Like most people, you probably love it when your cat sleeps on your chest. But are you wondering why cats do this? Is sleeping on your chest normal cat behavior? Should you let your cat do this? And if so, how can you support your cat as they sleep there? Here’s everything you’ll want to know about it.
So, why does my cat sleep on my chest? Cats typically fall asleep on their owner’s chest for a wide variety of reasons, from wanting or giving love to enjoying their owner’s scent. Some cats want to claim ownership of their people, while others want attention. Cats will also sleep on an owner’s chest to offer support and comfort.
It’s actually a really nice thing when you considered those reasons.
They’ll all positive.
So let us delve into these reasons further so you can identify which one it may be for you and your cat.
Then we will look at how you should respond.
Why Do Cats Sleep When They Are On Your Chest?
Your cat may sleep when they’re on your chest out of their love for you. They love your smell, and they feel safe there. In addition, they may derive comfort from your heartbeat and body temperature.
Your Cat Loves You
The most common reason for your cat sleeping on your chest is because they love you.
They may have started out with smaller signs of affection, such as rubbing their head against your arms or legs, and sleeping on your chest is an extension of their love for you.
Cats communicate through body language as well as vocalizations, so it could be your cat saying to you, “I trust you”, “I love you”, or “I need you”.
Your Cat Likes Your Smell
Cats usually like the smell of their favorite person, as scent is one of the main ways that they identify you.
A cat’s sense of smell is powerful: they can smell one drop of blood in an Olympic-sized swimming pool!
Your cat bonds with you through your scent, vocal tone, and touch. If they’re on your chest, they can smell you all the better!
Note: It isn’t just your scent but your presence that your cat wants. Many owners are told to leave behind something that carries their scent if they have to go on vacation. However, a recent study found that 38 percent of cats who were left alone with an object that smelled like their owners expressed more vocal distress than when they were left with nothing.
Your Cat is Claiming Ownership of You
Sleeping on your chest could be your cat’s way of saying, “This human is mine!” Cats will mark and protect their territory, which includes their favorite humans.
Some cats will sleep on an owner’s chest to show dominance, either over that person or over other cats in the household.
If you’ve recently introduced a new cat to your home and one of them starts claiming your chest, it’s likely they are showing dominance.
To address any dominance issues, when you introduce a new cat to your home, you can:
- Make sure each cat has her own toys, litter box, and bed
- Give each cat enclosed, safe spaces to retreat to when they want alone time (possibly spaces that are up high)
- Feed your cats on opposite sides of the room so that they don’t feel the instinctive need to compete for food
- If one cat insists on lying on your chest obsessively, try distracting her with some food or a treat. Alternatively, you can try giving her some space until they calms down
Note: Cats will usually calm down and establish their set habits once they have worked out their roles in the household.
Your Cat Wants Comfort
Some cats who are anxious will stick close to their owners for comfort and reassurance.
If your cat not only sleeps on your chest but also tends to stick by your side most of the time, they could be anxious (see below).
Your Cat Wants Attention
Some cats curl up on an owner’s chest to seek attention.
Perhaps you are out all day at work: your cat has missed you, so they may sleep on your chest to get that dose of love and attention they haven’t had all day.
Your Cat Wants to Comfort You
Cats are sensitive to our emotions and physical states, and many cats will sleep on an owner’s chest if that person is pregnant or ill.
Some people find their cats want to sleep on top of them if they’ve been injured or have just had surgery.
In these cases, your cat sees you as more vulnerable, so they are doing her best to provide you with comfort!
Is It Normal for Cats to Sleep When They Are On Your Chest?
Given the strong sense of comfort and security cats get when they are on the chest of someone they love, it’s normal for them to sleep there.
As wild animals, cats are prey animals, so they need to trust that they are safe.
Your chest provides the perfect comfortable and safe place to rest, as your cat instinctively knows you’ll protect and love her.
Because your cat feels comforted and safe on your chest, they’ll happily sleep there.
In addition, cuddling with their favorite people could help release oxytocin (the love hormone) in cats and helps them feel good.
Oxytocin is the bonding hormone and is what’s released in a mother’s body when her baby is nursing.
There is no research to show that this happens in cats, but it could be why your cat decides to snuggle up with you.
Your cat also derives comfort from feeling your heartbeat and your body heat.
Sleeping on our chests provides a rich whiff of our scent, too, which is why cats also sleep on your pillow or even on your hair!
For a cat, the closer they are to their favorite person’s head, the better.
Should You Let Your Cat Sleep On Your Chest?
Most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with letting your cat sleep on your chest. However, if you have any allergies, you’ll want to know how to discourage your loving cat without having her feel rejected. If you suspect your cat could be suffering from anxiety, you’ll need to address the cause or causes as best you can so that they’re more comfortable.
