If you’ve stumbled across this article, it’s likely because you let your cat(s) sleep with you at night, and he or she (or they!) really seem to favour your legs as a sleeping spot over all the other options on the bed.
If you’re wondering if this is normal: let me cut to the chase and give you my own personal opinion on this one – yes, cats sleeping on human legs is really common and completely normal.
In my opinion, cats seem to like sleeping on human legs to the point where, at least in my experience, sometimes even flighty, not particularly cuddly cats still often use human legs as sleep spots.
Then there’s the behaviour of cats sleeping between legs. This might happen if you’re napping on the couch, but it’ll most often take place when you’re sleeping in your bed at night.
In my opinion, this is a behaviour cats do a lot less frequently, and a lot fewer cats will engage in this behaviour in the first place than sleeping on legs in general.
But it does happen, and in my experience, if you have a cat who does it, he or she probably sleeps between your legs frequently.
In my household I have 5 cats currently; four which are my own, one which my brother is going to be adopting.
All of the cats like to sleep on my legs, or at least beside my legs, when I’m slouched on the couch or sleeping in bed, if I’m sitting cross legged typing away at my laptop, or if I’m sitting upright, on my lap.
Four of the cats in my home have never tried to sleep between my legs, but there is one cat who quite literally sleeps between my legs nearly every night for months on end.
This cat is my first cat, Avery, who’s been with me the longest. That may have something to do with him being the one to have adopted this behaviour, seeing as how he’s by far the most comfortable with me, and knows my behaviours well.
I feel Avery knows that if he sleeps between my legs at night, I won’t move around enough in my sleep to bother him if he stays snoozing in that spot for hours.
While it’s been a long time since Avery started sleeping this way, it certainly wasn’t something he always did.
For years, he’d been the type to sleep either alongside my legs, near my feet, or at the foot of the bed.
While he’ll still often sleep in these places, when the temperature indoors starts to drop and it gets cool enough for him to become an extra-super-duper-cuddle-cub, wanting to be a velcro cat even more than usual because he wants to take advantage of my body heat to help him stay warm, Avery will pretty much exclusively sleep between my legs at night.
Usually this takes the form of me being sprawled out, trying to get comfortable under the blankets, sticking a foot out from under the blankets to prevent myself from getting too hot, then once I’ve settled in, Avery curls up into a ball where my lap would otherwise be.
He’ll also sometimes sleep atop my legs, like if I happen to be lying on my back, but have my legs straight. This is infrequent because I don’t often sleep that way.
There are other times where Avery will actually sit on top of my stomach, although it’s really rare. I think when he does this he may have thought my tummy was my lap since he usually chooses to sit in my lap. Who could say for sure?
It seems obvious to me that Avery’s choosing to sleep on or between my legs for a reason, since he so consistently chooses to sleep there with no need for prodding or encouragement on my part.
In the summer, Avery will typically switch up his behaviour, usually opting to hang out at the foot of the bed to prevent himself from getting too hot. In winter months, he’s always snuggled up close to me.
We live in Portugal now, so it’s a lot hotter for many more months of the year.
This means his preference has shifted from mostly on top of/near my legs year round (in Canada and the UK) to mostly at the foot bed year round except for winter (here in Portugal).
I’ve come up with a slew of different reasons why Avery may be choosing to sleep in between my legs, and why cats seem to lie on top of or lean on legs when they sleep in general.
I’ve also come across a number of different explanations around the web that could be reasons behind why cats like to sleep on and between their humans’ legs.
These theories are not likely to all be true, but they seem plausible, so I thought I’d put them out there.
If you have theories of your own, or think some of my theories are more or less likely to be true, please take a moment to leave your thoughts in the comments down below!
Finally, if you have any stories or experiences with this to share, please share them with us! The more similarities we can spot between our own cats’ behaviours and others’ the more interesting I feel this conversation will be.
Without further ado!
16 Reasons Why Cats May Choose to Sleep on & Between Human Legs
1. Legs Are Warm, Like Low-Intensity Heaters
There’s no question about it – the strongest case for cats sleeping on their humans’ legs is that our legs are warm.
