Why Does My Cat Lay On My Chest? A Cat Behaviorist Explains

Your cat is your faithful companion, and you probably have no problem cuddling with them and giving them love on a daily basis. Many cats like to lay on their owners’ chest for cuddle time, and usually there is no reason not to allow them to do so. Some cats are more social than others, and may want to lay on your chest more often.

If you have a new cat and you’re not used to this extra cuddling, you might be wondering why your cat lays on your chest. There are actually several reasons that they might do this, from social grooming to simply loving you and wanting to be close. Here are some of the common reasons your cat lays on your chest, and how to stop it if it becomes too much.

3 top reasons why a cat lays on your chest, according to our Certified Cat Behaviorist

The most obvious reason that our cat lays on your chest is that they love you, but there are many other reasons that they might do so. If your cat lays on your chest more often at some times than others, it could be that they are trying to tell you something. We have consulted with one of our Certified Cat Behaviorists here at Cat World, Katenna Jones (ACAAB) to find out the top reasons. Here are the 3 main reasons your cat might lay on your chest:

  1. Warmth: If you keep your home cool or it is the dead of winter, your cat might lay on your chest to get warm. Katenna explains: “Cats are attracted to things that are warm, like sun puddles, laptops, human bodies, etc. Of the warmest parts of the human body (head, chest, and armpits), the chest is obviously the most accessible and also most comfortable to rest on top of.” If your cat is suddenly spending more time seeking warmth, there could be something else going on. Cats can have a lower body temperature when ill or anxious, so it is important to observe other new behaviors for clues. You may also want to take your cat to the vet if you are concerned that they seem to be colder than usual.
  1. Comfort: Just as we sometimes need the of our softest pillow, your cat also needs that comfort for time to time. You are their protector, and your chest is both soft and familiar. As such they feel the most comfortable when in your arms. Your cat will likely kneed a bit to get comfortable, just as they would when they settle into a pillow or cat bed. Don’t feel snubbed if they lay on your chest with their back to you. It’s just your cat telling you that they trust you enough to face away from you for their own comfort. It also shows you that they have your back as well, looking out for you by keeping an eye on your surroundings while you look out for them.
  1. Social grooming: Most cats are both social and independent creatures, but all cats need some social interaction. Cats engage in social grooming amongst other cats, siblings, parents, or just other cats in the home. If there are no other cats, your pet might decide that your chest is the best substitute.

Everyone knows that cats like to be petted, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they sometimes crave attention. The time your cat spends with you is important to their overall well-being. Just like babies need touch, so too do cats need that social interaction with you to remain both physically and mentally healthy.

Other possible reasons

Feeling your heartbeat: There is a theory that cats crave hearing and feeling the vibrations of your heartbeat because it is comforting in the same way as being against their mother. But cat behaviorist Katenna Jones isn’t convinced. “A bottle-raised kitten will rest on your chest, even though they never had a mom cat to cuddle with.” Regardless, it is obvious that cats do like to hear the heartbeat, and find it comforting.

Marking their territory: Cats when they lay on your chest. If you have recently brought a new pet or child into the home, cats might lay on you to make it clear that you belong to them first.

If you frequently leave the house and come home smelling like other cats or animals, your cat is more likely to lay on you or rub up against your legs before you leave home. It is their way of telling whatever animals you encounter throughout your day that you are already spoken for.

What does it mean when your cat suddenly starts to lay on your chest more often?

cat cuddling up to its owner on chest

If your cat has never laid on your chest before and suddenly starts doing so, it is likely due to a change in their routine or environment. Cats need to be reassured when things are not right in their little world. Laying on your chest gives them that assurance.

Your cat may also lay on your chest because they are not feeling well. If they are laying on your chest more often than usual, or if this is a new habit, pay attention to their behavior overall for clues as to the cause. It may be that a trip to the vet is in order.

Mostly, cats lay on your chest because they are bonded to you. Whether it is for comfort, safety, health, or just loving attention, your bond with your pet is shown and strengthened each time your cat cuddles up to your chest.

Are there downsides to letting your cat lay on your chest for too long?

Most of the time your cat sleeping on your chest isn’t a problem. However, there are some reasons that you might want to stop or limit the behavior. Not only can a cat laying on your chest be inconvenient and annoying at times, but there can be health reasons to limit the behavior as well.

Here are some common reasons you might want to stop your cat from laying on your chest.

