When cats sleep on their chests with humans, they either curl up into a ball or lie prone. The latter is more likely if they are waiting for the human to wake up. But why do cats like to sleep on their chests with humans?
Cats sleep on people’s chests when they are seeking warmth and comfort. They are also attracted to their owners’ scent, emitted through individual pheromones via sweat. Cats also sleep on the chest to transmit their pheromones and claim humans as their own.
Cats are also thought to enjoy the sound of their owners’ heartbeats and steady breathing. The chest’s rhythmic rise and fall also makes them sleep better.
Why Do Cats Sleep On People’s Chests?
In reality, there are several reasons why cats like to sleep on the human chest.
The specific reason depends on your cat’s personality and how attached they feel to you. But the following reasons are the most likely.
Rhythmic Heartbeat and Breathing
One scientific theory as to why cats like to sleep on their owners’ chests is that they are attracted to the rhythmic sounds of human heartbeat and breathing.
The chest’s steady rise and fall has a calming effect and helps cats fall asleep more easily. We are calm and relaxed when we sleep, and cats also take this opportunity to rest with us.
While we can’t smell our pheromones, cats can. They have over 200 million scent receptors, far more than humans.
We emit pheromones through our sweat, which cats sense through their Jacobson’s organ.
This is a unique organ on the roof of their mouth, allowing them to taste the scents and pheromones. It also gives them information about their environment.
Cats with a close bond with their owner feel reassured by this scent and curl up against the owner’s chest.
If your cat is a territorial animal, she may sit on your chest to claim you for her own, especially if you have other pets in the house.
This prevents other animals from doing the same and solidifies your cat’s dominance in the hierarchy.
Likewise, your cat may try to transfer her scent to you. Cats have scent glands on their paws and cheeks.
They transfer their individual scent to people and things they consider theirs, claiming them as their own.
This scent sticks to your skin and clothing and deters other animals.
Cats have a higher comfort range than humans at 84 to 99 °F (29 to 37 °C).
In the comfort range, cats can maintain their body temperature without expending energy beyond their regular basal metabolic rate.
Therefore, they like to be warm and seek sleeping places that radiate the most heat. In this case, that’s us.
In icy seasons, cats may even sleep on your chest while you lie under the blanket to stay extra warm and cozy.
The combination of the blanket’s insulation and the heat we give off may seem too hot. However, it is rarely too hot for cats.
Another relatively simple reason your cat sleeps on your chest is because it’s comfortable.
Cats sleep about 15 hours daily and settle into the most comfortable positions to get the most rest possible.
Cats sleep this much to conserve their energy for hunting when it gets dark. If your cat finds it comfortable, it will rest on you.
Protection and Safety
When cats sleep, they are especially vulnerable to predators and other dangers. Therefore, they may consider it necessary to sleep as close to you as possible to keep them safe from danger.
In the absence of a mother cat, you become the protector. The cat can sleep in peace, knowing that nothing will happen to it.
Although domestic cats don’t have to worry about such dangers, they are still instinctively attuned to them.
Contrary to the common preconception that cats are aloof, they are affectionate pets that crave human affection.
To be sure, this is not true of all cats. But those who do like to be near their owners sleep on them out of affection and attachment.
Also, many cats learn their owners aren’t going anywhere once they’re asleep.
This means cats can spend as much time with their owners as they want.
Enjoy this moment because cats reserve this behavior for those they really like.
Memories of Kittenhood
Your cat might enjoy sleeping on your chest as it reminds him of snuggling up to his mother.
A cat taken away from his mother too early is especially prone to this behavior. Such cats also often become firmly attached to their owners.
Unfortunately, cats can also develop inappropriate behaviors due to their kittenhood experiences.
For example, owners tend to cuddle their kittens to their chests for warmth or comfort.
If this is the case, your cat may associate these positive associations with your chest and sleep there well into adulthood.
Why is My Cat Standing On My Chest?
Cats that stand on or walk over their owners are looking for attention. This is most likely to happen when you are lying down to watch TV or are busy doing other things.
It’s hard to ignore a cat walking over you. And if your cat has learned that this behavior draws your attention to it, it will stand on you until you give in.
Another reason is that your cat is busy exploring, and you are in the way.
She may also be using you as a climbing frame to get to an insect she’s chasing or to explore a new, higher spot.
These are just a few possible reasons for exploration. Cats are curious creatures and like to learn about their surroundings.
Another likely scenario is scent marking. We mentioned earlier that sleeping on your chest lets cats transfer their scent and claim ownership.
This also happens when they stand on you, as they can rub their scent glands on you as they stand and walk over them.
Why is My Cat Sitting On My Chest in the Morning?
Many cats are food-motivated and have set meal times that they like to stick to. The predictability of a feeding schedule gives cats peace of mind because they know precisely when they will eat.
If you wake up late, your cat may sit on your chest to urge you to get up and feed her.
This happens especially if it has happened before and your cat knows this is the best way to be fed.
Your cat may also be bored. If she’s not hunting and mimicking your sleeping patterns at night, she probably wants to play and let off steam.
Cats don’t necessarily sleep all night long. They only sleep for a few hours at once before waking up to stretch their legs, eat, or drink.
When you wake up, your cat is ready for some company.
Why Do Cats Stomp On Your Chest?
Stomping with their front paws is one of the most obvious signs of affection. It is also known as trampling.
Cats trample on many soft surfaces, including their owners’ chests. It is an instinctive behavior that newborn kittens engage in to stimulate their mother’s milk production while nursing.
By the way, when cats kick their hind legs, it is for other reasons.
Cats also kick for the following reasons.
By kicking, cats also activate the scent glands in their paws to mark their territory. When they tread on your chest, they actively claim you as their property and mark their belongings for other cats and other animals.
Another theory as to why cats tread is that they use it to build a comfortable nest. Feral cats paw at leaves, grass, and other things to build a nest for themselves and their young.
Pawing softens the nest and allows them to look for predators and dangerous things hiding there.
If your cat does this at your breast, it is an instinctive behavior that she has picked up from her ancestors.
Unspayed female cats will kick when in heat to alert the male that they are ready to mate.
This is also accompanied by other behaviors such as:
- Increased vocalizations
- Mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive grooming, especially of the genitals
- Inability to calm down
- Desperate desire to be outside
Cats on heat also become overly affectionate and want to be near their owners constantly.
For this reason, your cat is more likely to sleep on your chest during this phase. If this behavior is new to your cat, it may stop when the heat is over. However, it may continue after that.
Summary: Why Do Cats Sleep On People’s Chests?
Cats like to sleep on people’s chests for a variety of reasons, and most of the reasons are positive.
If you are lucky enough to experience this, go for it because your cat loves you and trusts you.
However, constantly monitor her behavior if she shows signs of illness or stress.