Who could blame a cat for wanting to share body heat, especially in cooler or even very cold winter months?
Think there’s a lot more to sleeping on your legs than the idea your legs are a glorified heater? I think so, too.
But it’s definitely, in my opinion, likely to be the largest perk.
2. Legs Are Soft, Like Pillows
Many of our body parts are not all that soft and well padded with fat, thus they may not be the most comfortable to sleep on.
Our legs our quite the opposite, so I’d imagine part of the appeal of cats sleeping on our legs is that they might feel something like a pillow, or if cats are sleeping in our laps, even like a comfy couch.
3. Your Legs Are an Incredibly Accessible Part of Your Body to Sleep On
While our arms are pretty soft and do produce heat, they’re rarely chosen as a spot cats sleep on, likely because they’re not usually accessible to cats.
Legs are nearly always accessible, whether we’re sitting upright, slouching back on a couch, or sleeping in bed – they’re pretty much the easiest access point for cats.
It makes sense that as a result, cats would get used to sleeping on our legs instead of other body parts, even when they’d also be good options for snoozing, though less accessible.
4. You Likely Don’t Move Your Legs as Much as Other Body Parts
There’s another reason our legs may be preferable to our arms in terms of sleeping and resting on that has nothing do do with accessibility, and that’s the amount of movement we engage in in our arms compared to our legs.
We don’t often move our legs, or at least not all that much, when we’re watching TV, typing away at our computers or laptops, browsing our phones – pretty much every activity we do does involve our arms and hands moving, however.
And I can imagine it being really irritating trying to sleep on something that doesn’t stay still – must be incredibly difficult to stay asleep if your bed keeps moving about.
Makes sense that legs would be chosen over arms, then, even at times when they’re equally accessible (like when you’re lying flat on a couch, or sleeping in your bed at night, for instance).
5. Your Cat May Be Used to Sitting on Your Lap in the Daytime & So Find It Natural to Sleep on & Between Legs at Night
Cats are habitual creatures, which cat-owning-humans all recognize from interacting with them on a daily basis.
They get into a routine and it’s hard for them to accept change from that routine.
If you have a lap cat who really likes spending time sitting in your lap whenever you’re still enough for him or her to really nestle in, it’s easy to imagine part of the reason your cat continues to sleep on your legs or even between your legs (as though it’s your lap) at night when the conditions are different, yet not altogether too different.
6. Your Cat May Prefer to Sleep by Your Legs Instead of Arms/Face Because He or She Doesn’t Want Petting
Some cats don’t like to be pet all that much, or if they do like to be pet, they like it on their terms and are not happy to be pet at any ol’ time.
I have a cat like this, Cleo, the kitten of the household. She’s absolutely an oddling who loves to be cuddled in really specific situations – like when my husband and I are sitting still on a couch, or watching TV in bed.
But she absolutely does not ever want to be picked up, although she’ll put up with it for a few moments.
When she wants cuddles, she also wants them to be in short bursts, and not for very long, unlike the other cats in our household.
She still sleeps by our legs. My guess is because she wants to snuggle, but not to be pet unless she comes to us.
Seems to me she does this because wants to be close, but only on her terms.
7. Cats May Sleep Between Legs Because Two Is Better Than One
If you’re wondering why your cat sleeps between your legs instead of simply on your legs, one explanation that seems very plausible is, between your legs, your cat has access to two soft, comfortable, and warm body parts instead of one.
It seems very likely to me that if it’s comfy to sit on a single leg, it’s likely even more comfy to sit on two legs, surrounded – as it were – by warmth and softness.
Your cat gets one leg on each side of their body if they sleep between your legs. That’s pretty much all of them surrounded by comfortable pillow-like heaters. Makes sense to me.
8. Your Legs Are Near Your Core, Which Is the Warmest Part of Your Body
The warmest part of your body is your torso, because that’s where all the most important parts of you besides your brain – like your head – live.
