Cats are known for getting themselves into all kinds of awkward and contorted positions. From sitting in the cat loaf pose to having their legs behind their heads, their flexibility and strange ideas of what constitutes as comfortable is truly endearing.
Of all these strange positions, one of the most hilarious is when you see your cat sitting like a human. It’s a pretty funny sight to behold and always puts a smile on my face! Sitting on their bottoms with their hindlegs sprawled in front and their bodies upright, it is a distinctive person-like position. In fact, it looks as if they’re copying us!
There is no science behind why cats sit a certain way, and there’s no way we can tell if they are copying us or not! As far as scientists are concerned, cats are probably just sitting this way as it feels comfortable.
However, in this article, I have come up with some other pretty strong theories that could explain this behavior. These are just theories, but have a read and see if you think any could apply. If not, simply sit back and giggle and your feline’s human-like behavior.
Why Do Cats Sit Like Humans?
1. They’re Copying You
Whenever I see my cat sitting like me, I always giggle to myself and joke that she is copying me. However, there may actually be some truth in this! It is possible that cats sitting upright have observed this behavior from people and are replicating it themselves.
Now, the scientific evidence supporting this is weak, but it is there. Some studies have found that cats that live with humans often adopt the same schedule and routine as their owners. Think about it – does your cat often go to bed when you do? This is a prime example of them copying us!
Cats are naturally crepuscular creatures and are most active at dusk and dawn, with some showing more nocturnal sleeping patterns. However, many domestic cats have diurnal routines, sleeping through the night and waking in the morning. This is not something that comes instinctively to them, but rather is a result of them copying our routines.
This mimicking of our routines is not solely reserved for sleeping schedules either. Many pet cats will eat their food at the same time as their humans do. My cat even follows me to the bathroom to use the litter box at the same time as I go to the toilet! They are clearly watching, observing, and learning from us, altering their routines to match.
More interestingly, other studies have discovered cats can mimic more than just routines – they can also copy specific behaviors. In one experiment, a cat called Ebisu started imitating her owner’s behavior. The owner would stand in front of Ebisu and touch a cardboard box with either her hand or her face. İn 81% of cases, the cat would mimic this, touching the box with either her paw or her face, respectively.
This study shows cats can copy behavior, and also suggests they have the ability to “map out” our body parts to their own anatomy. In other words, they know their front paws are comparable to our hands, their heads are comparable to ours, and their hindquarters are comparable to our legs.
In this way, there is a real possibility that cats sitting like humans are copying their owners. They have seen people in this pose, paid attention to the position of their body parts, and decided to try it out for themselves. Take it as a good thing – it’s your cat’s way of trying to be just like you! And there is no better form of flattery than imitation.
2. As a Sign of Trust
Another theory why you might see your cat sitting upright like a human is linked with trust. When cats are in this position – sitting upright with their backs slouched and legs spread out in front of them – it takes quite a lot of effort for them to work their way onto all four paws.
How does this indicate trust? Well, although cats are predators of small rodents, they are the prey of much larger animals. As such, they rarely put themselves in positions or scenarios that are difficult to get out of in case a predator appears or another threatening situation unfolds. They need to be able to quickly run away or get out those claws to fight their attacker off.
When you see cats sitting like humans, neither of these two things are really possible. This makes this pose one of the most vulnerable positions a cat can take. Moreover, their stomach is facing upward, the most dangerous area for them to get hurt as inside it is all of their vital organs.
Cats will only assume vulnerable positions such as this when they feel 100% safe and secure. They need to be certain that there are no threats nearby, otherwise sitting like this could be a huge risk. Even though there are no real threats to be found in your home, this instinctive behavior to protect themselves has been passed onto domestic cats through years of evolution.
Therefore, your cat sitting upright is a sign of trust – they trust you completely and feel very content in your home, so keep doing whatever it is you’re doing! They are obviously living very happy and content lives and no that no matter what comes their way, you’ll be there to protect them.
