I don’t know about you, but one of my cat’s favorite places to sleep is between my legs. Every night when I head to bed she decides to curl up on my lap or between my legs and fall fast asleep. I love that she wants to be that closer to me, and am grateful for this wonderful bonding moment.
The other day I suddenly asked myself the reason for this behavior. I’d always assumed it was a sign of affection, just as you’d cuddle your partner when going to sleep. But is this true?
As it turns out, there is a pretty logical explanation to this question; my cat sleeps on my legs as it provides safety, warmth, and comfort. Some people also suggest sleeping here could be a way of your cat claiming ownership of you, whereas others note how their cats exhibit this behavior more when they’re feeling stressed and anxious.
Although I love it when my cat does this, I know it isn’t for everyone! So, I also share my tips on what to do if you’d rather not be pinned down by your kitty each night.
Why Does My Cat Sleep Between My Legs?
1. Safety & Security
The primary reason is for safety and security. Nothing bad will likely happen to your cat while they snooze, but in the wild, this isn’t the case. When wild cats are asleep they are in their most vulnerable state, unable to fight or run if a predator were to pounce.
No predators are lurking in your home, but these instinctive feelings of vulnerability when sleeping are passed down to domestic cats. Therefore, cats search for the safest place possible to have a kip. As their owner who they love and trust, their safe space is with you! They know you will protect them if anything bad was to happen – isn’t that lovely!
Sleeping between your legs is often preferable over simply sleeping next to you as it offers even more protection. Your cat can snuggle up against your legs, surrounded from both sides. This is comparable to how cats love sitting in cardboard boxes – it is cozy and secure, keeping them safe from any threats as they sleep.
2. Scent Communication
Cats are very territorial creatures that claim ownership of their space by using scent. They spread their scent by rubbing special chemicals called pheromones on places and objects they wish to claim as theirs. Humans cannot detect these pheromones, but other cats will immediately know the place or item belongs to another cat and get the message to stay away.
When you’re lying down in bed, it is the ideal opportunity for your cat to rub these pheromones all over you. Cats get in your face when you sleep to do this, but also sleep between your legs to transfer their scent onto you, marking you as their own. By doing so, they’re claiming ownership of you.
To humans, this “claiming ownership” might sound strange, but it’s your cat’s way of making sure you give your undivided love and attention to them and them alone. They want you all to themselves and scent communication and territorial marking is one way to secure this.
Moreover, if you have more than one kitty, you may notice only one of them sleeps on your legs. This is because they’ve marked your lap as their sleeping spot. The pheromones they’ve left behind have given your other cats the message to find somewhere else to sleep.
3. Warmth & Comfort
Cats love being warm and have a slightly higher core body temperature than humans, thus will seek out the hottest spot in your home when going to sleep. When the sun goes down, the warmest spot is often on you!
We radiate body heat which cats can feel when sleeping on our legs or snuggled up between them. This makes them feel warm and cozy, giving them a better chance of getting a good night’s sleep. We act as their very own hot water bottle for the night.
Between your legs isn’t the only place a cat may seek warmth. My cat sleeps on my chest for the same feelings of warmth and comfort. If your cat can’t get comfortable sleeping on you, they may decide to try elsewhere altogether. In these cases, cats cover their faces when they sleep and curl up tight to help them feel warm and snug.
4. Good Vantage Point
Sometimes, my cat doesn’t sleep between my legs – she sleeps on top of them! This carries with it many of the same advantages, including warmth, safety, and comfort. However, it also has an additional benefit in providing a great vantage point for your cat to get a clear view of the room.
A cat’s preference for sleeping on an elevated surface is an instinctive behavior. In the wild, sitting on raised platforms gives cats the best views of what is going on below, allowing them to keep tabs on their prey and predators. Although domestic cats aren’t on the lookout, they still get the same feelings of comfort and contentment when sleeping up high.
Your legs may not seem like a particularly high surface in your room. However, they’re higher than the floor and higher than your bed, making them potentially the best comfortable option. This position allows your cat to see what is going on around them on the bed and the floor below.
5. Stress & Anxiety
Unfortunately, it isn’t always a good sign when a cat sleeps between your legs; this is one of the cat sleeping positions when sick that may be linked with stress and anxiety. An anxious kitty will often become more territorial and clingy with its owners, sleeping as close to them as possible. This could be between your legs, on your chest, or anywhere else nearby.
If your cat is stressed or anxious, there are other signs you can look out for as well. Is your cat sleeping more than usual? Are they failing to use their litter box? Have there been other behavior changes or increased vocalizations? These are all symptoms of cat anxiety!
If your cat is sleeping between your legs due to stress, you should try and pinpoint the cause so it can be eliminated. Perhaps there has been a new person or animal in your home. Even small changes to the type of litter or cat food you use can cause your cat to feel anxious and uncomfortable. Cats are creatures of habits and the smallest changes can be hard to manage.
