Have you seen your cat kneading on the blanket on your bed, on its favorite toy, or even on you while you pet it?
If you have a pet cat, you have most likely experienced kneading. But what does it mean? Why do cats knead anyway? What are they trying to tell us?
We've put together a list of the different reasons why your cat kneads and answered the most important questions about kneading.
So, if you're still wondering why does my cat knead me, read on to discover why cats do this much “kneaded" behavior.
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What is Cat Kneading?
Kneading is a rhythmic motion that cats make with their front paws. They push their claws, fingers, and paws in and out against a soft surface. Our feline friends usually do this with one pad at a time, thus creating a rhythm.
Cats usually use their forepaws for kneading, but some use all four paws. The kneading pattern is usually specific to the cat.
While some cats do not use their claws at all when they knead, others really put their claws into motion, making the kneading quite noticeable, possibly even unpleasant on some occasions.
The act itself resembles that of a person kneading dough. This is why cat kneading is sometimes affectionately referred to as 'making biscuits.'
Other common names include:
- 'Making muffins'
- 'Kitty acupuncture'
- 'Playing the piano'
- 'Happy paws'
- 'Mashing potatoes'
- 'Kneading dough'
- 'Making biscuits'
7 Reasons Why Your Cat is Kneading You
There are many popular theories and possible reasons why your cat is kneading you. Let's look at the top 7 reasons for this cat behavior:
1. Out of Instinct
This is the most solid theory explaining the natural instinctive trait origins of the kneading pattern.
Newborn kittens naturally knead their mother’s belly to stimulate milk production and flow of milk from their mother's teat. And so, kneading may be a leftover behavior from when cats were kittens and kneaded while nursing teats, which gave them a comforting feeling.
The feeding process is a pleasant moment for the kitten because it gets to eat and be close to its mother at the same time.
Therefore, a kitten will continue to knead as it grows into an adult cat, especially a soft object like pillows or your stomach that is reminiscent of a mother cat. Repeating this behavior when they're older, is a sign the cat is establishing a connection, similar to the one it had with its mother as a kitten.
2. To Show Affection
Kneading may also be a sign of affection. Cats prefer to knead people with whom they have a stronger bond.
Kneading is a feline behavior associated with positive emotions such as comfort, happiness, security, and calmness. Sometimes you'll find licking or drooling tied in with kneading.
This is why cats tend to knead specific people in the household with whom they share the strongest bonds. It's their way of showing that they feel safe and cared for by you.
3. To Self Soothe
The majority of the time, cats knead because they find it soothing.
Since cats used to knead while nursing when they were kittens, this sense of comfort remains with them as adults whenever they knead. And so, the nostalgic feeling of kittenhood may manifest as kneading whenever they feel especially comfortable or content.
As a result, you might see your cat kneading when you're petting or talking to them, for instance. In this way, kneading is similar to purring.
4. To Mark Their Territory
We all know how cats are territorial creatures. Kneading, like scratching, can also be used to mark territory by male cats and female cats.
It is a lesser-known fact that cats have scent glands in their paw pads. So, when they are kneading, they are not only creating a comfortable setting, but they're also spreading their scent and marking their territory.
This is precisely why they do this on:
- Their favorite places,
- Objects they love,
- Or a member of the family, they're closest to.
5. While Settling Down
Another possible theory is that kneading is a cat’s behavior, inherited from their wild cat ancestors.
When wild cats would find a place that they would deem suitable for giving birth in, they would knead it to prepare it. They would pat down the leaves or tall grass to make it more comfortable.
Modern-day cats have kept this instinctive behavior to make their space more welcoming for themselves.
6. To Make Their Bed
In quite the same way, your cat's wild ancestors would knead leaves and tall grass to make their beds and get comfortable before they took a snooze.
This is also why you might notice your cat kneading her blanket in your lap or soft bed before getting ready to sleep for the night or taking a little nap.
7. To Stretch
Why do cats knead? Oftentimes, it is just a way for cats to stretch their muscles. Just like we can feel a little sore and tight after a long nap/sleep, cats can also feel that way.
But cats can be considered natural masters of yoga and can pull great feats with their bodies. For stretching, they can start kneading with their paws to relax.
So if your cat happens to knead you, it might be a combination of affection for you and the need for a stretch!
Can I Stop My Cat from Kneading Me?
You probably could train your cat to stop kneading, but this is perfectly normal behavior that brings your cat a lot of joy. This is why you may want to think twice before you begin any type of training exercise in that direction.
If it's their claws that hurt when they knead on you, you can always use cat claw clippers to keep them trimmed, so it won't hurt. Our favorite cat nail clippers are the Zen Clippers.
Can I Teach My Cat to Stop Scratching Me When It Is Kneading?
Yes, you most certainly can. You can show your cat that you don't like it when it is using its sharp claws while kneading, by stopping it the moment it takes them out. Pick the cat up and put it down every time it does that.
You can also take its paw and push its claws back in when it starts and praise it. Moreover, when it is kneading without using its claws, you should praise it so that it knows that it is doing a good thing.
As you can see, kneading is a very important behavioral pattern for cats. It is heavily interlinked with their experiences as kittens, but also to instincts they get from their ancestors.
When and why does your cat knead you? How do you feel about it? Do you enjoy it? Tell us about your experiences with your cat kneading in the comments section below.
Can There Be Too Much Kneading?
