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About a year ago, we adopted a rescue cat who was about 8 years old. She is gradually flinching less when we bend down to pet her and she will sit next to me and loves to be petted. She will not however sit in my lap.

I have had cats my entire life, but this is the first one I've not owned as a kitten. All the other cats would sit in my lap. Any suggestions?

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I adopted a young adult female cat (estimated to be 2 years old at the time) from the street, probably a dumped pet (not feral). She was very skittish at first and never did sit in my lap in the following 14 years, but gradually over time she got comfortable sitting next to me. I've adopted other adult cats who were sitting in my lap within weeks (or days), so it's not a kitten-versus-adult thing. Every cat is an individual with its own background, and when we adopt we usually don't have any clues about that background.

With my reluctant cat I found that the worst thing to do was to pick her up and put her in my lap (or even just hold her). Picking her up triggered an "aiiieee! I'm not in control! Run away!" reaction. I sometimes sat down next to her (if she was, say, lounging on the couch); I moved slowly and avoided any sudden movement or noise, and that allowed me to sit next to her and pet her. Eventually she started coming to sit next to me, which I rewarded if I could (I kept a bag of treats near my favorite chair for a while). I also pet her gently when she did this, just as I did if I sat next to her.

This is a long, slow process that is based on building trust. Anything you do to alarm your cat will set you back. Some cats may never sit in your lap, but others will eventually. Take it on your cat's terms.

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    Picking the right chair helps as well. I used a plush recliner that has fat arms with tops at the same level as the top of my legs for my (originally skittish) cat. The chair was a preferred sleeping location for my cat, and when I was sitting on it she would lie on the chair arms even if not my lap. Eventually she would go to sleep on an arm while I read, and after that she would relax enough to treat my legs/lap as a part of the chair arms while shifting sleep positions. I find that once a cat is willing to sleep while you are within arms reach, socialization is pretty much a done deal. – Mark Ripley Aug 21 '16 at 7:05
  • And as PeterJ mentions, your smell makes a difference as well. I used a towel on the chair when I sat on it, and I'm sure when my cat slept on that towel it helped speed socialization. – Mark Ripley Aug 21 '16 at 7:08
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Bribery (in moderation) is always a good motivator. Sit on the floor or couch where there is lots of extra space, and offer your cat treats (in moderation). By encouraging her into your lap with treats, and encouraging her to stay with pets, you should be able to overcome her issue, and become comfortable in your lap.

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An additional suggestion is that cats sometimes seem to associate themselves with particular items of clothing, I'm not sure if it's related to the scent they leave behind or visual familiarity. Once we had a cat from a similar background and found she would only sit on our laps when wearing particular items of clothing she was familiar with because they'd been left sitting around and she'd slept on them.

Maybe you have an old dressing gown or pair of jeans you could leave laying around near the cat's sleeping area to see if that helps? Otherwise maybe try a putting a light rug in her sleeping area and try draping that over your lap and see if it helps.

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Our Thai also doesn't sit in our laps, she merely stays there maybe once a month if we lift her there. This does however not mean she doesn't like us, it's just that her breed (and Siams, and probably others as well) is not as clingy as others. So if the other hints given to you here don't work, don't worry - maybe she's just a lady who prefers to sit close to you but not on your lap.

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