Why won't my cat sit on my lap?
April 11, 2020 3:52 PM   Subscribe

My cat won't sit on my lap, even though she will sit on everyone else's lap. Is there some cat cue I'm missing? Or is she mad because I belong to another cat?

My family has three cats. We've had 15 year old Edison since he was a year old. The other two are newer arrivals. Seven year old Delano was adopted in the fall, and ten year old Hazel was adopted shortly after New Year's.

Edison is pretty chill, but Hazel and Delano don't consistently get along. They mostly just avoid each other, but hissing is a daily event. Things have improved since Hazel has come home, and I think that eventually they'll tolerate one another. In most other ways, though, Hazel is settling in even though on the whole she's more skittish than Delano or Edison. She's a wonderful cat, though. She meows for attention, and hops up on the arm of the couch to sit next to me. She rubs my hands and purrs and kneads with her paws.

But she won't sit on my lap.

Normally I'd be fine with it, but she sits on EVERYONE ELSE'S lap. My husband, my kids, everyone. She will literally jump over my lap to avoid sitting on it, but will then hunker down on the arm of the couch next to me and purr.

What am I doing wrong here? Is this a demonstration of distrust? She seems to want love and attention from me, so I don't know! The only other explanation I can think of is that out of everyone in the family, I am Delano's favorite. He cuddles with me, follows me around, sits on my lap. Since Del and Hazel don't get along, could it be that I'm too much of Delano's person for Hazel to curl up with?

Can cats really claim a person as their territory? Or am I doing something to irritate Hazel? Or is this just a weird cat thing?
posted by christinetheslp to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does Delano dominate Hazel?
posted by amtho at 3:59 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Our older male cat (our only pet) has to go through a whole ritual of jumping on the chair arm, walking across my lap to the other arm, walking out onto the leg rest if it's up, perching as far away as he can manage until after all this he finally will cautiously walk on to my lap. He doesn't have any reservations about getting on to my wife's lap and spends a lot more time there. Otherwise he is pretty lovable so I figure it's just some unexplained cat behavior. Cats are wonderful but they can also be assholes.
posted by jabo at 4:18 PM on April 11, 2020

Try a flat cushion on your lap. That’s the only way my dear departed Valentine would sit on my lap. Apparently my lap was made of lava, but the cushion neutralized it.
posted by antiquated at 4:29 PM on April 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

This is weird but are you the skinniest person in the family? My cat whom I've had for 15 years loves attention from me but will only sit in my partner's lap and we've basically come to the conclusion that partner's lap is squishier and my lap is just not comfy enough. I'm too bony I guess. Blankets in my lap help sometimes if they're poofy enough, though.
posted by brook horse at 4:31 PM on April 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Does she maybe dislike the texture/feel of your pants? Have you tried a blanket?
posted by Lady Li at 5:14 PM on April 11, 2020

Have you given her the impression you're not going to sit still for a long time? My sister had a cat who wouldn't sit on her lap but loved to sit on our mother's lap. Mum tended to sit down to watch TV in the evening and not move again. Sister was more fidgety. Cat wouldn't give sister another chance. Sleeping was important and she had no tolerance for those who wouldn't sit still for hours.
posted by kitten magic at 6:07 PM on April 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

We had a tiny siamese that would sit on my mom, my grandma (who didn't live with us), and my dad. You could not pick him up ever, or make him sit or lay in a particular spot, but if he chose you, you were fine. He never would sit in my lap. I could pet him, he would sit by me, beg for attention, and the weirdest thing was: almost every time I was getting ready to move back to college in the summer, he would spend the last night I was home sleeping on the back of my knees as if to keep me home. That is the only time he would ever lay on me in the 18 or so years he was around. Sometimes cats are just weird.
posted by Kimothy at 6:08 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

My dominant chill cat loved my husband bc he was kind of a dick to him (would go to sit on him if he wouldn’t get out of my husbands chair). Dominant cats only respect the most dominant person ie the one who cares the least about them. Just a thought.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:25 PM on April 11, 2020

Our two cats vastly prefer to sit on my lap, rather than my partner's. Some differences between the two of us, in case it's helpful:

I sit with my feet up on the couch and knees splayed wide open to the sides (a "lotus" kind of sitting style?), making a perfect little nest for them to nap in. My partner likes to sit with their thighs together and feet on the floor - no cozy nest!

I stay for hours. Like I will bring everything I know I need within arm's reach so I can sit for 3+ hrs. I will delay meals or a bathroom break sometimes because they look sooooooo comfy and I don't want to disturb their sleep. My partner will get up or shift positions anytime they want. So I think the kitties know that when it's me, they can get a nice long nap in.

I am home a lot more. When I am home, I interact with them a lot more.

I make less noise. Our cats are skittish and scared of everything. To them, I am the quiet one who will go out of my way to maximize their comfort and enjoyment (and zen space) while my partner is the one who makes sudden movements, drops a lot of things that make loud noises, and comes in 2x a day to bring their bike through our living room, which makes a scary noise each time!

