Why Do Cats Knead? 5 Reasons Your Cat Kneads You

Kneading is when your cat alternates his front paws in a rhythmic fashion on a soft, squishy surface. Cats knead on beds, on soft blankets, and sometimes, they knead their humans. To you, it may look like your cat is kneading dough to make delicious bread or cookies, but the kitty habit is not simply for fun. While there is no definite one answer as to why cats knead, there are a few solid theories as to why cats engage in this bizarre ritual of “making biscuits.”

1. Cats Knead Because It Is Instinct

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Kittens knead at their mother’s stomach when they are hungry and looking for milk. A nursing kitten will instinctually knead at their mother’s stomach to help stimulate milk production. Because kittens use this motion to satisfy a need, they often associate the habit with a good thing and bring it into their adult cat life as well.

2. Cats Knead To Show You They Care

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Often when cats knead, it is to show how content and happy they are. Have you ever noticed how your cat kneads your lap after you have given them a rather satisfactory petting session? They are “petting” you back.  Unfortunately, this can be a painful experience, as some cats use their sharp nails in the kneading process. It may be instinct for you to scold your cat for inflicting pain on you, but try not to. Your cat does not realize that kneading is a painful situation for you. Opt for nail guards or routine nail trims to keep your cat’s loving kneading bearable for your lap.

3. Cats Knead To Prepare A Place To Rest

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Cat’s wild ancestors knead tall grasses to make a cozy and secret place to sleep and rest. This habit has passed down to our domestic house kitties. If your cat is super comfortable on your lap, they may knead it to make it even more comfy for their resting needs.

4. Cats Knead To Mark Territory

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Kneading your sofa or your lap can be your cat’s way of marking his territory. Cat paws have scent glands that secrete your cat’s unique scent. You may not be able to smell it, but other cats can. Kneading a person or a comfy place is a discreet way your cat is telling other kitties to back off. 

5. Cats Knead Because They’re Needy

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If you have a particularly needy cat, they may knead you all of the time to solicit attention. If your cat purrs while kneading your thighs, this is her way of using all of her persuasive tools to get something from you (chances are it’s food). If you find that your cat is kneading you all of the time, try clicker training to reward your cat for not digging his claws into you every time he needs a refill in his food bowl.

Does your cat enjoy making the bread? What do you do to keep your cat from kneading your jeans into shreds? Share your wisdom in the comments section.