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 FAQs 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.
- What is kneading anyway?
- What do people call kneading?
- Where does cat kneading come from?
- Why do cats knead their owners?
- Why does my cat knead me but not other members of the family?
- Why does my cat stare at me while kneading?
- Why do cats knead and bite blankets?
- Why do cats knead and lick their blankets?
- Why do cats knead before lying down?
- Why do cats knead your hair?
- Why do cats knead each other?
- Do all cats knead?
- Will my cat stop kneading when it grows up?
- Can I stop my cat from kneading?
- Can I teach my cat to stop scratching me when it is kneading?
- What Does Kneading Mean?
- Can There Be Too Much Kneading?
- Can Cats Be Trained Not to Knead?
- FAQs About Why Do Cats Knead
- Final Thoughts
What is kneading anyway?
Kneading is a rhythmic motion that cats make with their 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 the motion, making the kneading quite noticeable, possibly even unpleasant on some occasions.
What do people call kneading?
There are many ways that people refer to cat kneading, and we made a list of some of the best:
- Making muffins.
- Making biscuits.
- Kitty acupuncture.
- Playing the piano.
- Happy paws.
- Mashing potatoes.
- Kneading dough.
Where does cat kneading come from?
The answer to this question may not be as simple as you might think.
In fact, there are three main theories that can explain why cats knead. Each of them makes a very good point, and the complete answer may include elements from all three of the following theories:
Theory #1 - Cat Kneading Comes from Kitten Behavior
This is the most solid theory explaining the natural instinctive origins of the kneading pattern. Kittens knead on their mother's belling while sucking at her tit. The movement stimulates milk production in the mother cat, which gives the kitten the food it desires.
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.
As such, the cat will continue to knead as an adult. 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.
Theory #2 - Cat Kneading Means that They Are Marking their Territory
It is a less 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 or
- Objects they love
- Or a member of the family, they're closest to.
Theory #3 - Cat Kneading Means that They Are Settling Down
The third theory says that kneading is a cat’s behavior, inherited from their wild 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.
Why do cats knead their owners?
Wondering why does my cat knead me? According to the theory that kneading is a behavioral pattern coming from kitten years when an adult cat kneads on its owners, it is establishing a deep connection with them. A connection, similar to that it built with its mother.
A kitten will knead its owners when they are petting it or when they are holding the cat. The kneading is a response to the pleasure that the cat is feeling during these moments, similar to its response as a kitten to suckling on its mother.
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.
Why do cats knead and bite blankets?
The reason behind this is very complex. On one hand, the act of kneading a blanket means that the cat is preparing its space for sleeping or sitting. The preparation may be connected to its wild ancestors' instincts of settling down and making a space softer to lay on.
On the other hand, when the kneading is associated with biting, then it points to reminiscing the pleasant memories when it was a kitten, drinking milk from its mother's teat.
The biting could also mean playtime or/and breeding instincts are kicking in.
Why do cats knead and lick their blankets?
This behavioral pattern is also linked to reminiscing the enjoyable memories from kittenhood. When they feed, kittens knead and lick their mother's teats to stimulate milk production.
Then, as adult cats, they will reproduce this leftover behavior when they feel very comfortable. You could see your cat kneading and licking its:
- Favorite blanket and plush toy.
- Favorite spot on the couch.
- Even your leg.
It is a good sign and it means that the cat feels safe and extremely comfortable. It is a sign of affection.
Why do cats knead before lying down?
Cats knead before lying down to create a comfortable place for them to sleep or simply lay on. They will do this in places that they like, such as:
- Cat beds
As explained above, this is connected to an instinctive trait of settling down to:
- Lay down to sleep or give birth, but also to
- Kitten behavior - to massage their mother's belly and stimulate the flow of milk.
They usually purr while kneading the place where they are about to lie down. They also might start drooling, too. Here's a post we have if you want to read more about cats drooling.
Why do cats knead your 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.
Why do cats knead each other?
Cats knead each other when they have a good relationship between them. For instance, if you have two cats in your home and enjoy each other's company, they might display this by kneading on each other.
This is what you are aiming for in a household with two cats.
Do all cats knead?
No, they do not.
While the vast majority of cats do knead, there are some cats that 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.
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.
Can I stop my cat from kneading?
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.
What Does Kneading Mean?
What all the three popular theories presented above have in common is the purpose of kneading and how it can be interpreted. Kneading is a manifestation of positive behavior, whether it is a:
- neotenic behavior (a pattern inherited from their ancestors)
- way to mark their territory (cats are territorial creatures).