3. They’re Self-Grooming
Cats are meticulous self-groomers – one of the very reasons I love cats more than dogs. They have strong standards of personal hygiene and use their rough sandpaper-like tongues to remove all dirt and debris from their fur coats.
In fact, cats are so intent on keeping clean that they spend at least five hours every day washing every inch of their bodies. To ensure they don’t miss a spot of dirt, they contort their bodies into all kinds of strange positions. To clean their private parts, they’ll stick their legs high in the air, whereas they’ll curl their head behind to reach their back.
One of the best positions for a cat to reach its stomach is when it sits upright like a human. From here, your cat can easily bend its tongue and head towards its belly. We humans might have a hard time licking our stomachs, but our flexible feline friends find it easy!
Therefore, if you see your cat sitting like a human, there is a high chance they are midway through a grooming session. They have simply paused cleaning themselves and will resume washing their tummies in a few minutes. Alternatively, your cat may have just finished self-grooming but is too lazy to move out of this funny position right away.
4. To Cool Down
Cats do have a slightly higher core body temperature than humans and seek out all the warm spots in your home. However, even they can get a little too warm from time to time and have certain behaviors in place to help their body return to the optimal temperature. This is vital in preventing your kitty from overheating and potentially getting heatstroke.
Some of the ways cats cool themselves down include:
- Moving to a well-ventilated and shady spot in your home, such as on a cool tiled floor
- Avoiding direct sunlight, radiators, and other warm areas in your house
- Releasing sweat from their paw pads which evaporates and has a cooling effect
- Grooming more than usual, with the evaporation of saliva cooling their skin
- Panting with an open mouth if they are extremely warm
- Sleeping or sitting in positions that are stretched out rather than curled up
Cats sitting like humans could be doing so as a way to cool themselves down. When sitting in this upright position, your cat’s stomach is facing upwards and outwards. However, in most other positions, their belly will either be pressed against the floor or tucked behind their legs. This can make it difficult for the air to reach this area.
As such, a cat sitting like a human could be doing so as it is one of the only poses that allows them to air out their tummy. Cool air reaching a hot part of your cat’s body will have a cooling effect. Alternatively, your cat may sploot on a cold hard floor or stretch out on their side, allowing as much heat as possible to escape from their bodies.
Moreover, cats cannot sweat from all over their bodies as humans do. Therefore, they lick their coats more when they’re warm. The saliva will evaporate from their coats and produce the same cooling effect as sweat evaporating from a human’s skin. As cats can easily groom their stomach and lower regions when sitting like a human, this enhances the cooling effect further.
In this way, cats can cool down quickly before they overheat. Still, you must keep an eye out for symptoms of overheating. Is your cat breathing heavily while resting? Are they panting and drooling? Are they grooming excessively or struggling to get comfortable?
These are all signs your cat may need a little help cooling down. To aid them, create a cool, dark, well-ventilated room for your cat to cool down in. Be sure to provide them with plenty of water and try to encourage them to drink. You can even brush your kitty with a cold damp cloth if they still appear to be struggling. The water from the cloth will evaporate from their skin, leaving them feeling cooler.
If your cat still can’t cool down, call your veterinarian immediately as they could have heatstroke. This is where their bodies go beyond the point of being able to cool down and their body temperature continues to rise rapidly. Their heart rate and respiratory rate will get faster and faster, and they can potentially collapse, go into a coma, or die if they don’t receive medical attention.
5. It’s Comfortable
Even though cats are imitating humans when sitting like this, to people many it still looks uncomfortable. While human bodies are designed to sit this way, it is not so normal for our feline friends. Surely this comical pose is anything but comfortable for them?
However, cats are extremely flexible, and there is a chance you see cats sitting like humans as it simply feels comfortable to them. After all, why would any cat sit in any position? In most cases, the answer is because it feels good.
