Cats spend most of their time doing whatever they want, and sometimes these behaviors confuse their human friends. For instance, why does your cat sleep between your legs? It seems like the pillow, a cat bed, or any other surface would be more convenient and comfortable. As it turns out, this choice of sleeping location makes total sense in cat logic, as several veterinary experts explain.
Cats Feel Safe
“Sleep is a vulnerable time for all species, and even though our pampered cats live a life almost completely free from danger, the instinct to find a safe place to sleep is still active,” Dr. Georgina Ushi Phillips, DVM at Better With Cats, tells Romper. “With your legs on either side of them, cats know that they’re in a safe and secure place, which is a feeling that everyone can appreciate!” In fact, your legs can even make a little fortress of sorts for the cat. “By sleeping between your legs, your cat has a space where they are partially hidden, which is what cats often prefer,” as Dr. Mikel (Maria) Delgado, Cat Behavior Expert with Rover, tells Romper. “It can help them feel safe to be partially concealed, and your legs create a natural ‘hammock’ where they can tuck in and feel snug.” It’s a big sign of trust in this way.
“Cats will sit on us, next to us, or on top of us for a variety of reasons. Most commonly this is due to the fact that we're just comfy and warm to sit on! Cats love heat and the best way to get that is snuggled up with us,” Megan Conrad, BVMS, licensed veterinarian with Hello Ralphie, and Erin Raley, Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) with Hello Ralphie, tell Romper. If the warmest thing in the room is you, then that’s likely where the cat is heading.
That body heat is especially attractive when your cat is preparing for a nap. “The warmth of your body makes resting between your legs extra comfortable. Body temperature typically drops slightly when cats are asleep, and sleeping between your legs can be a good way to balance this out,” says Dr. Phillips. Anyone who likes to cover up with an extra blanket or two at night will understand this trait.
You Are Their Territory
“Cats may also prefer sleeping on you since it’s a great way to mark their territory,” says Dr. Phillips. “Just like head butting or bunting, sleeping on you leaves behind your cat’s scent and marks their territory.” In the cat world, leaving their scent on something (or someone) is a way to say “This is mine.” Lastly, the cat may simply enjoy your company. “Many cats also associate being with their owner with positive things, making the coziness of your lap or legs the perfect spot,” as Conrad and Raley explain. Because it helps them feel warm, cozy, and safe, many cats will sleep between their owner’s legs if given the chance.
Megan Conrad, BVMS, licensed veterinarian with Hello Ralphie
Erin Raley, Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) with Hello Ralphie