There are two reasons why cats sit on a person’s lap: warmth and contact with the person. The latter is a desire to be close to their human caretaker and companion. That’s perfectly normal. And we know that domestic cats like warmth. This is because their wildcat ancestor comes from the African/Asian hot scrublands.
All domestic cats like the warmth and therefore the warmth of a person’s lap. The domestic cat’s desire for warmth is immutable. It won’t change.
However, what can change and be changeable in the domestic cat is how much they like to be close to and in contact with the person who wants their cat to come onto their lap.
The variability depends on how well socialised the cat is and their character. Plus how well they know the person.
P.S. Everything written is based on the presumption that the person is a great cat owner in all respects. I am looking at cat issues not human issues.
Socialisation is a much used word in the world of domestic cats. If a cat is not 100% socialised she might be less than totally confident about going onto a person’s lap, even the lap of a person she knows well. The degree of socialisation is a factor on whether a cat is a lap cat or not. The more socialised the better. If the cat is 100% socialised it is then down to the cat’s character (timid or confident) and how well the cat knows and is familiar with the person.
Some cats are more confident than others. This will play a role in whether a cat is a lap cat or not. If the relationship between cat and person is very close and friendly, as it should be, and the cat does not go on the person’s lap the reason will be a character trait. The cat will be one of those who simply is not that keen on being in contact with their human companion for long periods.
It is the same when some cats don’t like being picked up. These cats probably won’t like sleeping on their owner’s lap either. Socialisation does not remedy this.
Domestic cats are unlikely to plonk down onto the lap of a complete strange although it does happen. They’ll be unsure about strangers.
If everything is in place for the cat to be a lap cat: friendly home, well socialised and a close relationship between cat and person but the cat does wish to curl up on their owner’s lap you’ll have to try and gently encourage him/her.
A treat of her favourite food while the cat is on the lap may help because she’ll associate a pleasant experience (nice food) with being on the lap. This might be a starting point towards sleeping on the lap. But I don’t think you can change a cat’s character with treats. What you can do is gently train a cat to like being on a lap although it might not come naturally to them.
Breeders sometimes claim that cats of a certain breed are lapcats. I don’t think you can pigeon hole all cats of a single breed as lapcats. You can say that they’ll tend to like laps through selective breeding but there is no cast iron guarantee because individual traits take over.
The following breeds are said to be fond of people’s lap! This is according to research I did a long time ago.
- American Curl
- American Ringtail
- American Shorthair
- American Wirehair
- Devon Rex
- Exotic Shorthair
- Havana Brown
- Maine Coon
- Selkirk Rex
- Turkish Angora
- Turkish Van