Why does my cat like to sleep between my legs every night?
Even if my cat is nowhere to be seen when I go to bed, I can wake and there he is, already hunkered down or jumping softly onto the bed and navigating to his preferred sleeping position, between my legs.
Cats, like humans, have preferred sleeping spots and positions. One cat may prefer to sleep on his back with his belly exposed, while another may take her nap curled up in a tight ball. Some may like to cuddle your head but most cats love to sleep between your legs. Why is it that so many cats prefer to sleep between your legs?
Have you ever heard the stories about cats being able to predict when a person is ill or about to die? Illness often comes with an increase in temperature or a fever which attracts cats to people who are not well.
Cats love heat and the hotter the spot, the more likely they are to be attracted to that area. The area between your legs generates plenty of heat as there are major blood vessels that transport blood to the area.
Cats do love to sleep with their owners however as their chosen sleeping partner can weigh more than 13 times their own weight, this is risky. Sleeping between or on your legs means that they are less likely to get crushed when you roll over during sleep.
It is important to remember that according to your cat, it is he that owns you and not the other way around. Sleeping between your legs may be a way of the cat projecting this ownership over you and he may resist any movement from you once he has taken up position.
From the point of view of a cat, it is you that is being allowed to sleep next to them and you should feel honored that they have chosen to sleep between your legs.
A recent study into why cats like to sleep in cardboard boxes published in The Independent may also present the same reason for sleeping between your legs - it offers them a sense of security and protection.
With the legs for protection on each side of the body and maybe a blanket covering them, they are "boxed-in" and feel safe. In the wild, feline species will always seek out a sleeping spot that provides cover from as many angles as possible to guard against possible danger.
Ever wonder why your cat loves to rub against you all the time?
Cats have scent glands situated under their whiskers that release pheromones when they rub up against objects, essentially marking their territory. By rubbing up against you, your cat is basically marking you as their human. This marking behavior is meant to make other cats keep their distance.
Your body also releases pheromones, primarily from the groin area. These pheromones may attract cats who are incredibly sensitive to smell to sleeping between your legs. They will also rub up against your legs before falling asleep to further claim you as their human as well as their sleeping spot.
Nocturnal animals are awake when we are asleep. Cats are not nocturnal although they are particularly active at dawn and dusk and do have a tendency towards being awake at night.
They are also able to see very well in the dark. Sleeping at night is an adaptive behavior but you may find that your cat is not sleeping the entire night.
He may have chosen the spot between your legs as a good vantage point from which he can keep an eye on things while his human sleeps.
Cats are very easily stressed and show this in many types of unwanted behaviors. The more stressed your cat is, the more territorial and therefore possessive he or she may become.
A stressed cat is more likely to require the safety and security that sleeping between your legs provides. Stress may also result in the cat presenting with aggressive behavior (biting and scratching) should you try to move him from his chosen sleeping spot.
You may want to move your legs but there is a weight that is resisting all movement plus you don't want to be swiped by cross kitty.
While this behavior is quite common among cats there are some steps that you can take to alter the behavior if it becomes too irritating. Simply removing the cat from the area between your legs will not work. No matter how many times you move him, he will simply return and may even get stressed and angry at the eviction.
You can however provide alternatives. Try placing a heat pad (this one goes in the microwave so no electrical cords) in an area that the cat can take possession of, with some of your bedding which will have the same scents your cat is used to associating with warmth and safety.
The area should ideally but not necessarily be elevated higher than your bed because it provides the same vantage point as sleeping between your legs. It is best to introduce these alternatives slowly so as not to stress the cat unduly.
As much as we try to understand cats, there is always that nagging thought that really the cat is in control or that is how it may seem to us.
Making an effort to understand our cats behavior means that we are in a better place to provide what he needs and importantly to live in harmony.
This book answers cat behavior questions. It doesn't matter if you are a dog person and now have a cat or if you are a cat person who has only ever had cats, those little furry creatures are able to bamboozle us in so many ways.
Pam Johnson-Bennett does an amazing job in this book answering commonly asked questions. This is a link to the most recent reviews of her book. By the way, Pam has written several other books about cats also.
In the quest to understand our furry friends, there are more cat behavior articles below.