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Why Does My Cat Sleep Between My Legs? A Helpful Guide To The Reasons Why

Why does my cat sleep between my legs? Because…cats love heat and the hotter the spot, the more likely they are to be attracted to that area.

At some point during the night the cat makes his way to his preferred sleeping position, between or on top of my legs. He is seeking warmth.

This means I can’t move or perhaps I can try to move a little bit and see what happens. As we cat owners know, moving a little bit, just plain doesn’t work.

7 Reasons Cats Sleep On Or Between Our Legs

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1. Cats Seek Warmth When Sleeping – The Main Reason
2. Cats Like Security and Protection
3. Ownership – Do I Own The Cat or Does The Cat Own Me?
4. Scent – Marking You as Their Human
5. Sight – The Cat Is Keeping An Eye On You
6. Stress And Cats Sleeping Position
An Alternative Sleeping Place For Kitty

1. Cats Seek Warmth When Sleeping

Cats love any form of heat and have an uncanny knack of seeking out warm places to hang out. I’m sure our cat has the house heat mapped. A small patch of sun is where the cat will be found. We have come to know those places too and can find him cuddled up in one of those places during the day. As the seasons change, so do the warm places.

At night when it is colder, the cat will naturally gravitate to a place of warmth. Jumping onto the bed to sleep between your legs makes perfect sense to the cat because he already knows it is warm place for him.

The dip between your legs generates plenty of heat, as there are major blood vessels that transport blood to the area. This is the main reason the cat likes to sleep between your legs.

The cat can hunker down and make himself comfortable. He doesn’t like to be unsettled from this spot as he will need to seek out another place of warmth.

So comfy and warm and relaxed!

2. Cats Like Security and protection

A study into why cats like to sleep in cardboard boxes is published in Science Direct. The research concluded that sleeping in cardboard boxes offers both security and protection and a reduction in stress in Shelter Cats.

With the sides of the box for protection on each side of the body, and maybe a blanket covering them, they are “boxed-in” and feel safe. The cat has this protection when he sleeps between your legs, in addition to feeling warm and being near you. Why would he want to leave?

In the wild, feline species will often seek a sleeping spot in a high location. It provides cover from as many angles as possible, to guard against possible danger. This provides safety while the cat sleeps.

When your cat is sleeping on your legs or between your legs, he is usually at a high vantage point. He can check for any potential disturbances and be ready to dash off at a seconds notice.

Why do cats sleep on our legs?
I am trying to sleep in here ya know!

3. Ownership – Do I Own The Cat or Does The Cat Own Me?

As cat owners, I think we all know the answer to that one. Officially and on paper and in records, yes, we own the cat. However, it is important to remember that according to your cat, it is he that owns you and not the other way around.

Sleeping between my legs is a way for the cat to project this ownership over me. He will resist any movement from me 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. You should feel honoured that they have chosen to sleep between your legs. Okay Kitty! We do love you!

why do cats like to sleep on your legs
Will I jump up? She’s lying on her side! I think she’s awake!

4. Scent – Marking You as Their Human

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, they are essentially marking their territory. By rubbing up against you, your cat is basically marking you as their human.

Cats rub up against your legs before falling asleep to further claim you as their human as well as claiming their sleeping spot. This is a comfort and security factor for the cat and is tied into the warmth, ownership, safety and protection factors mentioned.

ginger cat stretched out between owners legs
Settled in. I hope you don’t need to get up because you are stuck!

5. Sight – Cats Are Keeping An Eye On You

Nocturnal animals are awake when we are asleep. Cats are not nocturnal although they are particularly active at dawn and dusk. They do have a tendency towards being awake at night. Cats sleep 16 -18 hours a day.

Domestication has also altered their sleeping patterns over time.

Cats are 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. You are probably aware of this already as the cat is often on the prowl at night.

He may have chosen the spot between your legs as a good spot to keep an eye on things while his human sleeps.

cat asleep on bed
I might look like I’m asleep but I’m just waiting for you.

6. Stress And Cats Sleeping Position

Cats are very easily stressed and show this in many types of unwanted behaviors such as avoiding the litter box, aggression, pooping randomly everywhere, or excessive grooming to name a few.

The more stressed your cat is, the more territorial and therefore possessive he or she may become.

A stressed cat is more likely to need the safety and security that sleeping between your legs provides. If you try to move him from his sleeping spot, he may show aggressive behavior like biting and scratching.

You may want to move your legs but there is a weight (the cat) that is resisting all movement. The alternative of the cat swiping and scratching is a non negotiable. That will disturb your sleep.

Even if your cat is not stressed, he may not like being moved from his favorite sleeping spot, between your legs and may swipe to let you know his displeasure. If you do need to move, move slowly so that the cat has the opportunity to jump down or move on his own.

cat sleeping on womans legs
Everyone is happy at the moment! That could change at any moment!

An Alternative Sleeping Place For Kitty

A heated pad For The cat

Try placing a heat pad (these pads are heated in the microwave) in an area that the cat can take possession of and will get to know as his own. Add some of your bedding, or a t-shirt or piece of clothing which will have the same scent your cat is used to associating with you.

Snuggle Safe Pet Bed Microwave Heating Pad

The sleeping area should ideally be higher than your bed. A nearby chest of drawers would be ideal or a chair near the bed. It will then provide the same vantage point as sleeping between your legs.

This area may still be on your bed as let’s face it some kitties are going nowhere. If the area is to be on your bed, try placing the heat pad at the end of the bed or somewhere where there is room for the cat.

It is best to introduce these alternatives slowly so as not to stress the cat unduly. As with any cat behavior it is persevering that wins in the end.

The cat will now have irresistible warmth, plus safety from having your scent in the bedding. Happy Cat!

Cat Wall Shelves

Cat wall shelves are exactly that, shelves on the wall that are just for the cat or cats. It can be any shelf that may already be in your bedroom or you can install a purpose built cat wall shelf. At night, a heated cat pad with some comfy bedding will make this an irresistible sleeping place for your cat.

There are some examples and reviews here. You may never see the cat again as these shelves are insanely popular. They are also brilliant if the space is limited at your place. Utilize the wall space. Cats love height so it is a real win! win!

7 Ruby Road Cat Hammock Wall Mounted Cat Shelf with Two Steps - Cat Wall Shelves and Perches for Sleeping, Playing, Climbing, and Lounging - Modern Cat Bed & Furniture for Large Cats or Kitty

Making an effort to understand the cat’s behavior means that we are in a better place to provide what he needs and importantly to live in harmony.

We gain so much more from the interaction with cats when we understand some reasons for their behavior.

More reading about cat behavior…

Why do cats lick each other? Is is part of grooming?

How to keep cats away from houseplants.

Why do cats stare at the wall? Have you gone to check out a wall because the cat is intently staring at the wall? I think we have all done that. We have our thoughts as to reasons why. Read the article to find out!

cat sleeping between legs
Really Dear! I don’t think they can dictate our sleeping terms!