I interact with the kitties whenever they make a bid for my attention. My partner interacts with the kitties only when my partner feels like it. (Kitties know I am a sucker and easily manipulated.)

My partner does some of the dirty jobs - specifically, trimming claws. I think there is an inherent level of distrust because of it.

We have a specific cat blanket that is full of their cat hair and drool and smells sooooo familiar to them. When the blanket is on my lap, they settle down right away. No blanket - lots more sniffing, unsure if lap is a safe space.
posted by tinydancer at 9:34 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Is it gender-based? We adopted our kitty as a pretty young adult, and I'm.... clearly not favorite person. It became pretty evident that she is much more standoffish towards all women. We think she was mistreated by one.

She now knows I'm one of her people, and will sit bumped up next to me on her own, but my lap itself still needs a blanket for her to sit on.
posted by Dashy at 9:43 PM on April 11, 2020

Because cats are dedicated life coaches, and yours is trying to teach you that sometimes a hunt requires complete suppression of apparent intent toward the prey for longer than any reasonable human could ever possibly imagine is necessary.

One day you will have been sitting quietly for half an hour and right when you're on the point of needing to get up to do something else, that cat is going to occupy your lap for the first time ever in order to teach you the next thing.
posted by flabdablet at 10:58 PM on April 11, 2020 [9 favorites]

I know a brown tabby who is biased against people with short femurs. Does that sound like you?
posted by armeowda at 10:58 PM on April 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

My 18 year old cat never ever sits in my lap, only my husband's. If we are both sitting down in the house, she will climb up on his lap every time. If I am home alone sitting, she will sit on a sofa pillow or maybe perch on the arm of my chair.

We have no idea why she prefers his lap. She does come to me for pets and cuddles. She follows me around the house like a puppy when I am home during her "awake" time. If I am working, ideally she would like to be sat on the desk right beside my computer so I can pet her. If I fall asleep in the recliner or on the couch, she will sleep on the back of the furniture right above me, or on the arm of it snuggled next to me, but never on my body. If my husband falls asleep on the couch she will sleep right on top of him.

She never goes to him to beg for food. There is "treat time" in the evening at our house, which is generally administered by me but sometimes if I'm busy I'll ask him to do it. However, if I am not home she will not pester him about it. I always send him reminders to feed her if I am out of town, as I am afraid it would never occur to her to go to him and beg. Whereas she will be super obnoxious about begging me as it gets closer to treat time every evening, or if she wants wet food.

We had at one point wondered what her names for us might be. I think mine would be "Cat Feeder" and his would be "Good Lap".
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:52 AM on April 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding the “try a cushion” suggestion. One of my cats would come very close, bump up against me, walk across my lap to get to the other arm of the chair, and obviously just enjoy being close and affectionate, but would not settle on my lap, until I put a cushion down on it first. It’s like that was exactly what she was waiting for, and after a couple of weeks of requiring the cushion, she started just getting up in my lap whenever she felt like it, cushion or no.
posted by skybluepink at 12:54 AM on April 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Have you tried luring her to your lap with treats? Get the container of treats and sit down; I guarantee you a cat on your lap.

Although, in your case, you might end up with 3 cats on your lap and two of them fighting, so maybe choose your moment wisely.

(Also, choose your treats wisely-- I once sat down to lap-train my two cats, popped the lid off the tube of freeze-dried chicken treats, and caused an explosion of white freeze-dried chicken powder all over my black trousers. Operation Lapcat was a definite success that day.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2020

Ten years ago, my now-wife ended up with both of their cats in her divorce from the first husband: a wonderful brown tabby boy who became the light of our lives, who was also the alpha that kept everything running smoothly, but he died too early of a rare cancer; also in the bargain was this totally dumbass overly-furred little lady with dark brown leading to black fur whose total cat vocabulary is, "Gowm".

This little lady chose to hate and ignore me. I had recently lost my ancient meezer and decided to get a baby kitten Siamese who was to be my replacement meezy. Except that he hated Gowm-girl and only our alpha tabby kept him in check. When the tabbo died, our little Gowmy idiot chose me as her human because I would protect her from the other cats' ongoing drama. She almost lives in my lap now.

Long story short, Gowm-girl is mine, the new meezer loves my kid, and my wonderful wife has a new tabby who is charming us all and only sits on my lap if she is away more than two days straight. The moral of the story is, cats are effin' weird and we can't predict their behavior, but there is hope that some circumstance may arise that will make your lap the most desirable place in all creation.
posted by jjray at 10:03 PM on April 12, 2020

Have you tried using a laptop computer? Cat's can't seem to resist that.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:01 PM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

My lap isn't big enough between short legs and a belly. Instead my cat will sit between my legs if I spread them on the couch.
posted by evening at 5:20 PM on April 13, 2020

« Older PPP Me or Leave it Be?   |   Can I eat this unopened skordalia that's 3 days... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.