Perhaps you’ve seen one or maybe you have one. There are some cats like to go shoulder riding, vaulting atop their owners to check out the view from on high. Some felines do it in the comfort of their home while others like to take in the sights while out for a walk on city streets.
However, shoulder cats aren’t all that common, Atlanta-based certified cat behavior consultant Ingrid Johnson, CCBC, told MNN.
“Typically it’s a young agile cat that can maintain the posture for awhile. Generally, it stems from attention-seeking behavior,” she stated. “If people like it and they think it’s cute, they’re going to praise them, pet them and before they know it, the cat’s going to do it on command. But I think those cats are few and far between.”
There are some cats might not like to be held, however, they don’t mind snuggling with their owners at shoulder level. The appeal it has to the cat is typically the height, Johnson stated.
“Cats love height and height gives them a sense of security and gives them the ability to survey a lot of space from one vantage point,” she says. “When they’re being restrained, they tend to want to wiggle away. But being able to perch on the shoulder without being restrained, I can see why that’s appealing to a lot of cats.”
For various cats, jumping onto their owner’s shoulders is a very natural thing, while other cats have to be trained to make the leap.
Johnson went on to explain that one of her cats would climb on her shoulders as a kitten when she would scoop the litter box. However, as she got bigger, it became more difficult for her to perch.
“It got more cumbersome and harder for her to stay up there and balance, so she stopped,” she says. “She does all kinds of tricks on command — rides a skateboard, gives high-fives — but doesn’t do that anymore.”
As far as taking your cat shoulder riding you into the great outdoors? Johnson explained that she wouldn’t recommend it. However, she said, if you insist on doing it, make sure your cat is on a leash and harness.
“I would be very cautious,” she noted. “You have to have an animal that isn’t going to get spooked when the UPS truck goes by or the garbage truck goes by. If they’re scared, the cat’s going to bolt.”
Remember this: If you happen to train your cat to leap to your shoulders from the floor, there’s also the chance she’ll vault to your shoulders from her kitty condo or the top of the dresser from way across the room.
“Some cats will start to launch from wherever they are in the house onto your shoulders and you can’t anticipate it,” Johnson says. “It can startle you and create a negative experience for the cat. If you’re going to train your cat to do it, they can literally launch from anywhere in the house.”
So is it maybe a bad idea? Johnson emphatically replied, “No”.
“I would never deter it; I think it’s precious.”
While you may be pondering if you and your cat are up to the training, here are some more shoulder cats for your viewing pleasure:
A Curious Canine Behavior: Why Does My Dog Climb On My Shoulders?
In closing, it’s fascinating to observe the parallel behaviors exhibited by our beloved pets. Just as some cats show a fondness for perching on shoulders, certain dogs may display similar inclinations. The underlying reasons could be manifold: seeking a higher vantage point, craving for closer physical contact, or an expression of dominance. Regardless, it’s vital to ensure their actions do not pose safety concerns. Whether it’s a cat purring on your shoulder or a dog making an unexpected climb, these moments of connection are truly precious, amplifying the joy of being a pet parent. So next time you wonder, “Why does my dog climb on my shoulders?”, remember it’s all part of their unique way of communicating love and trust.