Why isn’t my cat a lap cat?

Why isn’t my cat a lap cat? Three topics come to mind in response to the question in the title. They are, socialisation, age and wild cat hybrids. Tell me if you have more!

Early socialisation of kitten
Maine Coon Daydream van Siduroy, black tabby classic with white – Photo by Dani published here with her permission.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


Perhaps the biggest influence on whether a cat is a lap cat or not is how and when they were socialised. Many studies have been carried out on feline socialisation. In one of them researches handled kittens from three, seven and fourteen-weeks-of-age. Kittens learn about people earlier than puppies.

The kittens handled from three weeks of age were happy to sit on a lap when they reached 14 weeks of age. The kittens who had been handled from seven weeks jumped off a lap after 30 seconds but those handled after 14 weeks stayed on a lap for less than 15 seconds. Early socialisation equated to lap cat behaviour.

Early socialisation produces a powerful attraction to people. Sitting on a person’s lap is an ideal way to satisfy that attraction. When a cat is handled for the first time quite late in their life, which means in this instance at seven weeks of age, they behave more like cats who have not been handled according to research. Cats need to start learning about people earlier than dogs. The cat handled for the first time in his ninth week of life may be anxious when near people for the remainder of his life.

To recap, socialisation is an important factor in whether a cat is a lap cat or not.


A common sense thought is that a very young cat is more likely to be more active with high energy levels and therefore less inclined to sit around a person’s lap. When these kittens grow up they are more than likely to migrate towards their owner’s lap provided they are well socialised.

Wild cat hybrids

Is a cat right for me?
George a Bengal cat from Double grr Bengals. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

Although not the case for all wild cat hybrids such as the Bengal cat, it is said that many Bengal cats possess a while-type behaviour which makes them less inclined to be lap cats. The Bengal Cat Rescue website states:

“This breed has a strong and sometimes dominant personality and although affectionate, lots are not simple lap cats. They can respond aggressively to discipline and are being handled…”

It’s unfortunate that the Bengal cat’s wild cat ancestor is the Asian leopard cat which is an incredibly independent-minded small wild cat species. Some small wild cat species are predisposed to being tamed or domesticated but the Asian leopard cat is not. This behavioural trait carries through to this particular wild cat hybrid.

It is likely that other wild cat hybrids particularly the higher filials will also be less inclined to be lap cats.

What if your cat isn’t a lap cat?

Well, if it’s a question of age, he will become a lap cat in due course. As for wild cat hybrids then you will have to accept it. It’s a trade-off for enjoying the company of a beautiful animal and you did, after all, adopt a wild cat hybrid for his or her beauty.

As for a lack of socialisation, we know that this behavioural trait sticks with the adult cat for the remainder of their life.. However, I do not think it is as bleak is that. You’ll find stories of women taking in a feral cat, a fully developed adult feral cat, and through extreme patience and kindness that cat will over perhaps years become fully socialised and be a lap cat later in life. It’s all possible. Finally, just because a cat is not a lap cat it does not mean that he does not love you. It just means he does not crave that direct human contact but he still appreciates you.

There will be exceptions

There will always be exceptions. For example, I socialised my cat from about seven weeks of age which is not ideal. However within five days of having him as a foster cat he was on my lap sleeping. He is now a fully fledged lap cat. It will depend, after all, on the cat’s personality as well as the external factors referred to on this page.

P.S. This is an afterthought. Some cats might find that sitting on a lap makes them feel too hot. Most cats like the heat but this preference is not universal. Perhaps lap sitting works against long-haired cats. I am not sure.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

3 thoughts on “Why isn’t my cat a lap cat?”

  1. He is not the typical long-haired cat. His hair is somewhat long but is smooth rather than fluffy. His sister is the opposite. We decided she is a Korat, short haired and loves to find warmth. She was rescued at 6 months so I don’t know how she was treated as a baby.

  2. My male is NOT a lap cat. ๐Ÿ™ Much to my disappointment. When he was a baby, he would nap in my lap. As he got older, he would nap elsewhere. It soon became obvious that he didn’t like sitting on my lap because he was very hot-natured. Now that he is 10, he occasionally returns to my lap for short naps during colder weather. I don’t know if that is because he is cold or if he is arthritic, although I haven’t seen any signs.

    1. He may get too hot. He may be the sort of cat who doesn’t like to feel too hot. Is he long haired? There is also character. A pure preference thing. My cat loves heat and loves my lap, legs you name it!

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