There is no denying that your heart melts when you find your cat sleeping on your chest or even your lap or your head. But sometimes, this adorable behavior can be downright uncomfortable for both of you or inconvenient even.
Sometimes you wonder if your cat has attached a homing device to your chest. No matter where he lies, he will eventually end up sleeping on your chest.
Why Does My Cat Lay on My Chest?
Your cat likes laying on your chest (and other body parts) for a variety of reasons, from warmth to a show of affection.
1. Cats love warmth.
If you spend a full day at home and observe your pet, you will immediately notice that most of his favorite spots have one thing in common: these are the sunniest places in your home.
Cats have a natural affinity for sunny areas. Simply put, your cat loves warmth. Cats seek warmth for a few reasons. For one, heat allows them to conserve energy while keeping their bodies warm. In turn, conserving energy gives them enough reserves for strenuous activities like hunting, fending off other predators, and others.
You also have to remember that cats evolved from wild cats that live in dry and arid areas, hence the need for warmth.
At home, your cat seeks places that give warmth, including your chest. The main reason behind that is your torso is the warmest part of your body.
As mammals, people are warm-blooded. Your body generates most of its heat from the torso because that is where all the major organs are housed. These organs produce most of the heat in your body.
This is why your warmth-seeking pet is inevitably drawn to your chest which is almost always warm and toasty. It also helps that the fabric of your clothes can add additional warmth and comfort to your furry little pal.
2. You remind your cat of his mom.
Your cat spent his earliest days huddled close to his mom. During that period, it is either your pet was nursed by his mother or simply cuddled with her along with his tiny brothers and sisters.
A mother cat provides most of her kittens’ needs, from nourishment to warmth to comfort. Nestled by his mom’s body, your cat felt the safest and most relaxed.
To a large extent, your cat’s desire to seek comfort is an attempt to recreate that time he spent with his mother and littermates. For example, if you own two or more cats that have bonded closely, you will notice that they seem to almost always huddle with one another while they sleep.
When your cat lays on your chest, your pet may be attempting to recreate the time he spent as a kitten with his mom. And your chest is the perfect substitute not only because of its warmth. Perhaps, more importantly, the rhythm of your heartbeat lulls him to sleep and dream of happy times.
3. Your cat feels safe laying near you.
There is no disputing the fact that felines are one of the best predators in the animal kingdom. But because cats are relatively small, they can also feel vulnerable when confronted by larger predators.
This is why cats pick spots where they sleep. And even in these places that they seem safe, they sleep with some of their senses alert, ready to pick up signs of an intrusion to their territories. Simply put, sleeping can sometimes make them feel vulnerable.
Of course, your cat does not have much to worry about inside your home. There are no animals biding their time waiting for the crucial time to attack Mittens the Cat. But your cat does not know that. And there is not much you can do about evolution.
When your cat sleeps on your chest, that is one of the best compliments he can make. Simply put, your cat is confident that no harm will come his way when he lays down close to you or on your body.
Felines do not readily do that to any person. As most cat owners will tell you, you have to earn the trust, respect, and affection of a cat.
4. Your cat has chosen you.
Many people have held onto the belief that cats are solitary animals. But the latest research indicates that cats can be social animals. Or more accurately, cats are relational pets.
Cats, both feral and domesticated, are capable of forming emotional relationships with other cats and even people. Although your cat is perfectly fine being by himself as long as his senses are stimulated, they can get along fine with people as long as their needs are met.
That does not necessarily mean that a cat views all people in a household as his human.
Cats choose people based on a few factors, including posture, smell, and behavior. You will notice that your cat tends to avoid people who have high-pitched voices or those who make sudden movements. And in the same vein, your cat tends to like people with a calm voice and demeanor.
This simply means that your cat will treat each member of your household differently. He might show preference to one or more people and become aloof around other members of your family.
Your cat may prefer to sleep on your chest because he has chosen you as his human.
Why you should discourage your cat from sleeping on your chest
It is not just your cat who benefits from sleeping on your chest. Some experts suggest that when your cat purrs and vibrates his body while he is sleeping near or on top of your chest, you can reap a few benefits, both psychologically and physiologically.
A cat’s purr can calm you and put your mind at ease, just like any relaxing activity that you enjoy. Cats purr while sleeping to condition their bones and muscles. And some experts suggest that it is possible that people can benefit from this.
However, there are a few reasons why you should discourage your cat from sleeping on your chest for a long time.
Your sleep will be interrupted
As your cat fidgets and moves around while he is asleep, you will find yourself awakening. If this continues, you might feel tired and deprived of much-needed rest. Over time, this lack of sleep can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing.
Your breathing will be impaired
Because of the literal weight on your chest, you might find it difficult to breathe while sleeping. This is particularly true if you own a big cat like a Maine Coon.
Furthermore, if you have an allergy or asthma, it becomes inevitable that you inhale some of your cat’s dander. The closer your cat sleeps next to your head, the more likely that you will inhale his fur and dead skin cells.
You and your cat can end up getting hurt.
Cats can inadvertently unsheathe their claws and you can end up with claw marks on your chest. Although your pet may not have intended it, it is a possibility that you will need to bear in mind.
And on the converse side of the coin, your cat can also end up getting hurt as you move around while you sleep.
If you like the idea of your cat sleeping near you, a good compromise would be to invest in a heated cat bed.
Consider yourself lucky
Cats are often characterized as anti-social pets. But the truth is, cats show their affection in a myriad of ways that are not readily apparent. This includes laying on their humans’ chests.
If your pet does this to you regularly, consider yourself lucky. It means that you have established a high level of trust with your cat that cannot be easily replicated.
Image: istockphoto.com / Thirawatana Phaisalratana