Angela Westfall
Your guide to this article today is by cat expert Angela Westfall
Published 15:46 pm

If you’re a cat parent, chances are you’ve seen your feline companion doing some strange things. Bouncing off the walls, squeezing into the smallest possible boxes, stealing socks and other articles of clothing, just to name a few. But one of the most peculiar, albeit also the cutest things that cats do? Lying and sleeping on their owners’ chests. This is actually a pretty common behavior for cats, but going to sleep just to be woken up by your cat sitting on your chest (or worse – head) is quite odd nevertheless. So why do cats do this? While there is no clear-cut answer to this question as every cat is different, there are a few theories on why most cats love sitting and sleeping on their owners’ laps and chests. Here are some of them.

Cat lying on the owners chest

Your Cat Loves You

Let’s start with the most obvious and widely accepted theory on why cats like to lay on their owners: love. Yep, your cat loves you as much – if not more! – as you love them and they show it through various cute behaviors, including licking your hands, rubbing their head against your legs, kneading on your lap and lying on your chest. By sitting and sleeping on your chest, your kitty is looking for a way to strengthen the bond between you two. In other words, it’s a sign for “I love you, human”.

They Seek Security

Your cat may have their own bed, heck they may even have your bed as well, so why do they choose to lay on you? When your pet was a kitten, they slept on and around their mother for food and safety and this kind of behavior can continue well into their adulthood. Because many cats see their human owners as their parents and protectors, they like sleeping near and even on them for – you guessed it – protection. Sure, your feline friend may look all tough and strong when chasing mice, birds or toys, but when it’s time to rest, they’re vulnerable and want some sort of protection to feel safe. After all, cats in the wild are at their most vulnerable while sleeping, so being close to someone who they know and trust makes perfect sense.

Cats Love Warmth

Have you ever noticed that your kitty loves soaking up the sunlight? Even if you live in the apartment, there’s a good chance you’ve seen your cat running to the window first thing in the morning to bathe in the warm rays of sun. That’s because cats love warmth. Even with thick coats, they are known to seek the warmest possible place to sleep in, including close to a fireplace, up on the sunny windowsill, next to a radiator and on their owner’s bed. But the best warm place to sleep on, according to cats? Your chest or lap. Because you’re dissipating warmth, your chest makes for a super-comfy, safe and warm sleeping place that no kitty can refuse.

Your Heartbeat Soothes Them

Another reason why kittens love sleeping on and around their cat momma is because they can hear her heartbeat. While your cat may be an adult, they may have not outgrown this comforting behavior – lying on your chest and hearing your heart beat makes your kitty feel safe and calm, as if they’re sleeping on their mother (which, in some sense, they are!). You’ll be pleased to hear that the opposite is also true – research has shown that a cat’s purr has calming and therapeutic effects on human health. In fact, petting a purring cat can be seen as a form of stress relief, which decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke!

Scottish fold cat lying on the bed

You Are Comfortable

When you’re safe and warm, you’re also comfortable –at least you are to your cat! Especially if you’re wearing a nice, thick sweater or comfy pajamas and you’re lying in your bed. You too would look for the most comfortable place to sleep in if you slept for 15 hours or more a day! On a more serious note, one of the possible reasons why your cat likes sleeping on your chest or belly is simply because you’re comfortable to sleep on. You smell familiar, you’re warm, and it’s always better to nap in company.

Your Cat is Trying to Claim You

If you’re asking the question “what does it mean when a cat lays on you” in hopes of receiving a positive, adorable answer such as “it means they adore you! you may be in for a surprise. Some cats lay on their owners in an effort to claim them for themselves. That’s right, the more you let your cat sit on your chest, the more you are in their possession! Come to think of it, that is adorable.

You may have seen cats do this with other objects as well, such as their toys, couches and beds, even your clothes. It’s no wonder why felines do this – they’re very territorial, after all. By lying and sitting on things (and people), cats are covering them with their scent, which in a way, is claiming them as their own.

Don’t Let Your Cat Sleep on You For Long Periods of Time

While adorable, your cat sleeping or just laying on your chest is not something you want for a long period of time. Here is why.

  • You can get your chest clawed: anyone who’s ever watched cat sleep knows that from time to time they like to stretch, letting their claws come out during the process. Naturally, you don’t want your cat clawing at your chest because one, it’s painful, and two, being woken up every few minutes cannot be good for your sleep hygiene.
  • You’ll be woken up frequently: to continue on the previous disadvantage, being woken up every few minutes or hours is not good for your health. Research shows that interrupted sleepis so bad that it’s actually worse than short sleep! And even if your kitty is unusually calm and quiet while sleeping, cats generate a lot of warmth when sleeping which can feel incredibly hot within minutes, waking you up from your sleep.
  • You won’t be able to breathe deeply: while sleeping, you want to be able to breathe deeply and properly but you won’t able to do that with an adult cat on laying on your chest. Sure, kittens may be ok for a while, but adult cats can soon feel too heavy and restricting on your chest.
  • You may get allergies: besides being furry, our feline companions also have quite a bit of dander (dead skin cells) which can cause health problems such as allergies in some people. Sleeping with your cat so close to your face means that you’ll be inhaling some hair and dander, which after traveling to your lungs, can cause breathing problems. It’s important to note that all cats have dander, even those that are brushed ad bathed regularly (although it’s safe to say that those kitties have fewer dead skin cells and hair).
  • You may crush your cat: finally, sleeping with your pet in bed is not a good idea for them either as you can easily turn over during sleep and crush your poor kitty. Don’t worry, it’s highly unlikely you’ll kill your cat like this (unless it’s a very young kitten), but you may injure them.

What to do if you own a cat that loves lying and sleeping on your chest because they equate it with comfort, security and love? There’s a compromise to be made – pet beds. Get a soft, comfortable cat bed with a heating feature if your kitty enjoys the warmth and put it next to your own bed. This way, your pet will still feel safe, comfy and close to you, but it won’t interrupt your sleep. Of course, you can always simply let your kitty sleep on your chest for a short while and then transfer them to their bed or favorite sleeping spot!

Cat and owner lying

FAQ:

Why Does My Cat Sleep Between My Legs?

For your cat, sleeping between your legs is pretty much the same as sleeping in a hammock is to you – super-comfy, safe and soothing. Your legs create a sort of a shielded place where your kitty can safely nap and sleep for as long as they like. Of course, in reality, they cannot sleep like this for a long time simply because there’s a chance of you kicking them in your sleep! For this reason, it’s best to let your cat sleep between your legs only while you’re awake (reading a book, watching TV, etc.).

Why Does My Cat Sleep in My Bed?

Cats are at their most vulnerable when sleeping, which is why they like to look for safe and comfortable places to sleep in. Sometimes, that place can be their owner’s bed. And why not when the bed smells like their human parent, is comfy, warm and most importantly safe? Well, one of the reasons why you may not want your kitty sleeping in your bed is because of their dirty paws. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about this if you own an indoor cat and you keep your floors ad carpets clean!

Why Does My Cat Sleep on My Chest?

If you don’t have the time to read the entire article and want a short and sweet answer, it’s because you’re warm, comfortable, familiar and safe. Your cat also loves you and sleeping next to or on you strengthens your bond. Sometimes though, it’s because your cat is trying to claim you.

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Angela Westfall
Angela has fostered, adopted, screened and saved cats for over 15 years. She is known as one of Central Ohio’s most passionate and knowledgeable cat enthusiasts. Her rescue, Angels Assisting Felines has partnerships with PetSmart and PetSuppliesPlus to help more cats find great homes.

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