How can I make my cat a lap cat?

Lap cat

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Is it possible to make your cat a lap cat? It is the word ‘make’ that I don’t like as it implies forcing a cat to do something against her will and natural inclinations.

There are two overlapping reasons why a cat is a lap cat: (a) he inherited his parents’ or grandparents’ specific genes which lead him to like being on his human companion’s lap and (b) he was socialised and was in an environment in the early years of his life which encouraged him and ‘trained’ him to like being on a lap. Both of these are more or less fixed character traits in an adult cat.

When you read about cats and their character people might say he or she is a ‘lap cat’. They say this as if if is a fixed trait. It probably is.

The big question, therefore, is can you convert a cat who does not instinctively like to lie on your lap to like it?

Well, you possibly can. As mentioned the ‘lap cat’ character trait may be fixed. You may fail in making him a lap cat. Conversely, your cat might be a lap cat but this aspect of his personality might have been suppressed or knocked out of him because of the behaviour of previous owners (if he is a rescue cat who lived with previous owners). If that is the case, you’ll succeed in making him a lap cat by plenty of TLC and gentle encouragement to come onto your lap. The same can be said about feral cats. Feral cats have never had the opportunity to be a lap cat. There are many stories of feral cats become domesticated and very loving (and lap cats) but you can’t guarantee that it will work out. The underlying rule is: love, gentleness and patience.

I have been referring to random bred cats but the cat breeds are different in that skilled breeders take charge over their cats’ socialization and they’ll want to ensure that their kittens are well socialized and ideally lap cats because in general cat owners like cats to come onto their lap. The breeders want their cats to be marketable. I think you’ll find more lap cats amongt the purebreds compared to the random bred cats.

I am open to suggestions but what I’d do if my cat was not a lap cat and I wanted him to become one is to ensure that he has compete trust in me through a lot of great caretaking over a decent period of time and then gently encourage him to come onto my lap. You can pick him up and place him on your lap (if he allows it). You might feed him a treat while he is on your lap. But never force the issue. You’ll lose and make things worse.

Using a treat, as mentioned, as part of a clicker training program might work. I am suggesting that you might be able to train your cat to come onto your lap and stay there. Elisa wrote an article on clicker training or Google it to read about it. It requires some patience and commitment. Read about a Maine Coon trained to do dog-like tricks.

5 thoughts on “How can I make my cat a lap cat?”

  1. You can encourage cats to be “lap” cats, but yeah, “make” isn’t the right word or attitude. They need to like you, be around you and feel safe and comfortable close to you. There are many things that go into that, so it isn’t a “trick” I think. It’s something that all the other things achieved, it might be they just hadn’t thought of it or feel they need your invitation. A cat might love you as much as you’d like but simply doesn’t like to do that. Other cats might do it to try to make the bond more than it is… make YOU more of a person who’d want that closeness. But I think it’s mostly that you make the relationship all it can be in the first place. If they feel good being close to you but they don’t do that yet, maybe you just need to make your lap available and make them notice it more, but you can’t make your cat a lap cat as if that’s all there is to making a great relationship.

  2. My furbabies are NOT lap cats! And I wouldn’t try to make them into something they are not by choice or genes. Howie prefers to occupy the pillow next to mine, Thor doesn’t like to be around me unless he wants it, so he sets his own ways. He likes to sleep on top of my legs-very uncomfortable . Thomasina slips under the covers and settles by my side for a short time. Kutawnnie likes her beds by the windows. Guy likes the bed on the chest, where he can survey everyone. Joy prefers to sleep in her carrier. Every once in awhile, they’ll change everything around-I think they want to see if I pay attention to where each is. It’s their choice and I find it stimulating to keep up with their likes and dislikes.

    • Susan, I like you attitude and I am the same. If a cat is a lap cat that’s great but if not that’s fine too. My cat loves my lap. He likes to come under the covers as well for about 20 mins. He might do it twice a night. He sleeps on my legs at night – uncomfortable as you say! I have to move after a while otherwise I seize up 😉

  3. I think people who want their cats to be lap cats don’t know what they wish for. My previous cat wasn’t a lap cat, but at some point she started to enjoy just lie near me on the sofa.
    One of my current cats is a lap cat. But I think what people who want their cat to be a lap cat don’t get is that lap cats don’t come to your laps when you want to or when it’s convenient for you. They do it when they want it, and it often happens in the worst possible moment for you: where you are trying to read, they might lie across your book, when you were just about to get up to go to the bathroom, etc.


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