Where possible, try to remove the stressor from your cat’s environment to help them feel at ease again. Providing several high and enclosed places for your cat to hide when they’re feeling threatened is also a great idea. Moreover, plenty of exciting toys and puzzles can help cats with separation anxiety beat boredom when home alone.
6. A Bonding Exercise
Cats may be known for being aloof and independent, but they are still social creatures that need love and affection. They’re using bedtime as a bonding exercise to form a closer relationship with you.
Sleeping between your legs may be a strange way to form a friendship, but this is normal in the feline world. In a pride of lions and other groups of big cats, it is common to see the cats curl up together to sleep. If you have a multicat household, you may notice your cats like to sleep together too. This behavior is known as “pillowing“.
Often, cats purr when they sleep in sync when they’re pillowing as a way of strengthening that family bond even more. This relates to when kittens and their mothers use purring as a way of communication and mother-child love. However, many adult cats that live together still exhibit this behavior.
If you only have one cat in your household, your cat may be using you as an alternative to snuggling up with other feline friends. Take it as a compliment! It’s a sure sign of trust and affection and a demonstration of their willingness to become your best friend. That is if they aren’t already!
7. For Deep Sleep
Deep sleep is vital for cats. It is during this stage of sleep that their bodies can heal, grow, and develop. It enables them to regain energy and promotes physical recovery, so they can wake up feeling fresh and alert.
Your lap provides everything a cat needs to make falling into a deep sleep possible. Besides, if your cat sleeps between your legs regularly your bed will smell of her scent, further making her feel at ease.
If you pay close attention, you may notice signs that your cat is in deep sleep. Their body position will be relaxed and they will seem completely unaware of their surrounding environment. They may also cover their face with their paw as a way to block out light and noise whilst getting extra cozy.
Once in a deep sleep, cats will cycle between this and another stage of sleep called REM sleep. This type of sleep is thought to be important in memory and learning. Does your cat twitch in her sleep? If so, your cat is likely in REM sleep, the stage of the sleep cycle that dreaming happens.
8. A Safer Option
When sleeping on your chest, when you roll over your kitty will be woken up and forced to move off. Conversely, when a cat sleeps next to you they run the risk of you rolling on top of them in the night.
With all things considered, sleeping between your legs seems like a safe and preferable option for a cat that is intent on sharing your bed. You can turn from side to side without disturbing your kitty too much, allowing them to catch up on the sleep they need. They may be nudged gently out the way, but that’s about as bad as it gets!
What to Do When My Cat Sleeps on My Legs
I love that my cat sleeps between my legs. I see it as a sign of trust and affection, and I am more than happy to let her sleep there if it helps her feel secure and content. It doesn’t disrupt my sleep – I even sleep better knowing my cat is safe and happy.
However, you might find it annoying! Maybe it stops you from getting comfortable or perhaps having your cat on your bed continually wakes you up throughout the night. If this is the case, you’ll need to try and encourage your cat to sleep elsewhere. And for them to be persuaded, their alternative option needs to be spot on.
Here are just a few suggestions in creating an irresistible bed that your cat can’t say no to:
- Place a microwavable heat pad on your cat’s bed to provide them with an alternative source of warmth while they sleep.
- Take some of your bedding or old items of clothing that carry your scent and place these on top of the heat pad. This will remind your kitty of you and make them feel content.
- The bed itself should have high sides so that your cat feels enclosed and safe while sleeping. If you can’t afford a new pet bed, try placing their old bed inside a cardboard box which has the same effect.
- Ideally, the bed should be placed on an elevated platform that is higher than the height of your bed. This could be on a bedside table or a chest of drawers.
Even with these tips, your cat might take a little while to adjust to its new sleeping place. If they insist on sleeping in your bed, your next best option is to try to keep them far away from you. Place the heat pad on the corner of the mattress as far from you as possible and they will hopefully start using this portion of the bed instead of between your legs.
Please note that the above advice applies only to cats, not kittens. You may want to let your kitten sleep in your bed, especially on their first night at your new home. However, you should never allow this to happen. Your large bed can stress them out, they could fall off the bed in the night, or an un-litter trained kitten might have accidents in your bed!
So, where should kittens sleep at night? When you first get your kitten, they should be sleeping in a single room that contains everything they need – a bed, food, water, and a litter tray. It’s also vital that the room is clear of trailing wires or toxic substances which mischievous kittens could play with.
In terms of their bed itself, kittens like all the same things as adult cats. Opt for a high-sided comfortable bed and place it in a warm part of your home free from drafts. However, be sure to select one that’s small in size. A bed that is too large will make your kitten feel uncomfortable and they might be unable to sleep.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Cats love the feeling of warmth, safety, and security, besides it being a great option for anxious cats or those that want a deep sleep.
If you’re happy with your cat sleeping in your bed, let them be and enjoy your kitty cuddles. Otherwise, try using the tips above to provide an alternative bed they simply can’t say no to.