There have been a few times in my life where I thought I was going to have a heart attack because of how much my chest hurt and how tight my sternum was.
I remember waking up for a week straight, feeling like I needed to crack my chest open and I couldn’t figure out why it was happening.
I did all of the stretches they taught me how to do in college. I tried looking up reasons I could be experiencing the pain. The only thing I didn’t do was go to the doctor, though looking back right now… maybe that’s something I should have done!
Either way, there came a night when I woke up in the middle of the night to Beau climbing onto my chest and curling up to sleep.
I let Beau sleep on my chest for a few minutes, but I quickly realized, “Beau’s the reason for my chest pain!”
Beau’s always struggled a little bit with weight, especially because he’s on a vet specific diet for his frequent urinary tract infections. That plus if Beau doesn’t feel like he has eaten enough, even if he has been fed more than usual, he will begin chewing on cloth.
For these reasons, Beau has always been a bit too heavy to have sleep on one leg for too long, or in this case, a bit too heavy to have sleeping on your chest for too long!
I quickly moved Beau to a spot by my feet so he could sleep, since previously he had been sleeping there.
Well, this boy has never had those chest pains ever again. It seems like Beau’s nightly visits were the cause of my pains and as sweet as it was, I had to get it to stop!
Chances are if you have a cat who sleeps on your chest you both love and hate the experience.
While this close cuddle makes you feel extremely close to your cat and makes you feel loved, there are times where you’re going to need your personal space, especially if you have a cat that’s a bit heavy, like I do.
So why is it that cats like to sleep on our cats? How do we discourage this behaviour at specific times, but encourage it at times when we want the attention?
Let’s get diving into it!
YOU MAKE YOUR CAT FEEL SAFE
In all circumstances where a cat decides to sleep on their owner it is a sign that the cat feels with the owner.
You may notice that your cat spends the majority of their day lazying about and sleeping, but did you know that your cat isn’t usually fully asleep?
Your cat is actually taking a cat nap the majority of the time that they are asleep, ready to jump and run if ever there is a predator nearby.
In the wild, cats live in colonies because it is much safer and there are higher chances of survival. Because of the evolutionary trait to form packs, cats will still get close and sleep with their humans as if they were part of their pack.
Wear this as a badge of honour because not every cat will feel comfortable or safe enough to sleep with their owner.
YOU’RE WARM AND YOUR CAT LOVES THAT!
Just last night my partner went on a hunt trying to find Kalista because he thought she was stuck in some closet, but she was just sleeping under a bunch of clothes in our basket.
Humans emit a lot of heat, especially while they are sleeping, which is a big reason why cats will enjoy sleeping by your head.
Similarly, cats may sleep with other cats to get this warmth, so if you used to have a cat who used to sleep with you, but stopped so they could sleep with another cat don’t feel bad or disappointed. It’s just your cat’s sneaky way of saying that they found something warmer to hang out on!
Cats who are sleeping on a human’s chest for warmth may make this a daily routine though that’s not always the case. Some cats who are using their humans for warmth will only use their humans on days when it’s coldest.
If you suspect that this is the reason your cat is sleeping on your chest I would strongly suggest purchasing yourself a cat cave and placing it close to your bed.
We’ve had Meowfia beds for the past year and our cats are still using them religiously.
Giving your cat an alternative place to sleep that is equally as cozy or warm as your chest will most likely seduce them into leaving you alone for a night!
YOUR CAT WANTS TO FEEL CLOSE TO YOU
When kittens are initially born they spend a good amount of time nestled up to their mothers until they have grown large enough to begin taking care of themselves.
While kittens spend time nursing from their mother, they receive a lot of information and warmth.
Kittens will listen to their mother’s heartbeat, take note of how she purrs all while falling asleep to their mother’s breathing.
This is also where kittens pick up the kneading behaviour as it is required for kittens to do to get milk from their mother.
During all of this, the mother will release pheromones that will help calm the kittens, making a mama’s cuddle the absolute best cuddle in the world!
Young cats and kittens who have been rehomed to human parents may continue to sit on their owner’s chest as a way of replicating this sensation with their mother.
Cats will similarly fall asleep to your breathing, listen to your heartbeat and take in your scent.
In cases like this, it is advised that you discourage your cat’s behaviour in spaces where it is unwanted, and instead encourage it elsewhere.
Similar to how you would not want to discourage your cat from scratching, as it is an innate instinct and is beneficial for your cat’s health, you will want to make sure that you do not discourage your cat from exhibit behaviours that help them feel safe or close to you.
Since our incident with Beau, we’ve made it a rule that the cats are no longer allowed to sleep on our chest while we were in our bedroom. Instead, as mentioned, we place our cats at our feet or we cuddle them while they are next to us.
We do, however, allow our cats to sleep on our chests while we are sitting on the couch. This is important to us because it allows our cats to still get that hang out time with us without me worrying about having a heart attack the next day.
YOUR CAT LOVES HOW COMFY YOUR CHEST IS
If you’ve ever had a significant other you’ve probably spent a lot of time lying on their chest. Whether it’s to cuddle in bed watching Netflix, or being rocked to sleep because you’re sick, chances are you’ve spent some time lying on someone’s chest.
