Why Do Cats Knead? – 6 Reasons

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Cats are both fascinating and mysterious. They do many things that can leave their owners baffled and curious, not only when it comes to vocalizations like meowing, but also when it comes to movements.

One such thing that might make curiosity levels go high is their habit of kneading.

Why cats knead is a question that many cat owners seek an answer to. It turns out that there is no clear or conclusive answer.

However, there are many hypotheses and likely reasons why your cat might display such behavior, and we’re here to discuss them in this article.

1. To express love and affection to its owner.

One of the most commons reasons why cats knead is to express contentment, love and affection towards its owner.

When your cat lies on your chest or is curled up on your lap, it certainly is a beautiful feeling and you enjoy every bit of it. You might even stroke them when they are on your lap to show your affection.

But, when you do this and they begin kneading your lap, it can actually be quite painful.

Yes, it can hurt, but just as a cat can bite when when they’re touched in a way they don’t like, they can also knead on your lap to tell you that they love you. The happier your cat is, the harder they will tend to dig in with their sharp claws, and the more they can unintentionally inflict pain on you.

Never think of punishing your cat for this action because they don’t even know it hurts. You can simply place a soft, thick barrier between your lap and your cat to avoid the discomfort. Also make sure to keep your cat’s nails properly trimmed.

2. To express comfort.

Cat in a comfortable sleeping position

Cats begin kneading while they are still kittens and are nursing. The reason why a nursing kitten kneads is to stimulate the milk production of its mother. But why do cats kneed even after they have passed the nursing stage?

You may have noticed that your cat kneads on stuffed toys, blankets, and other soft surfaces in your house. This is because even though kneading on soft objects will not yield milk, cats associate the action with the comfort that they used to enjoy while nursing.

Cats also knead soft objects as a soothing and relaxing behaviour.

3. To mate.

If you have a female cat, then there can be an additional reason why they knead.

You may find they stretch and purr, and while lying on their side they may begin kneading the air. As their estrus cycle continues, they will make plaintive meows and that will escalate into persistent, loud yowls. This is a way to let male cats know that they can be approached for mating.

However, if your cat is ready to mate right away, they may not knead their paws. Instead, you will notice them move their tail to one side and raise their pelvis.

4. To mark territory.

Cats have scent glands on their paws. And when they knead, their scent gets on every surface that their paws make contact with. Cats use this to leave scent markers to claim territory and send a message to other cats.

So, whenever you next notice your cat kneading on something, even if it’s you, they might be saying that they own those items!

5. To create a sleeping space.

The wild ancestors of cats would knead grass and create a soft area to sleep for themselves and their young ones as well.

Your feline friend is likely doing this on the ground to create a soft area to sleep in and this is a habit that they have developed instinctually.

6. To stretch.

Striped cat stretching

Cats can do yoga, and they enjoy working out the kinks that are left over after they have enjoyed a nice nap.

The same idea is true for humans; for example, if you have sore shoulders, you might like to grab onto a surface and then pull against it.

So, when your cat is kneading their paws, it can simply be to keep themselves limber until their next nap.


Above are the most common and plausible theories as to why cats knead, but as mentioned before, the exact cause is not fully understood.

If the kneading of your cat is hurting you or is damaging things in your home then it will be best to always keep their claws trimmed.

You can use a claw trimmer specifically made for cats or even use the normal human nail clippers. Just make sure you trim only the very tip of their claw and never cut into the region where blood vessels and nerves are present. If you find this difficult, you may get their nails trimmed professionally.

Thanks for reading this article. Do you want to know why your cat is kneading? Feel free to tell us your situation in the comments below.

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