  1. Allergies: Cats release a protein in their dander that can cause allergic reactions. Even though 15% of the population has cat allergies, at least a third of allergic individuals still own a cat or have one in their household. Some cats have more of this protein than others, and allergic reactions can vary in severity. There are a lot of things you can do to limit the severity of your allergic symptoms while still living peacefully with a cat. Many allergic cat owners take medications that allow them to be around their cat with minimal symptoms. But the fact remains that close contact with that protein will worsen symptoms.If your cat is making you sick, limiting the amount of time they lay on you – and where – could be important for your health. Even if you let your cat lay on your chest when you are reclining in a chair, owners with allergies shouldn’t let their cat sleep in bed with them when respiratory health is most important.
  1. Keeping your bed clean: Does your cat like to lay on your chest or cuddle up with you in bed? If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, they might bring debris into the bed with them. Even indoor cats can make your bed dirty with tracked litter or food. Not only can these make your bed literally dirty, but it can also introduce additional allergens to your bed. Being able to breathe normally is of the utmost importance for restful and productive sleep, so this is a big factor for some people.
  1. Keeping your cat away from infants: Cats should not be where infants or toddlers will sleep. If you share a bedroom or bed with your child, even on only an occasional basis, it could be important to keep your cat out of your bed.

You can still let them lay on your chest when sitting in a lounger or reclining on a sofa, and it is important to let them to continue to do so. It helps them feel close to you, and keeps them from feeling displaced by the child.

Tips to stop your cat from laying on your chest all the time!

If your cat lays on your chest too often, or you have another reason listed above to stop your cat from laying on your chest all the time, there are some things you can do to limit or stop the behavior.

  • Encourage your cat to sleep next to you on your bed or the arm of your chair instead of on top of your body. In bed you can make a cozy little spot for them on one corner where they will not be in the way. This way they still have the comfort and security of sleeping close to you.
  • Give your cat a bed of their own. If you just can’t deal with your cat being on your chest or right next to you all the time, make a cozy home for them in another part of the room. Design a safe place for your cat with a cat bed, toys, scratching posts, and other features that let them feel as though the space is their own.
  • Keep the door closed. When all else fails, the easiest way to keep your cat from laying on your chest is to keep them out of the room altogether. If this is a new scenario for your cat they may protest at first, but they will get used to the new habit over time.

Why do cats lay on you and purr?

Cats will lay on your chest and purr for a number of reasons. The most common reason is that they are seeking attention and trying to communicate with you. . In fact, cats are so good at using this method that most owners will feed their cat before they feed themselves.

Cats can also lay on your chest and purr for other reasons. Research has shown that the vibrations from cats purring can help heal them from sickness or injury (“Cats often purr while under duress, such as during a visit to the veterinarian or when recovering from injury.”) You may not even be aware that your cat has a cold or other minor ailment, especially if they lay on your chest often anyway.

Purring may also help people heal. What you may not know is that there is some evidence that the vibration of a cat’s purr can heal their human owners as well. You and your cat have a special bond, and your cat will likely know when you are not feeling well, physically or mentally. Laying on your chest and purring is a way for them to comfort you, and also gives you health benefits like lowering blood pressure and inflammation.

FAQs

Still have questions about why your cat lays on your chest? Here are some common answers.

Why do cats like to lay on their owners’ clothes? It is for the same reasons as cats laying on their owners’ chests?

Cats lay on clothes for some of the same reasons that they lay on your chest. They may be marking your clothes with their scent so that other animals know you are claimed by a cat. Clothes are also a warm, comfy place to sleep.

Do cats have a favorite person?

In a household with more than one person, a cat may choose a favorite. Usually, the favorite person to lay on is the one that gives them the most effort and attention.

Why does my cat lay on my chest in the morning?

Most cats will lay on your chest and purr in the morning because they want to be fed so they can start their day. Cats are creatures of habit, and they usually think they need fed first. (Of course, this is because most owners do so.)

Authors

  • Katenna Jones, Cat Behaviorist

    Katenna Jones is an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB) and Certified Cat Behavior Consultant. Katenna works with families and their cats and dogs in person or virtually with her company Jones Animal Behavior in Rhode Island. She earned a Master's in Psychology, with a focus on animal behavior, from Brown University.

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  • Nicky Thomas

    Nicky Thomas is an author and freelance writer specializing in writing features, general interest, and thought leadership articles. She also has a passion for interviewing people of all walks of life with an important message for the masses. Read more of Nicky’s work at thewordsmithkc.com.

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