Human chests are very soft and quite comfortable to lie on. It’s one of the main reasons (other than some of the reasons above) that we hold babies so close to our chests when they are sleeping.
If you are experiencing your cat sleeping on you during the night and don’t want them to and suspect that they are doing it merely because you are comfortable, I would strongly recommend getting a cat bed.
What’s the difference between a cat bed and a cat cave? Just the amount of cushion.
While a cat may be fine with sleeping in either, there are some perks for having both and there may actually be one that your cat prefers during the day or night.
YOUR CAT MIGHT REALIZE THAT THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GET YOU STILL
A lot of cats hate it when you shuffle around, especially if they are trying to sleep.
Beau doesn’t seem to care if I move him around to get comfortable with him on my lap, but Kalista will full on get off of me if she’s unhappy with the fact that I’m moving around.
Due to the fact that your chest is commonly only accessible when you are lying down or sleeping, chances are you aren’t going to be making many movements (unless you’re a rough sleeper.)
In any case, if you’re someone who is constantly shuffling about and your cat isn’t a fan of it, try to take some time to give your cat cuddles daily.
Now, though I say this, it’s still good to be aware of how much attention your cat actually wants.
Kalista, for example, wants constant attention throughout the day but doesn’t like it if you pick her up or put her in your lap. Instead, you have to spend time with her sitting or lying next to you.
Beau, on the other hand, comes and goes with how much attention he wants and what kind he needs.
OTHER WAYS TO ENCOURAGE YOUR CAT TO SLEEP ON YOUR CHEST
If you want to encourage your cat to sleep on your chest it is recommended that you come up with a signal or sound to train them to so they understand what it is you want.
Signs and signals can include tapping on the couch or tapping on your chest.
Every time the cat completes the action you want them to exhibit, such as sleeping on your chest, it is recommended that you give them a treat, cuddle them or pet them.
This will help your cat understand that the behaviour they just exhibited is considered acceptable and should continue to be exhibited.
Other options include giving your cat catnip while they are sleeping on your chest, though this will depend on how your cat reacts to catnip.
With our cats, Kalista and Walker, catnip wouldn’t help us train them to sleep on our chests since catnip causes them to become hyperactive. Though if you have a cat who mellows out when they eat catnip, it’s definitely worth a try.
OTHER WAYS TO DISCOURAGE YOUR CAT FROM SLEEPING ON YOUR CHEST
I’ll start out by stating that it is extremely important that you do not get angry or frustrated with your cat, especially if it’s because of a behaviour they are exhibiting because they love you or feel safe with you.
This can be paired with a training word or sound like “uh-uh” or the cat can be given treats when they have fully gotten into their bed.
It is important that you do not give a treat to your cat as you remove them from your chest as this will make them associate being on your chest to being given a treat.
Another good practice is to prepare your cat for bed when you’re getting ready for bed.
Do this by placing them in the location you want them to sleep and give them a treat in that location. Do this daily and you will notice that your cat will begin going to their bed even before you go to get them.
Remember cats are creatures of habit, so the more consistency you got them, including when you go to bed, the more you’re going to see they repeat the same pattern.
In extreme circumstances where a cat just doesn’t get the message, you can pretend that the cat hurts you every time they climb on your chest.
This will cause the cat to believe that they are causing you pain, which is not something that they are usually fond of doing.
While this is one of the most effective methods of getting your cat to stop sleeping on your chest, I don’t recommend it if you are trying to encourage your cat to sleep on your chest elsewhere, or don’t mind your cat sleeping on you elsewhere.
At the end of the day, it’s just very important to remember that your cat is trying to show affection to you and trying to spend time with you. So any negative interactions, such as hitting or yelling, may cause the cat to become afraid of you or may cause your cat to believe that all forms of affection are off-limits or not encouraged.
It’s for this reason you’re going to also want to be wary of using things like spray bottles.
While spray bottles can be used and are recommended for serious behaviour problems, they do cause a good amount of stress to a cAt which is why they are not recommended to use tp deter affectionate actions.
Though it can be annoying to have your cat sleep on your chest, especially if you don’t want them to, it commonly does mean that your cat loves you and feels safe with you.
If you are concerned about this behaviour or want to deter it, note that there are plenty of ways to do so and that it doesn’t mean that you love your cat any less. It just means that you may have to fill in the missing cuddle sessions with other things such as petting sessions, playing sessions or something along the same lines.
If ever you are trying to alter the place where a cat sleeps it is crucial to make sure that there have another place to go.
It is preferable that this bed or sleeping area is in the same room, though not necessary.
Whether you choose to encourage or discourage this behaviour it is most important that you give your cat lots of love, whether it be in the form of giving them treats, giving them cuddles or it’s merely allowing them to sleep on your chest in another room.
It’s important to make sure that your cat feels safe and trusts you. This will help ensure that they remain happy and healthy.
So pet parents, I’m curious, do your cats sleep on your chest? Did it bother you as much as it bothered me? Let me know in the comments below!