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Evolution of a Domestic Cat

I believe it is safe to say that most of us would like our cats to cuddle with us, allow us to hold them, and sit on our laps. However, just because a cat is not a lap cat does not mean that they are not affectionate. Cats show affection in numerous ways, through purring, head butting, cheek rubbing, or grooming us. And then there’s the slow “I love you” blink that is guaranteed to melt your heart.

Different cats have different ways of showing affection

While it’s possible to encourage cats to become lap cats, it’s important to respect each cat’s unique personality. Almost every cat can learn to trust and show affection on their own terms.

Ruby was my “Velcro kitten” from the very start. If she had her way, she would have been permanently glued to me 24/7. With the exception of her first few days in our home, when she was a bit more reserved as she was getting used to her new environment, she always loved to be held and squished and kissed.

On the other hand, Allegra was not a lap cat for the first several years after I adopted her. Every once in a great while, she’d grace me with some lap time, but usually only for a few minutes, and most definitely on her terms.

Around the time she turned five, I began to see a gradual change. She would start to come up on my lap more frequently when I settled in for some TV watching in the evening. Once she was settled, there wasn’t much that would dislodge her, even though Ruby tried her best. Ruby did not like seeing Allegra on my lap, and sometimes she tried to wedge herself onto my chest while Allegra was sleeping on my lap. To my surprise, Allegra tolerated this, and it was usually Ruby who left first, with a great big huff.

For the past three years since Ruby passed away, Allegra has become even more affectionate. I think part of it is that she was always in Ruby’s shadow. Ruby had such a huge personality, and she was not shy about asking for what she wanted, whereas Allegra was and still is a more quiet, almost shy cat. But Allegra now frequently jumps onto my lap. She joins me most mornings when I meditate (and if there’s a better way to start the day than to mediate with a purring cat on your lap, I don’t know what that might be.) She loves to sit on my lap when I read and watch TV. And she has staying power now – a staying power that usually outlasts my bladder capacity! I always hate having to disturb her before she’s ready to hop off.
Before Allegra and Ruby, there was Amber, who was a total lap cat. When Buckley joined our family, Amber reluctantly shared my lap.

And before Amber and Buckley, there was Feebee, who also loved being on my lap. I don’t have any digital photos of Feebee on my lap.

Can you train a cat to be a lap cat?

While you may not be able to transform every cat into a lap cat, there are a few things you can try:

When relaxing, have a bag of treats ready and occasionally toss one to your cat. Gradually move the treats closer to you by placing them on the chair or couch next to you. Praise your cat when she approaches to get the treat, but do not keep her down.
Place your cat’s favorite bed or blanket on the sofa next to you. Some cats may never be comfortable on your lap, but they may enjoy being near you.
Never force the issue. After all, it’s called unconditional love for a reason.

It has been a gift to watch Allegra’s transformation from a somewhat aloof young cat to a serious lap cat, especially after Ruby passed away. I cherish every moment when she’s curled up or stretched up on my lap, and I just wish human biology wouldn’t interfere with the experience!

Do your cats like being lap cats?