cat sleeping on bed

Why Does My Cat Sleep Between My Legs?

Cats spend up to 16-hours a day sleeping.  We’ve found our cat curled up in a few strange places over the years: in the bathroom sink, inside empty delivery boxes, and at the back of cupboards. She has three soft beds of her own but rarely uses them. At night, she likes sleeping on the bed with us. Sometimes on the corner of the bed but often between either mine or my partner’s legs. 

Why Does My Cat Sleep Between My Legs?

Warmth

Cats love to be warm. On cold nights our cat lies in front of our fire like a lizard sunbathing on a rock.  Cats have insulating fur coats.  Their body temperature is higher than ours, too, and it means they enjoy and can handle heat better than we can.  Our pets are descended from desert-dwelling ancestors so they’re real sun worshippers but when the sun isn’t out anything will do!

In the evening, we may turn the heating down low or off entirely. Fires are put out. The sun sets and the temperature outside drops, so it’s no wonder that a cat will come and seek us out. Different parts of the body give off different amounts of heat.  If you’re using a blanket, your legs may also have a Goldilocks effect and be more attractive for a cat than the colder feet or the head which is warmer.  If a cat enjoys sleeping between your legs, it might also be a surrounding heat factor.  Why not lie in the middle when your human has a warming leg on either side?

At night our core temperature drops so maybe we should be glad that our cats come along to keep us warm.  

Security

Our cat naps in all sorts of strange places but when she goes to sleep at night, she wants to feel safe.

Your legs make a low platform on the bed which gives the cat a better view of the room.  This may seem ridiculous to us but safety is hardwired into our pets.  One way of seeing danger coming is by being high and out of the way.

The bed itself offers some measure of height and your legs add an additional vantage point.  The middle of the bed can be difficult for some cats to walk across easily – because it’s soft and springy – so your legs provide a harder surface for them to lie across.  Most cats will sleep facing the door to keep an eye out for predators and to make a quick escape. Sleeping so close to us is a form of safety in numbers, too. 

Comfort

Your legs are comfortable and there are two of them so a cat can settle right in.  If you have blankets on top, this is even truer. Lap cats are already used to seeking out the comfortable padding at the top of your legs, so it makes sense they’d seek it out when you’re lying down. Especially as that area will smell familiar to them because they’ve left pheromones there.

One cat owner made an important point on Quora which we thought was interesting. She said that cats like sitting in visually defined spaces.  Your legs give your cat a clear spot to sit in. Think about what happens when you put a piece of paper on the floor or an empty delivery box: the cat jumps in and sits there. It makes sense that a cat would want to sleep somewhere with definition, lines and edges in a visible space.

Think about it, too, when you’re lying down your legs represent the longer portion of your body.  Statistically speaking, a cat is more likely to sit on that part of you than anywhere else.

Territory

PetMD points out that cats are territorial animals so sleeping on someone is a way of marking that territory.  The bed belongs to them and they’re making that clear.  We should just be lucky that they let us lie there at all. 

Bonding

Cats have a reputation for being self-interested and aloof. Most owners will know that this isn’t true and that a cat’s bond is just different from that of a dog or other pets. Cats do like being around us. It makes sense at night that they’d want to sleep nearer to us.  A post on the Catster website made an interesting point: cat behavior expert Mike Delgardo PhD says that cats like to ‘pillow’ at night.  You may have seen this behaviour exhibited between littermates or cats that share a house.  One cat will use another cat as a pillow. It’s a bonding exercise and very cute but if you only have one cat, then you’ll probably end up being the pillow!

Cats have some fascinating behavior traits. They do some strange things and we’re often left wondering what exactly goes through that furry little head of theirs.  Sleeping with a cat can be a bonding experience but sleep is really important, so if yours is being disturbed by your pet then it’s worth shooing them off or setting them up with alternative sleeping arrangements.  We usually find that moving our legs and sliding the cat onto the blanket next to us helps and she’s usually pretty happy with this.