I am the proud mama of two black cats, Trout and Jellyby. The pair can often be found somewhere laying about on my body. If they're not with me, they are probably bothering my daughter by sitting on her shoulders or taking residence inside her Barbie Camper. Overwhelmingly, their favorite place to sleep is cuddled up between my legs. It's gotten to the point where I've just accepted the fact that I will forever be pinned down by a feline at all times. But why do cats love to sleep between your legs?
Personally, I always assumed that it had something to do with their desire to rule the household. Their ability to sleep on you whenever they want, and your allowance of it, maintains their status in the pecking order of the household. They're saying, "You are below me, you silly human." But it turns out that it is a matter of comfort and affection, and also a mark of complete trust, as opposed to a move that further cements their place at the top of the household food chain, according to The Secret Life of Cats by Claire Bessant. She wrote that when cats seek out a place to catnap, or nap lightly, they can do that just about anywhere. However, when they really want to fall into a deep snooze, they seek out a warm and secure location, and to them, there is no place more secure and warm than near the body of their owners.
When cats sleep, their body temperature drops by a few degrees, therefore they look for a warm place to snuggle, noted The Behavior of a Domestic Cat by John W.S. Bradshaw. The book also remarked that the act of sleeping upon a person is a mark of affection that the cat feels towards the human. Essentially, your cat is saying, "I like you, you're cozy, so I'm going to tuck in right here." It makes you curious, though. Why do cats love to sleep between your legs as opposed to in your arms or elsewhere on your body?
I contacted cat behavior expert Emily Parker from Catological.com, and she affirms this idea of a cat's need to feel completely safe. She tells Romper, "While sleeping, cats are at their most vulnerable. Therefore, cats typically find safe places to sleep where they either feel protected, or where they are unlikely to be surprised without an escape route."
"In the wild, cats are efficient predators, but still have natural enemies," Parker adds. "Therefore, showing vulnerability can be life-threatening." (Perhaps a scheming older brother who sounds a lot like Jeremy Irons?) She continues, saying that it's similar "to when your cat shows you her soft underside when she's offering her tummy to be scratched. Your cat will typically show her trust in you, her pet parent, when it's time for one of her famous cat naps.
"She feels protected, warm, and safe if she knows you're around, since you've established a bond of trust," Parker says. Sleeping between your legs is a natural cat hammock that the cat finds to be a particularly safe and comfortable place to be. It allows them to sink into a place that is somewhat guarded, yet they can still be aware and knowing in a minute, but they don't feel they have to be because they're with you.
Now, if we could only figure out why cats feel the need to walk right up to you and shove their butt in our faces, I think we'd really be learning something valuable.