When You Can Let Your Cat Sleep on Your Chest
If your cat is happy to sleep on your chest and you are happy to have her there, let her sleep there.
In fact, it’s a good idea to let your cat sleep on your chest as much as you can to strengthen and maintain a loving bond with your cat.
You don’t have to lie in bed all day – but certainly, if your cat wants a cuddle, you’ll want to show her your love and affection.
Note: If your cat is elderly or has health issues, it’s even more important to let her sleep on your chest when wants to. They most likely seeking comfort and security even more than usual.
What To Do If You Have Allergies
If you have to discourage your cat from sleeping on your chest, here’s what you can do:
- Put a sheet or towel over your before going to bed to help block your scent. Your cat will be less inclined to lie down on your chest
- Try putting some drops of lemon essential oil on your nightwear or on the sheet that covers your chest. Cats take an intense dislike to the smell of citrus
- Try training your cat using positive reinforcement (rewarding her for good behaviors and ignoring or distracting her from unwanted behaviors)
- Provide an extra-warm place for your cat to sleep, such as a heated bed or a space by a radiator
- Gently push your cat off your chest once in a while. Over time they’ll get the idea that they’ll need to find a different place to sleep
- If there’s room in your bed, slide over, so your cat is next to you rather than on top of you
Note: If you have to discourage your cat from sleeping on your chest, make sure they have other comfortable places to sleep where they feel secure.
If You Think Your Cat Might Have Anxiety
If you suspect your cat might have anxiety, you’ll want to let her sleep on your chest for comfort if you can.
You’ll also want to address the cause of the anxiety to help your cat be happier and more relaxed.
Here are some things you can do:
- Identify the cause, if you can. Possible causes include recent changes in your cat’s routine or environment, boredom or inactivity, or loud noises.
- Remove the triggers if there are any. If the loud noises are the problem, see how you can mitigate this. If it’s insufficient activity or affection, make sure your cat spends enough quality time with you and is both mentally and physically stimulated (indoor cats can often not be getting enough of either).
- Use enrichment to instill positive behaviors. Provide opportunities for your cat to play (with you), engage in hunting behaviors, and enjoy cuddles.
- Change your cat’s environment. Try these ideas: elevated spaces for climbing, cat perches with outdoor views, enclosed spaces like cardboard boxes or cat beds, safe outdoor spaces like a catio, scratching posts, or an exercise wheel.
Note: Be patient with your cat. Never use punishment. Make changes gradually, and continue to provide comfort.
How To Support Your Cat While They Sleep On Your Chest
If your cat insists on sleeping on your chest, there are things you can do to make both of you more comfortable.
Help Your Cat Feel More Comfortable
If your cat always wants to sleep on your chest, it could be they feels they’re not getting enough attention or comfort.
Here are some ways you can help your cat feel more comfortable:
- Give them lots of alternative spots to snuggle. Make sure your cat has enclosed, safe spaces to relax. Cats love high places, too, as they feel more secure.
- Try giving her a massage. You can gently rub her back or massage her head. Try finding her favorite spots to be snuggled – this helps your cat feel loved.
- Seek help if you need it. If you find your cat compulsively seeking out your chest, consider a vet visit to see if there’s an underlying issue you haven’t been able to identify.
Do Your Best To Understand What Your Cat Wants
It can be tough to figure out what your cat wants or is trying to tell you, but usually, cats who sleep on your chest are asking for reassurance and love.
If your cat seeks your company, give her some cuddles and attention. If they start to get uncomfortable – despite being on your chest – and want to back away, let her do that.
Don’t ever try and force your cat to stay on your chest or anywhere else they don’t want to be. As we all know, cats aren’t exactly fans of doing what they are told.
If you think your cat is trying to tell you something, but you don’t know what it is, consider contacting an animal behaviorist.
It could be your cat is trying to draw your attention to something essential, like a health problem.
Cats sleep on the chest of their owners for good reasons.
Though it may not always be in the best interest of you and your cat to let them do so.
Thankfully there are some things you can do to reduce this behavior if you ever wanted/needed to.
But in most instances, this is something you can just simply enjoy.
Other cat sleeping guides you may want to read:
- Cat Sleeps With Face On Floor [Why & Need You Worry?]
- Why Does My Cat Sleep On My Pillow? [Should You Stop Them?]
- My Cat Sleeps In My Arms Like A Baby [Why & Should You Let Them?]
- Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Sleeping?
- Do Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open? [What Owners Should Know]
- Why Does My Cat Sleep on My Bed When I Am Away?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.