Cats are curious creatures with mysterious habits that continually amuse and surprise us. One of the most intriguing cat-habits is when they sit on things; paper, laptops, a pile of laundry. Why do they do this, and what is it about these things that draw cats in?
Cats sit on things because they are warm, smell like you, or provide a good view of the space. They naturally like small spaces, so a compact perch is a favorite for them. Cats may also be spreading their pheromones and marking their territory, or simply trying to get your attention.
There are many reasons why cats might sit on objects that seem more or less random to us. Follow along as we explore the possible answers to this feline behavior.
The Thing Supplies a Good View
Cats are naturally drawn to high places, so if the object in question is elevated, this could be the reason why they are sitting on it. The raised perch allows the animal to view everything that’s happening in the room, taking in all potential attackers and prey.
Cats are constantly on the hunt, and even when they seem to be deep asleep, they can awake at the smallest squeak of a mouse. The high spot may be a bookshelf, the top of a cupboard, or even above the refrigerator. In any case, if they can view the entire room, the perch will likely draw the cat to the location.
These animals are also notorious for being standoffish, and a high place to rest is the perfect place for them to keep to themselves. If you have a home with multiple people and pets, then your kitty will be even more likely to withdraw up to a private area. Up there, she is out of reach of dogs, children, and even other cats.
The Thing Is Warm
Your furry friend loves being warm. If you’ve ever had to search for your cat, you’ll likely find her lazing around in a puddle of sunshine on the carpet, huddled next to the space heater, or kneading into a pile of fresh laundry. Of course, everyone likes to be warm and cozy, but there’s a scientific reason why cats are perpetually drawn to hot things.
Cats have a higher body temperature than humans do. While normal human body temperature is around 98.6°F (37°C) for house cats, this number is 101.5°F (38.6°C). This resting temperature means that they can tolerate heat better than we can and are more affected by cold.
Your pet will actively seek out warmth, and that includes seemingly random objects like your laptop, a freshly printed document, or a book warmed by your body heat.
The Thing Is Soft
Soft things are cozy and comfortable, so most creatures are attracted to them. But there is more to your cat curling up on a pile of clothes than the simple fact that it is soft; most soft items hold heat much better than hard items by providing insulation.
According to Scientific American, “Insulation means creating a barrier between the hot and the cold object that reduces heat transfer by either reflecting thermal radiation or decreasing thermal conduction and convection from one object to the other.”
For instance, a down jacket traps air in between the goose feathers. This air gets heated by your body, and the fibers act as an insulator against the cold. A rain jacket with no insulating fibers lets your body heat escape and results in a much colder experience.
The same thing happens with the pile of laundry. Even if the jeans and sweaters are cold when your cat first curls up on them, their body heat will quickly warm the air trapped in the pile of clothes and reflect that heat upon the cat. If the cat were to curl up on a metal shelf, the shelf would draw the heat away from the cat as there is no insulation.
The Thing Smells Like You
Is your cat curling up on your backpack or luggage bag when they have a nice soft bed in the same room? There may be a simple explanation for this; the cat bed doesn’t smell like you. Cats who love their owners are drawn to items that smell like them. These objects help them feel closer to you and are especially comforting when you’re not around.
Cats Are Spreading Their Scent
Sort of the adverse to the reason above, your cat may be spreading her scent instead of being attracted to yours. While canines may get the biggest rep for marking their territory, it’s a huge urge for felines as well. Cats use various actions to spread their scent, as they have scent glands located in multiple areas of their bodies.
By rubbing their foreheads, cheeks, and chins against people and objects, housecats lay down their scent. Their paws also contain scent glands, so scratching and kneading are two common ways for them to spread their smell as well. If they are sleeping on a new object or item, they may be marking that thing as their territory, especially if you notice them rubbing or kneading.
Cats Want Your Attention
Simultaneously charming and annoying, your cat may have plopped itself down onto the middle of your homework simply to get your attention. Maybe you’ve been studying for too long in between head scratches, or maybe your kitten is hungry. Either way, she could be sitting on your printer or paperwork just to get your attention.
Cats Like Small Spaces
If the thing that your cat is sitting on is in a small space, then it’s likely that she is attracted to the compact area more than the random item. Cats like enclosed areas because they make them feel safe and secure. This is why so many cats love to curl up in boxes.
Many people have noticed their cats sitting on pieces of paper, and not just their homework or a warm, freshly printed document, but a random piece of plain 8×11″ (20.32×27.94cm) paper on the floor. Some people note that a cat will ignore their bed, cat post, or even a ray of sunshine on the carpet and instead choose to lie on the piece of paper.
There are a few different theories behind the cat’s attraction to paper, though the mystery has not been fully solved. One of these is that cats like different textures. They love hairbrushes and glass tables, and the smooth surface of the paper could be enticing. The fact that the paper crinkles and warms up rapidly underneath them could also attract them to it.
Another theory is that a piece of paper on the ground mimics the shape and space of a box. If you’ve ever heard of the phantom limb sensation, this is a similar effect. While there are no walls to the box, the box’s idea is still there; hence the animal still finds comfort and security by sitting on the piece of paper, despite being exposed.
The objects that cats choose to sit on may seem mysterious to us, and perhaps the animals themselves aren’t sure why they like them, but there are a myriad of possible explanations for their behavior.
Cats may be spreading their scent or are drawn to yours. They might appreciate the view of an elevated perch or are looking for a little privacy. Your cat could also be searching for a spot of warmth and doesn’t care that it’s the top of the television.
- Companion Animal Psychology: The Cat at The Window
- Pet Wellbeing: Brr: It’s Cold! Understand Your Cat’s Natural Body Temperature
- Scientific American: Stay Warm with Thermal Insulation
- Hartz: Territorial Marking Behavior in Cats
- Science Daily: Phantom Limb Sensation Explained
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.