lap, I find that keeping an object on my knees when I sit down usually deters them. I use a TV tray with a padded base and a smooth surface, which my cats don’t like much. This lets me sit down in peace without acquiring any feline ballast.

As long as your cat isn’t responding to a health issue, though, there’s no real reason to stop her sleeping on your legs. It won’t do her any harm and can be quite pleasant. You may wish to invest in a lint roller if she makes a habit of it.