Your cat is trying to tell you that it:
- Trusts you
- Feels comfortable around you
- Has a great deal of affection for you.
Pet your cat, while it's kneading you, to extend the delight even further. And don't forget to enjoy this wonderful bonding moment with your kitty!
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.
Why does my cat knead me? 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!
Why Do Cats Knead Soft Objects?
Have you ever noticed that cats usually like to knead on soft surfaces such as quilts? Well, that's not without reason! Newborn kitties can start kneading as early as when they are feeding on their mother's milk.
This kneading motion helps stimulate the production of milk in female cats (mothers). But as cats continue to age, they continue to knead even though they are past the nursing age. You can find your cat kneading a lot of soft objects/surfaces such as:
- Bed covers
- Stuffed animals
- And so on.
Even though the kneading motion doesn't provide the cats with milk, they associate the kneading motion with the comfort of their mother and mother's milk. You can think of it as more of a psychological association, and cats tend to show this behavior when they are happy and content.
So, one of the possible reasons for cats to knead soft objects, is that the softness resembles the softness of their mother’s teat and body.
Why Is My Cat Suddenly Kneading On Me?
So your cat likes to knead you and other members of the family? Well, if your cat is nicely curled up in your lap and performing the kneading motion, you can think of it as the cat's way to show affection. In simple words, it means that your cat loves you!
But there is another side to this story... we all know that felines possess sharp nails, and when a cat kneads on your body, it can be excruciating. In fact, the happier the cat, the faster and harder the kneading motion will be!
But if you ever feel like punishing your cat because it is hurting you, try to remember that it is the cat's way of showing its love and compassion for you!
To avoid or minimize the chances of getting hurt, you can place a barrier (thick & soft blanket) between your lap and the cat. Another way to avoid the cat's sharp claws from reaching your skin is to trim your cat's nails using nail clippers.
If you find it tedious and hard to routine clip your cat's nails, your veterinarian might offer a nail trimming service. You can call and find out if they do.
Kneading in Female Cats
If you have a female cat it may have another reason for kneading. When people ask about 'why do cats knead,' they are often searching for answers for their female cats.
So, if your question 'why do cats knead' is related to a female cat, it can also mean your female cat is ready for mating.
Female cats can also show other signs of affection, along with kneading, to signal male cats that they are ready for mating. Some of the other signs to look for, in addition to kneading, include:
- Lying on their sides
But if your cat is completely ready to mate, it will no longer knead... instead, such cats push their tails to one side and raise the pelvis. So, if your cat purrs and kneads simultaneously, it can also mean that your cat is getting ready for mating season.
Kneading Helps a Cat 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 that's another reason which can lead to cat kneading. But whatever the case, kneading is a behavior in cats that is perfectly safe and doesn't mean anything to worry about.
How to Stop a Cat From Kneading?
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.
FAQs About Why Do Cats Knead
Got some questions about kneading in cats? Let's explore some of the frequently asked questions about this behavior:
Should you let your cat knead you?
A cat can knead while sitting on your lap for multiple reasons. For starters, it can be as simple as your cat's feeling just happy and safe - You can think of it as your cat's way of showing love and affection.
Another reason can be attributed to the cat's behavior of marking territory. Through kneading, your cat may be marking you by leaving its scent on you. Whatever the case, you should let your cat knead you.
But if you are worried about getting hurt from a cat's claws, you can place a blanket between your body and cats, as mentioned earlier.
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 do cats knead their owners?
Well, before we look at this question, just remember that it is not something to worry about. Instead, it is the other way around...
A cat kneads to convey:
A cat can start kneading you suddenly in response to being petted. Just like you pet your cat to show love, a cat kneads to show its love to you (owner) or other family members.
Why do cats knead blankets before lying down?
Cats love soft objects when it comes to kneading, and blankets happen to be soft and easily accessible. So if you are worried about your covers getting damaged from your cat's claws, you can teach it different habits.
A good approach would be to present them with a different object to knead on, such as toys.
Why does my cat only knead on me?
Because your cat loves you and you should feel proud and happy. If it only kneads on you, it means that it has formed a special bond with you.
Why does my cat knead before sleeping?
As mentioned earlier, kneading is a way for cats to convey security signs and allow them to feel comfortable and soothed. So before sleeping, your cat can knead to feel comfortable and soothed so that they can fall asleep easily.
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.