I think it’s safe to say that most of us want our cats to cuddle with us, let us hold them, and sit on our lap. But just because a cat is not a lap cat doesn’t mean that she’s not affectionate. Cats show affection in any number of ways, through purring, head butting, cheek rubbing or grooming us. And then there’s the slow “I love you” blink, guaranteed to melt your heart.

Different cats, different ways of showing affection

While it’s possible to encourage cats to become lap cats, it’s important to honor each cat’s unique personality. Almost every cat can learn to trust and show affection on his or her own terms.


Ruby was my “velcro kitten” from the very start. If she had had her way, she would have been permanently glued to me 24/7. With the exception of her first few days in our home, when she was a bit more reserved as she was getting used to her new environment, she always loved to be held and squished and kissed.

My precious “velcro kitten”

Allegra, on the other hand, was not a lap cat for the first several years after I adopted her. Every once in a great while, she’d grace me with some lap time, but usually only for a few minutes, and most definitely on her terms.

Around the time she turned five, I began to see a gradual change. She would start to come up on my lap more frequently when I settled in for some TV watching in the evening, and once she was settled, there wasn’t much that would dislodge her, even though Ruby tried her best. Ruby did not like seeing Allegra on my lap, and sometimes she tried to wedge herself onto my chest while Allegra was sleeping on my lap. Much to my surprise, Allegra tolerated this, and it was usually Ruby who left first, with a great big huff.

Allegra and Ruby

Over the last three years since Ruby died, Allegra has become even more affectionate. I think part of it is that she was always a little bit in Ruby’s shadow. Ruby had such a huge personality, and she was not shy about asking for what she wanted, whereas Allegra was and still is a more quiet, almost shy cat. But Allegra now frequently comes up on my lap. She joins me most mornings when I meditate (and if there’s a better way to start the day than to mediate with a purring cat on your lap, I don’t know what that might be.) She loves to sit in my lap when I read and watch TV. And she has staying power now – a staying power that usually outlasts my bladder capacity! I always hate when I have to dislodge her before she’s ready to hop off.

Amber and Buckley

Before Allegra and Ruby, there was Amber, who was a total lap cat. When Buckley joined our family, Amber reluctantly shared my lap.

And before Amber and Buckley, there was Feebee, who also loved being on my lap. I don’t have any digital photos of Feebee on my lap.

Can you teach a cat to be a lap cat?

You may not be able to turn every cat into a lap cat, but there are a few things you can try:

  • When you’re relaxing, have a bag of treats ready and occasionally toss one for your cat. Gradually move the treats closer to you by placing the on the chair or couch next to you. Praise your cat when she comes to get the treats, but don’t hold her down
  • Place your cat’s favorite bed or blanket on the sofa next to you. Some cats may never be comfortable on your lap, but will enjoy being near you.
  • Never force the issue. After all, it’s called unconditional love for a reason.

It has been a wonderful gift to watch Allegra’s evolution from a somewhat aloof young cat to a serious lap cat, especially after Ruby passed away. I treasure every moment when she’s curled up or stretched up on my lap, and I just wish human biology wouldn’t interfere with the experience!

Are your cats lap cats?

12 Comments on Evolution of a Lap Cat

  1. they looked almost like twins, they were so cute together. my dogs have always slept with me, they had their picking order. if someone tried to take my late dog’s place, she would sit and stare at me til i moved them from her spot at my right shoulder. now the other 2 girls sleep at my right shoulder cuddled together. it seems that one in the family is the leader, so I guess Ruby had 1st chair.

  2. Thank you for this post. Maestro was born to a barn cat. When the the owner of the barn moved away a friend of mine found Maestro under an oak tree more dead than alive. He was only a few days old. Starving and already with worms. my friend took him to the vet and gave him to me soon after. Now Maestro is nearly seven years old and a little overweight. He has never been as affectionate as I would like but lately he sits not on my lap, but my shins when I watch TV. He’s curled up behind my knees when I wake up in the morning. He won’t cuddle. He doesn’t purr. But your article reminds me that he does show subtle signs of attachment. He sometimes gives me the love blink from across the room. I love Maestro issues and all.

  3. Duchess is my first Tortie child. I thought she wouldn’t be a lap kitty because she has such a big personality. She is a true Velcro girl! She sleeps with me with her front legs wrapped around my neck. I believe she would be happy if I bought a papoose to carry her around 24/7.

  4. Tasha is not a lap cat. Although she follows me around. If I go upstairs and am there for 2 or more minutes, she comes to check on me. She will lay next to me at bedtime, then during the night she will go back downstairs. During the day, if I’m on the computer, she will lay on her lounger next to me.

  5. What a dear story. Thank you so much. My two 4-yr old litter-mate “MENZ” have taught me so much about the subtleties of conversation and communication.

  6. Your cats are so beautiful.

    My two – black twins, abandoned by their mom before their eyes opened and bottle fed for many weeks – have little affinity for laps. They wait until bedtime and fight to cuddle up to my chest just like a child, with arms around my neck. Can’t snuggle in tight enough. The male especially will lick my neck and cheeks. Sometimes it’s a bit much but their displays of love are most appreciated.

  7. Kiki is usually my lap cat. Lulu will sit on my lap only if I put a blanket over my legs. Now that it is cold, she has been wanting to sit with me more often. It always starts with a huge head buut like she is thanking me ahead of time. Last night she headbutted me in the mouth and my lip is still swelled up. But I couldn’t get upset when she was being so sweet.

      • It sure was. She does this a lot (not in the mouth, but on my face). I guess it’s her way of thanking me ahead of time before she lays down on my lap. When she makes biscuits on my lap and it goes to my skin and I say ouch, she will get up and give another headbutt.

  8. Only a few cats that I have adopted liked the lap the others they didn’t want nothing too do with it. Sir Tiger prefers too sit besides me and Ms. Mida rather do the same. My kids show affection other ways

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