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5 Reasons Why Your Cat Sits on Your Shoulder The Surprising Answer!

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

cat sitting on the shoulder

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Cats can be entertaining pets that do funny things that leave many feeling bewildered. Some cats will be bold and jump on their owners’ shoulders at unexpected moments. While there’s no concrete scientific reason for this behavior, we can speculate why some cats will pounce on their owners. Here are five reasons why your cat might jump on your shoulders.

The 5 Likely Reasons Your Cat Sits on Your Shoulder

1. They Want Your Undivided Attention

Cats are very observant animals and can easily learn some of the best ways to grab your attention. It’s really difficult to ignore a cat sitting on your shoulder, especially if it pounces up on you by surprise.

Jumping on your shoulder can be a learned behavior that your cat develops every time it elicits a favorable response from you. Your cat’s behavior is reinforced every time your attention shifts to your cat after it climbs on your shoulder. If you suspect your cat’s looking for attention, pay attention to what your cat does after it perches on your shoulder. It may nudge you for some pets or beg you for some treats.

cat in man's shoulder
Image Credit: Skarynka Alena, Shutterstock

2. They Like the View

Cats enjoy vertical spaces, so they might see you as a mobile cat tree. Sitting on your shoulder can give your cat a bird’s eye view of its surroundings and being close to you can make it feel extra safe.

If your cat sits on your shoulders but doesn’t really want any other interaction with you, there’s a good chance that it just wants to enjoy the view from a higher vantage point. If you don’t particularly enjoy this behavior, you can try installing a cat tree or creating more vertical spaces around your living space for your cat.

3. They’re Looking for Warmth

Many cats are heat-seekers and enjoy napping and resting in warm and cozy spaces. Cats also like a snug fit, so your shoulder may be the perfect place for it to relax. Kittens and smaller cats may particularly enjoy snuggling in hoodies and fluffy sweaters.

If you live in places with cold winters, it can be helpful to lay out blankets, hot water bottles, or heating pads for your cat. These types of items can give your shoulders a rest while keeping your cat warm. Just ensure that they present no risk of burns for your cat by taking appropriate precautions.

happy cat with closed eyes hug owner
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

4. They’re Feeling Playful

Some cat breeds are known to enjoy climbing more than others. Athletic breeds, like the Abyssinian, Bengal, and Ocicat, are known to be high-energy cats that need a lot of exercise. While these breeds typically grow too large to sit on shoulders, younger kittens may take to climbing or jumping onto you simply because it’s entertaining.

It might be even more enticing for cats if you have medium-length or long hair. They may enjoy batting your hair when it’s down or tied in a ponytail.

5. They Want to Feel Safe

Cats that have formed a close attachment to their owners may feel extra safe when they’re touching them. They may feel secure whenever their owners are nearby and jump onto their shoulders whenever they feel anxious or unsafe.

Not all cats exhibit this behavior, and it doesn’t mean that your cat doesn’t love you if it never sits on your shoulder. Cats show affection in many different ways, and this is just one way that some cats may choose to show that they trust their owners.

cat hugging a woman
Image Credit: Studio Pizza, Unsplash

Can I Train My Cat to Sit on My Shoulder?

Some cats may learn to sit on your shoulder, but they may not stay there for long if they don’t enjoy it or feel uncomfortable. Food-motivated cats may learn to sit on your shoulders by being trained with treats.

If you want to try teaching your cat to sit on your shoulder, start at ground level. Sit or kneel next to your cat and place its favorite treat near your shoulder and at a height where it can reach the treat by standing on its hind legs while not having to jump.

If your cat stands on its hind legs, give a lot of praise and reward it with a treat. Once your cat consistently stands to eat the treat, you can slowly increase the height until it has to climb onto your shoulders to get the treat. Leaning forward and making your back flat can help your cat feel more comfortable in the beginning stages.

It’s important to remember never to force your cat to do something it’s not comfortable doing. Teaching your cat to sit on your shoulder can take several weeks if it doesn’t naturally engage in this behavior already.


It’s unclear as to why some cats enjoy sitting on people’s shoulders. Not all cats will naturally learn to sit on your shoulders, but you can always try training your cat to do it. It may take some time, so it’s important to remember to be patient throughout the whole process. You don’t have to be hard on yourself if your cat doesn’t like sitting on your shoulder. If anything, it’ll probably save you from many backaches and having to stand in uncomfortable positions.

Featured Image Credit: Júlia Orige, Pixabay

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