Cat lovers know that when it comes to affection, it’s often up to our furry friends to decide how (and how often) love is shown. “Cats can be highly affectionate – it’s just part of their nature,” says Dr. Audrey Wystrach, co-founder and co-CEO of Petfolk veterinary clinics. “But they also like to be in charge and prefer not to be told what to do.”
Unlike playtime and purrs of admiration, which are pretty clearly signals of affection, your cat making a habit of laying on your chest may have you wondering … is this a sign of love? Are they just cold? Is this comforting in some way? Why does my cat lay on my chest?
It’s not uncommon for cat owners to find their felines laying on their chest, so here’s what to know the next time it happens.
Cat Sleeping or Laying on Your Chest: What it Looks Like
A cat making themself comfortable on their owner’s chest looks pretty much like it sounds, but there may be other characteristics or body language signals that go along with it. For example, “when cats are relaxing, they are often purring and kneading, and their eyes may be closed or partially closed,” says Dr. Wystrach.
They also often curl up and may participate in a little bunting — when a cat butts or rubs its head against other things — when settling into a desired position as well, Dr. Wystrach adds.
Why DOES My Cat Lay on My Chest? 5 Reasons
Why do cats lay on your chest? You won’t exactly find just one answer to that question.
There are a few reasons that your cat may lay or sleep on your chest, all of which have to do with you being their favorite person. “Some cats are certainly more likely to engage in this behavior than others, and this really comes down to personality,” says Lauren Parsch, a certified cat behaviorist and practicing cat behavior consultant. “Some cats just prefer to be close and have a lot of physical contact, and some cats get overstimulated very quickly and aren’t big fans of too much physical contact, but most cats are somewhere in between.”
If your cat is a chest cuddler, here are some of the reasons they might enjoy this activity:
They love you. Cats are wary of strangers and aren’t likely to show affection to people they don’t know or like. If your cat likes to lay on your chest, it’s likely because they don’t perceive you as a threat, and they’ve learned to love you.
They’re trying to bond and/or are possessive of you. Cats use scent as a sign of territory and possession, and a cat that likes to lay on your chest may be attempting to leave their scent on you as a marking or a sign that you belong to them.
They trust you. Cats sleep up to 16 hours a day, and they are at their most vulnerable during that time. A cat that chooses to sleep on your lap or chest is showing how much they trust you.
It’s in their nature. Cats are naturally wired to do comforting things that remind them of their mother’s affection. Laying on the chest of someone they love and trust fits the bill.
They’re seeking warmth and/or a beating heart. Cats that have imprinted on their owners often seek out the nurturing feelings of warmth and a beating heart as signals of connection.
You may also have heard of the term “cat pillowing,” which is just another term to describe similar behavior. “It’s reflective of how kittens lay on top of each other when they are little, using each other as ‘pillows,’” Dr. Wystrach explains.
Signs Your Cat Has Imprinted on You: How to Tell
Cat imprinting occurs when a cat feels strongly bonded with another animal or human, and when they feel secure and don’t perceive any threat. This is often done when cats are extremely young, but a cat that has imprinted on you may be more likely to lay on your chest.
“Cats often seek affections that remind them of being nurtured by their mothers,” says Dr. Wystrach. “Kneading is a behavior that kittens will do when nursing to stimulate milk let down, and seeking to be near warmth and a beating heart are also behaviors that make them feel connected, safe, and taken care of.”
Other signs of a relaxed, happy cat include closed eyes and elevated tail. Purring, kneading, bunting, curling up on a lap or chest, and talking are all also signs of contentment and happiness. Alternatively, “tail twitching is often a sign of discontent, as is biting or swatting,” says Dr. Wystrach.
Is it Safe for a Cat to Sleep or Lay on Your Chest?
A cat that likes to lay on your chest is exhibiting perfectly normal behavior and isn’t in any danger. However, “animals are creatures of habit,” notes Dr. Wystrach. “As veterinarians, we pay close attention to what is routine behavior and what has changed. Sometimes an increase in clinginess, excessive vocalization, or biting can indicate something is ‘not normal.’” As long as you’re keeping an eye out for anything that seems off with your cat, you should be fine.
Cat owners have a special bond with their feline friends, even if we don’t always know what their actions are trying to tell us. But what we can deduce is that a cat snuggling up for some chest cuddles is almost certainly a positive thing. So the next time your cat decides to curl up and rest on your chest, you can at least know that you’ve made it to the top echelon of their affection. And what’s not to love about that?