Why Do Cats Knead?

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
She won’t lie down until the blanket or her bed is just right! Have you ever wondered why do cats kneed?

Kneading is the name given to the motion that kitties make when they press their paws rhythmically into a soft object, such as a blanket, your lap, or even another cat’s body. It is, without a doubt, one of the many adorable things that cats do, and they seem to really enjoy it. Often, they purr while they knead, and it may even be a little hard to get their attention. And what’s even more interesting is that not all kitties will knead with the same technique. Some, for example, will keep their claws in, while others will use all of their paws instead of just the front two.

What exactly are cats thinking, and what are their actual intentions, and why do cats knead? Experts aren’t really sure why cats, from kittens all the way through to adulthood, exhibit this interesting habit, but below are just a few of their theories.

Related: Why Do Cats Meow at Night?

Getting Milk from Mom

While kittens nurse from their mother, they knead her belly in order to stimulate the flow of milk, so this action is something that they instinctively know how to do when they’re born. They may then carry it into adulthood because they associate it with a comforting feeling.

Some people claim that kittens who are weaned too early or are separated from their mothers too soon will knead into adulthood more so than other cats, but this may not be the case because even adult cats who spent a lot of time with mom will knead when fully grown.

Marking Territory

Because paws have scent glands, a cat can use the kneading behavior to mark her territory. So, in addition to exhibiting feelings of contentment and ease, a cat may knead a favorite spot or her favorite person’s lap in order to mark it as her own.

Related: Why Your Cat Sprays

Getting Ready for Bed

The ancestors of your domesticated kitty used to love making a comfortable, soft bed whenever it was time to go to sleep, as well as when it was time to give birth. These felines would knead on leaves and tall grasses to create a cozy spot, and maybe even to check for other unwanted critters in the foliage. So if your cat tends to knead before settling down for a nap, it could be the result of an ancient instinctual habit, even though her modern bed is already really soft to begin with.

Releasing Tension, Calming Down, and Stretching

Other experts think that cats may knead as a means to release tension and anxiety. The act of kneading brings pleasure and contentment, so it could be a great way for your kitty to relieve stress.

In addition to calming your kitty down, though, kneading is also a great way to stretch. Cats will often use the activity to stretch out their paws, just like you would stretch your muscles after a long nap in order to prevent stiffness and remain limber.

Don’t Discourage Kneading

Because kneading is such a natural and necessary feline behavior, you shouldn’t discourage your cat from doing it by punishing her or being loud. Declawing is also cruel and unnecessary.

Rather than scold your cat if she’s kneading on a surface that she may damage, place a thick blanket over it, or simply move her to a better spot to teach her what’s okay and what’s off-limits.

You should keep your cat’s claws trimmed to protect your belongings and to make it less painful when your kitty decides to show you some love by kneading your lap. Placing a blanket in your lap can also be a great way to let your cat knead away without hurting you in the process. This will allow you to enjoy this unique behavior and bond with your precious furry friend.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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