One of the most endearing and infuriating cat behaviors is that they sit on your stuff. Sometimes it seems like if there is a single piece of paper laying in the house, a cat will sit on it. They'll walk on your laptop as you're using it, or a placemat rather than the table itself, for instance. When your cat sits on your laptop, it could be a scheming master plan to get you to stop working and pet them instead. Or, is there a legitimate reason for it?
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Your cat wants your attention
One of the simplest reasons for this cat behavior is that your cat wants you to pay attention to them, says Cat Behavior Associates. Your cat can easily tell whether your focus is directed at them or something else. But your cat also doesn't understand that when your attention is focused on your laptop or the newspaper that you are reading or working; all they see is that your attention is directed at this one thing. If he sits on the laptop or paper, he'll be in your focus too, and maybe you won't forget to feed him!
Cats like temperature differences
Different materials simply feel different. Not only do they have different textures that your cat may appreciate, they also have temperature differences. Cardboard and paper are great insulators, and cats like to be warm. Even though they are covered with fur, they still like to be in warm areas to maintain their ideal temperature of between 99 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 - 39.2 degrees Celsius), says Hills Pet.
Cats transfer their pheromones
Pheromones are chemicals which are naturally produced from the scent glands of animals. Each animal has their own type of pheromone. These chemicals are released from areas on the faces, chin, lower ears, forehead, cheeks and around a cat's mouth which explains why cats rubbing on things is a common behavior. A cat's paw pads also have scent glands. Un-neutered male cats spray a pheromone in their urine. All of these are chemical markets that spread information about the animals' territory.
Some of the ways cats transfer their pheromone message is by rubbing and rolling their bodies on objects or surfaces, explains Animal Path. So your cat sitting on your laptop may mean she is trying to mark that as hers. That's not necessarily meaning that she is trying to "take ownership" of your laptop or that piece of paper. But instead, she may want to leave her scent on anything that belongs to her owner because it makes her feel more secure.
There is no way to know why cat behaviors include sitting on everything, and of course we can't ask them. But there are a few theories that make sense. There is a theory that cats like to sit on things because they like to perch. If there is any differential in height, they may choose to sit on the object just because it makes them feel like they are slightly higher up.
Purina explains that your cat experiences the world primarily through their sense of smell. A cat has nearly 40 times more scent-sensitive cells than we humans have. A cat will rely more on what their nose tells it than what their eyes can actually see, and cat sitting on top of something may be a way to get a stronger scent. Especially if it is something that belongs to you—your clothes, your laptop, your napkin, etc—it could be a way for them to be close to the smells that comfort them, as well as pick up vital information.
Pet Place suggests that the reason cats will sit on your stuff is that it is a defined space. Cats like squeezing into small areas. It's one of the reasons that cats like to sleep in boxes or bowls, or other places where they don't seem like they would fit. So a folded towel on the bed to them may simply seem like a smaller area.
One of the many mysterious cat behaviors is why they always seem to want to sit on your stuff. In fact, there might not be any real mystery to the behavior. It's often just a cat saying "pay attention to me." If you think about it, when a cat is rubbing on something, sitting on something, or otherwise asking for our attention, we often give it to him! We typically respond by either picking him up and moving him, petting him, talking to him in some way, or even by shooing him away in an irritated manner.
So while we don't know for sure exactly what causes this cat behavior, it is likely a combination of the fact that cats like to be warm, they like to be high up, they like to spread their pheromones, they like to be near the things that smell like us, and they like to keep our attention focused on them.