Why My Cat Sleeps Between My Legs
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Cats have a reputation for being selfish and unaffectionate. While they may be generally more independent than some other pets, the bonds with they forge with their human guardians can be as strong as any companion animal relationship. Their level of affection and interaction will depend on the individual, but a well-socialzied cat which has their needs covered should start treating their human guardian as part of their social group. This means they will communicate to them various emotions, using body language and other forms of feline communication.
Knowing how they communicate is the key to understanding why cats sleep in between our legs. AnimalWised explains the reasons behind this common feline behavior and reveals what it says about your relationship together.
They want to be warm
We will explain some of the emotional reasons why cats sleep in between your legs, but we start with something a little more practical. Although cats can withstand low temperatures, when the ambient temperature is cool, they will seek out warm places to rest. These can be on top of the radiator, in front of a fireplace or even in shafts of light coming through the window.
Human beings are also emitters of heat energy. Our body heat makes us an organic radiator and cats will not hesitate to use us as such. On a cold day, we will often wrap ourselves warm in a blanket on the sofa, often making us the warmest presence in the room. For the cat, it will make sense to sit on top of your legs or even snuggle in beside you to feel some warmth themselves.
Although cats will use us for warmth, they will not do so if they haven't built some level of trust with you. Suspicion and distrust are part of a cat's nature. They are important survival tools for the wild, something domestic cats will still exhibit to varying degrees. If the cat has not been well-socialized, something common in cats adopted from the shelter system, they can find it difficult to build trust, although it is possible with the right care.
When a cat comes to sleep in between your legs, it shows they have built up a certain level of trust. The fact they are resting on our legs may be significant. If the cat is still wary, being on your legs means they are not getting too close. They may be willing to stay there, but won't want to be in closer reach.
However, your legs may also simply be their preference. Especially if the cat is asleep on your legs, it means they trust you implicitly. They don't have to worry you will do them harm and they can rest easy. There are various ways cats will show they have confidence in you, something we explain further in the video below:
They feel protected
Related to the previous reason why cats sleep between your legs, their trust in you is for their benefit. When there is something in their environment which threatens them, they will look to you for security. This can even happen when they feel stress or pain, situations which can cause insecurity in the cat.
You are a cat's main point of reference in their environment. You feed them, clean their litter box, stimulate them physically and cognitively, and generally take care of them. Cats recognize this in their guardian, so they will come to you when they feel unsafe. They will see you as being their protector.
This behavior is particularly common when something in the home appears to threaten their security. If a new member of the family is brought into the home, a stranger comes to visit, there are loud noises or anything which can feel like a threat occurs, the cat may rest between your legs for protection.
They are showing you affection
Cats have various ways of showing their affection, not all of which are obvious to us. Some cats may be very dependent on you, following you everywhere around to the home to ask for affection. Others are more subtle. The signs which we can interpret as displaying love and affection for us are more varied, but sleeping in between our legs is one of them.
Other ways cats show their love to us include licking us, rubbing themselves between our legs, greeting us when we get home or even waking us up in our bed. These all go to show the cat thinks of us as part of their family. Sitting on top of our legs is a valuable demonstration of the love felines can share with us.
In addition to being a place of warmth, our legs can be very comfortable for cats. When we have our legs stretched out, but keep close together, we essentially create a little kitty hammock. Due to their body length and morphology, cats can lie down between our legs and get very comfortable, something they are not always able to do on flat surfaces. Considering cats can rest in some strange places, it shouldn't be surprising they find our legs comfortable.
They have a preference for elevated areas
Since we often keep our legs elevated, this provides certain benefits to the cat. In the wild, cats will need to stay in elevated areas for safety. Since these would be vulnerable on the forest floor, wild cats will rest in trees so they can both be more hidden and have a vantage point to survey their habitat. While domestic cats do not have the same threats, resting on our elevated legs can give them a similar feeling of safety.
Cats may sleep on your feet or curl up beside you, but they may prefer to rest between your legs to feel in control. They often do so if they are not going to sleep, but simply want to perch for a little while.
There are multiple cats in the home
When more than one cat is in the home, sleeping in between your legs can have another meaning. You may see one cat is resting on your legs when another comes over and knocks them off. We know that cats are territorial beings, but this is not the same as marking (although the cat may knead you once they are on your legs).
Depending on the social order of the cats, there may be one which is more dominant and another which is more submissive. Since you are the source of each cat's security and point of reference, being close to you is important. A more dominant cat may claim the resting place as their own to prove this. A more submissive cat may vacate the area for the same reasons.
It is important to note not all cats are like this. Many live in a much more egalitarian social structure, especially if they are related and grew up together. The variations in social structure vary according to many factors, including breed, socialization, care, health and experience. We should not assume the cat is resting between our legs for this purpose. Usually the reasons are some combination of all of those mentioned in this article.
Now you know the reasons why your cat sleeps between your legs, you may want to better understand the positives and negatives of having your cat sleep beside you. We explain more in our video below on whether it is bad to sleep next to your cat:
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