Q: Every time I get into my recliner to lay back and relax my cat, Nellie Moon, insists on crawling on me and laying on my chest. Why does she want to always lay on me?
A: There are really no solid facts as to why Nellie Moon chooses to do this, but there are plenty of educated guesses.
Cats love to rest in warm places. Many cat owners have observed their felines catching the rays of sunlight in the morning stretched out on the floor or by a window. Cats seek out external heat sources so their bodies don’t have to work so hard to maintain a base temperature. This may be why Nellie Moon likes to lay on your chest – because you are nice and warm to her.
Felines sleep an average of 16 hours a day and that much sleeping surely requires not only a warm spot but something comfy. Chances are you have a blanket or something soft on that Nellie Moon considers nice and cozy to lay on.
When your cat is in search of a place to curl up and take a nap, she not only wants comfort and warmth, she wants a place that is secure, and there is not a better place than on you. She feels safe being on your chest. The natural scents of your body also help her feel secure because she associates this with the companionship and safety you provide. The steady rhythm of your heartbeat may also be soothing. No dangerous predators are around when her favorite person is there to keep her safe, so drifting off to sleep comes easily when there is nothing to fear.
Some researchers think that hormones might play a key into why cats enjoy laying on their owners. It is now known dogs release oxytocin, a hormone associated with good feelings, when they interact with their owners. The same theory just might apply to cats, though there is no scientific evidence to prove this just yet.
Since Nellie Moon can’t hug or speak to you, this probably is her way to let you know in kitty language that she truly adores you.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].