Your extremities, like your arms, legs, hands, and feet, are usually much colder than your core, because keeping these parts warm is not as important to our survival.
You can live without a hand or foot, or even an arm or leg – you can’t live without your heart.
Sleeping between your legs – if your cat chooses to sleep in the same spot your lap would have been if you were sitting cross-legged or upright – is the closest place to your core without actually sitting atop your stomach or chest or some other body part that’s a part of your core.
So by sitting between your legs in a spot your lap would have been, your cat’s getting quite a lot of access to heat in that spot that doesn’t exist lower down your legs.
9. While You May Find It Odd for a Cat to Sleep Between Legs, He or She Couldn’t Think This Might Be Strange
You may think it’s odd for your cat to be sleeping between your legs because – well, it’s between your legs!
That being said, cats are unlikely to see your body parts as anything besides pieces of you.
I feel like this explanation is similar to why I think cats follow us to the bathroom so frequently.
While humans may think this is strange behaviour, cats likely couldn’t possibly understand why it would be strange for them to follow us into the bathroom when we do our business.
Cats often follow each other when they go visit the litter box, to see what’s up. They certainly don’t understand human desire for privacy – at least it seems that way to me.
Personal space, maybe, in terms of not sitting or standing too near, but an understanding of privacy? I definitely don’t think privacy is a thing in the cat world, based on my experiences.
Could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if they had something like this! And if they don’t have it in their world, how could we expect them to understand privacy in ours?
It would make sense to me that sleeping between legs would similarly be something cats could never understand why any human might think of as a peculiar act.
To them, it’s quite natural to sit/sleep together in any way, shape or form – so long as a cat’s comfortable with another cat, no snooze spot next to another cat seems to be off limits!
10. Your Cat Sleeping on or Between Your Legs Shows He/She Likes You
This one’s pretty self-evident, but it bares saying – there’s no way a cat’s sleeping on your legs unless he or she likes you.
So if your cat sleeps on or between your legs, no matter the time of day, take it as a compliment.
11. Your Cat Sleeping on or Between Your Legs Shows He/She Trusts You
Sleeping on your legs is also a sign that your cat trusts you – that you won’t disturb him or her during their nap, and that you won’t hurt him or her.
This trust can be seen if taken a step further as well…
12. Your Cat May Be Sleeping on Your Legs Because He/She Feels Safe There
Cats don’t usually hang out on humans unless they feel really safe. If your cat wants to spend time in your lap, snoozing on your legs when you’re watching TV, or sleeping between your legs when you’re under the blankets at night, chances are your cat really feels safe with you.
The fact that your cat feels safe sleeping where he or she does on your body may mean that in times he or she is scared or nervous, or let’s use an example – worried that another cat in the house might pick on him or her – your cat may gravitate toward you and sleeping on you to find that security he or she is after.
Let me know if this rings true in your household, and if you have any stories!
13. Cats May Like Sleeping Between Legs Because of Their Attraction to Visually Defined Spaces
Have you ever wondered why cats love cardboard boxes – or even weirder – like to sit, sleep, and lay on paper that’s just plopped on the floor?
Chances are there’s something to the idea that cats simply love to hang out in visually defined spaces. They seem attracted to hanging out in them.
And the space between your legs when you’re lying down, like your lap, is one of those.
14. If Your Cat Sleeps on Your Legs Mostly When You’re Sick, Your Cat May Be Comforting You
There also seems to be something to the idea that cats comfort sick owners.
I don’t think there’s any scientific proof of this as of yet (let me know if you know of any research papers that have looked into this!), but it does seem to be a thing based on anecdote and word of mouth.
If you find your cat sleeps on your legs more when you’re sick, your cat may be trying to comfort you!
15. Your Cat May Be Sleeping on Your Legs as a Form of Dominance
We all know that dominance and hierarchy are both things in the cat world.
I’ve actually seen my first cat, Avery, who’s definitely the dominant one in the household, sit on top of carriers when a less-dominant cat is in them.