All cats have their own definition of what is comfortable and what isn’t. Most cats will change their position depending on what feels good at the time, the temperature of the room, and their current mental state. For example, when cold outside cats will sleep curled up in a tight ball next to the radiator, whereas a stressed cat will sit upright and alert so they can be aware of their surroundings.
Despite this, most cats will still have an ultimate favorite pose they keep returning to. Some cats like sleeping on their backs, whereas others prefer being curled up into a tight ball. It may just be that sitting upright is your cat’s favorite pose. To them, this position feels great!
With their legs outstretched and back curved, it will give them a nice stretch along their limbs and spine. Perhaps they need to stretch their muscles after a big play session or adventure outside. In any case, let them stretch and enjoy themselves. Meanwhile, you can have a little giggle at how funny they look!
6. They’re Seeking Attention
Cats are master manipulators and know how to win our hearts. When sitting upright like this, we immediately stop what we are doing to watch, take a photo, or show them some loving. It’s so adorable to see that we simply cannot help it!
Cats being the clever creatures that they are could have learned that whenever they sit like this people flock towards them. They now use it as a tool to gain our attention and affection. And sure enough, it works – they have got us wrapped around their little fingers.
If your cat is seeking your attention, why not try petting them and showing them some lovin’? However, be wary that your cat’s tummy is one of their most sensitive areas. Despite their stomach being exposed to you, they may not want you to touch it and would rather you petted them elsewhere on their bodies.
This, of course, all depends on the personality of your cat. My cat loves belly rubs and I always tickle her tummy in this position. On the other hand, yours might feel immediately threatened or overstimulated and lash out when you touch its belly.
My best advice here is simply to learn your cat’s likes and dislikes. This way you can give them the type of petting they’re looking for. At the same time, you’re less likely to get accidentally injured by a stressed-out cat who has just been touched in the wrong areas!
Who Was The Tombili Sitting Cat?
Many cat owners have seen their cats sitting upright like a human. Those that haven’t have no doubt seen the memes online. The internet is scattered with thousands of images of cats in this comical pose – everyone seems to love this funny human-like position. And can you blame them?
However, there was one cat in particular that made this pose break the internet – a cat called Tombili. She was one of the many street cats of Istanbul. Turkey is known for its street cat population, but these felines are different from the stray or feral cats you may imagine. They’re a part of Turkish urban culture and many locals love these cats as if they were their pets.
The people of Istanbul took a particular liking for Tombili, a friendly cat that roamed the streets for nearly ten years. During these years, she was essentially a pet to many people living in the neighborhood. They fed and looked after her, took care of any health issues, and provided a warm home in the cooler winter months
In case you haven’t guessed it yet, one of the favorite positions for Tombili to laze around in is this upright position that resembles a human. This is partially why the locals loved her so much! Her laidback lifestyle and relaxed pose became a symbol for the street. Besides, she was super chubby which made this stomach-out pose even more funny and endearing.
At one point, a photo of Tombili the cat sitting like a human got posted on the internet. From then, she was not only loved by the locals but by the world! This triggered a sudden surge of owners from all corners of the globe to start sharing pictures of their beloved cats in this same pose.
Tombili sadly passed away in August 2016. However, a bronze statue has been erected on the street in her memory after 17,000 people signed a petition for the monument. The statue is a lifesize sculpture of her made by a local artist. Hundreds of people visit the monument to pay their respects. Long live Tombili the sitting cat!
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Although there is no science as to why cats sit like this, all six of my theories offer great explanations. However, they are just theories and maybe you have your own ideas as to why your cat sits like this. There’s a lot about our feline friends we may never know for sure, but it’s these curious qualities that make us love them so much!
In any case, this pose won’t do your cat any harm and doesn’t indicate any form of illness. Take it as proof your cat feels safe, is comfortable, and wants to be just like their favorite person – you! After all, imitation is the best form of flattery!