Kneading is positive behavior, absolutely, but if your cat is kneading more than usual, you may want to keep an eye out for what is happening to him or her.
A common situation is for cats to make biscuits on their masters, even excessively, if they have been alone all day.
If this is the case, your cat may be telling you that it is extremely happy that you are finally back and what you can do is to show her that you are just as happy to be there with her. This calls for more quality time for you and your cat because it might be feeling neglected.
Can Cats Be Trained Not to Knead?
Some cat owners don't take kneading as a pleasurable activity. The reason is that it hurts them, and feels like pins and needles when their cats make biscuits on them. And so, they usually want to train their cats not to do this anymore.
Training a cat not to knead on them is certainly possible, but is it really the right choice?
Kneading is an excellent bonding moment between cats and their masters, and it would be a pity to miss out on it. Trimming down the cat's nails should make the experience pain-free, and it promises to bring a lot of joy to both you and your cat.
Read more about trimming cats' claws in this post
As you can see, when your cat makes biscuits on you, it is communicating with you. Next time it happens, take it all in and enjoy this amazing experience with your kitty!
How to Stop Your Cat From Kneading You
Sometimes, adorable behavior such as kneading can become uncomfortable and problematic, if your cat starts kneading on furniture and destroys it. Since cats knead with their claws, they can tear up important household items.
Not to mention that your cat may also try kneading on your dog if you have one. This can irritate the dog and may even lead to a small fight between your pets.
In these cases, you may want to stop your cat from kneading (or help it develop good kneading habits). There are ways to train your cat so its kneading won't be harmful to your household items or other pets.
Let's look at some of the tips you can use on your cat:
- The easiest way to stop your kitty or cat's claws from tearing apart your furniture and other stuff is by trimming them short. If you routinely trim your cat's claws, it will let you do it easily without throwing a big fuss.
- Maybe you can develop different habits by encouraging the feline creature to knead somewhere else. There are many products, like sprays (containing pheromone). They can persuade a cat to knead on other objects.
- Redirect the cat's attention with a toy or a treat. You would be surprised to know that cats can be easily trained and be taught different behavior such as chasing toys or sitting comfortably.
If the above suggestions fail, try using a blanket as a soft barrier
If all else fails, you can place a slightly thick blanket on your lap and let your cat knead and show affection. The thick blanket will protect you from sharp claws and will also prevent any injury.
This way, your cat will be able to practice its natural instinct while also not hurting you or destroying property. You can try all of these things but never ever think of punishing a cat for kneading.
Cats can respond negatively if you try to stop their instinctive and natural behavior.
For best results, stick to the distraction (such as toys) and redirection techniques and keep the trust of your kitty.
Another way to get over your cat's kneading is to start thinking about this behavior as a normal feline activity.
You can view kneading as one of the ways through which you can celebrate your bond with these lovely creatures. But if you feel concerned about your cat's behavior, you can always reach out to a veterinarian for advice.
Frequently Asked Questions for Why Your Cat Might Be Kneading You
Got some questions about kneading in cats? Let's explore some of the frequently asked questions about this behavior:
Do All Cats Knead?
No, they do not.
While the vast majority of cats do knead, some cats do not knead at all. The kneading pattern is specific to the cat and its experiences as a kitten.
Just like some cats use their front paws only to knead, while others use all four, some cats simply do not knead at all. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with them, so you shouldn't worry about it.
Why Is My Cat Kneading My Hair?
Your cat is kneading on your hair because it is similar to fur. This is also connected to the cat mimicking its kitten's behavior of kneading on its mother while nursing. It is a fond gesture and it shows that your cat feels nurtured by you and that it feels safe in your presence.
Should You Let Your Cat Knead You?
There's no reason to not let your cat knead, especially if you keep your cat’s nails trimmed to prevent it from hooking on clothing or hurting you. Always remember that it's an instinctive behavior that they've learned from their wild ancestors and that it's completely normal!
What Does It Mean When a Cat Kneads You and Purrs?
Oftentimes, a cat can knead and purr at the same time. It is just one of those things which go hand-in-hand with each other. However, it can also mean that your cat is trying to find mating partners if it is kneading and purring at the same time.
So, in short, it can mean either one of these things. For more personalized advice, you can contact your vet as well.
Why Does My Cat Knead Me But Not Other Members of the Family?
This common behavior happens when a cat feels closest to a certain member of the family. The kneading shows to that person just how special they are to the cat.
This does not mean that the cat does not enjoy interacting with other members of the family, but that one particular member that it has chosen makes it feel the safest.
Why Does My Cat Stare at Me While Kneading?
As you may have seen, when cats knead as you are petting them, they will look deeply into your eyes. The main reason why they do this is to get your attention.
If kneading means that they are establishing a connection, then giving them all of your undivided attention is what you should do.
Will My Cat Stop Kneading When It Grows Up?
Now that you answered the question why does my cat knead me, you're probably wondering if they'll stop when they grow older.
No, it will most likely not stop kneading when it reaches adulthood. If your kitten kneads often, then it will probably continue to do so when it grows up. Especially, if it continues to associate this behavior with a pleasant experience, such as:
- Cuddling it.
- Holding it.
- Petting it.
I am sure you have understood by now why do cats knead. It can be to show affection, happiness, or for different reasons such as marking territory or looking for mating partners.
Whatever the reason, there's nothing negative to associate with such behaviors of cats. In fact, it is something to enjoy and celebrate as it means that your cat is feeling content and happy.
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