Also, sometimes if one of my other cats gets under the blankets, Avery will sit on top of the exact spot that cat is – my guess is as a form of dominance (he definitely knew the other cat was there, and it wasn’t his typical spot).
Who knows – maybe sitting on or between your legs is a form of dominance, too? Maybe it’s not likely, but it certainly seems possible!
16. Your Cat May Be Sleeping on Your Legs Because He/She Is Territorial Over You
If you have a cat who’s quite territorial over you, scenting you, kneading on you, and a whole bunch of other actions may be ways they show you’re their territory.
I know my Avery is definitely territorial over me, and will often shoo my other cats by giving them a gentle whack if they try to come near me for a cuddle, even if I wasn’t snuggling with him at the moment.
While he’s slept on my legs and between my legs long before we adopted a second cat, I definitely feel sometimes he’ll change his behaviour, doing it when he wants to showcase I’m his territory to the other cats more when they’re in the room with him.
Your Thoughts on Cats Sleeping on/Between Human Legs?
Why do you think cats sleep on or between human legs?
Does your cat sleep on your legs? Does he or she ever sleep between your legs? How did you feel about this before you read the article? What about after?
Did you ever think it was a strange behaviour?
Did you feel, like me, that cats couldn’t possibly understand it to be a strange behaviour, and actually just likely enjoy hanging out on or between legs because of the heat/comfort/safety they feel when spending time in essentially what would be your lap if you were to be sitting up?
Do you have any stories, experiences, or thoughts to share on this topic?
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below!
My 8kg Ragdoll sleeps on my legs every night! Why is it we never want to move in fear of disturbing them and are happy to put up with being uncomfortable, having a full bladder or a dead leg!
Most cat parents observe is that their cat loves to sleep at their feet. This can at times be interpreted as a direct expression of love, and at times as a behavioural trait developed due to a confluence of many factors.
While a cat sleeps, it knows that it’s the most vulnerable situation to be in. With their guard lowered, they might become vulnerable to unknown threats. Besides this, domestic cats developed a trait to sleep next to their carers as it makes them feel protected and safe.
Moreover, Cats can be very possessive, and sleeping on you is also a sign that you belong to them. Perhaps that’s why your cat sleeps on your feet.
So what kind of odd things go through a cats mind to go to the bathroom with the male member of the family and crawl into and curl up on his underwear as he sits on the john lol…I have seen several pictures of cats doing this.
Elise Xavier says
I don’t think they understand what underwear is or why it’d be weird, they are after all not human.
Jean Mornard says
Of our five kitties (the Khaos Kitties ™) three are definitely leg snoozers – the three that came from the same litter. We call it sleeping in the hammock because my husband and I usually have a blanket over our legs to be warm and to protect us from pointy bits (see my comment on clipping cats’ claws). I think it might be, as alluded to in some of your reasons, because they feel like they’re in a cat pile, only with their humans (although if all three are on one set of legs, they form a pile within a pile). They feel snug and secure like they did when they were kittens. Adora Bella, the oldest, is not a leg cat but rather, prefers laps, and then only on her terms. She’s the only one who actually sleeps with us at night, as opposed to romping, pouncing, chewing on hair, playing, and then being unceremoniously dumped outside the bedroom door. But even then, she’s not much of a leg sleeper. They are funny how they are all different and show their love for us in so many different ways!
Elise Xavier says
Omg “sleeping in the hammock” is the perfect euphemism. Literally adorable that they all wish you goodnight in such ridiculously playful ways, like they’re all still kittens. It is funny how different they all are!
Dawn Gulick says
My cat Cinnabon does not sleep on the bed or my legs much. Probably because I am an active sleeper and tear beds to pieces. However, he does turn into my “little midnight cuddle lover boy” – the minute I get into bed. He loves to knead up and down my legs. Often he’ll stick his head under my chin and just lay kneading my upper chest while I pet him. He’s not a lap sitter but he loves to flop around on the floor between my feet, stretching all the way out for belly rubs. I don’t know what I’d do without that little guy.
Elise Xavier says
I love it when they stretch out on the floor for belly rubs; it’s possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life <3