why do cats knead

If you have a cat, you might have seen them doing many unusual things. One weird yet adorable cat behavior is kneading. It is a rhythmic motion they make with their paws on any surface, like blankets, pillows, and even on you. When they move their paws, it makes them appear like they are kneading the dough to make biscuits. 

If you are wondering why do cats knead, keep reading this article. We are going to discuss the 12 reasons for this behavior and also give you tips to make it stop.

What is Cat Kneading?

What is Cat Kneading

Kneading is a typical feline behavior where cats use their paws to push on a surface. They alternate each paw, mimicking the motion of kneading the dough.

Your cat can knead on different types of surfaces. Some use blankets and pillows, while others knead humans. However, this behavior is not seen in all cats.

There are many reasons why your cat may be kneading, so it is important to observe them carefully. It will give you the context and help you understand what they are trying to communicate. 

Why Do Cats Knead?

Why Do Cats Knead

If you find yourself questioning – why do cats knead, here are the 12 common reasons:

1. Your cat wants to feel comfortable

One of the most common reasons why your cat is kneading is to feel comfortable. If your cat is happy, they will knead the surface and start purring. It is a way to show pleasure and is fairly common in adult cats. 

Newborn kittens softly knead their mother’s belly to stimulate milk flow and associate this behavior with a comfortable feeling. Even though adult cats don’t nurse, they might still find kneading comforting. This behavior might be linked to pleasant memories and make them feel comfortable.

2. They are doing it out of instinct

Cat behavior experts explain that when your cat kneads, it’s like they’re remembering their kitten days. This kneading action stems from their nursing days when it helped them get milk from their mom.

As kittens, this behavior earned them a tasty meal, so they associate it with positive reinforcement. As cats grow old, the good feelings associated with kneading stick around and become an instinct. One idea suggested that cats who knead were taken from their moms too soon, but there is no concrete evidence to prove it.

3. Kneading to show affection

Cats have a very different way of showing their affection towards you. While some cats will move around your legs, others will knead on you. It is the same as when dogs lick you to show their love. 

So, if your cat is kneading on you, it is a big compliment. It shows that they are comfortable around you and love your company. Some experts say that the harder your cat kneads, the more they like you.

4. Cat wants attention

Cats kneading can be a way to communicate that they want attention. You will notice that your cat will climb in your lap and will start making biscuits.

This means they want your undivided attention, either in the form of petting or treats. If you respond to your cat’s request, they will associate it with an effective way to get attention and make it a habit. 

5. They are marketing their territory

Cats are territorial and may use different behaviors to mark their territory. They have scent glands on their paws, and kneading helps them spread their scent and claim an area as their own.

Your cat will normally scratch the surface with their claws to leave their scent behind in different places. This behavior may be common if there are other pets in the house. 

6. It is a form of stretching

There is one thing we all can agree on – cats love to stretch. When they knead and press their paws, it’s their way of giving their muscles a nice stretch. Think of your cat’s kneading as a bit of kitty yoga. Your cat will knead to stretch its muscles and get comfortable. 

7. Kneading to relieve anxiety

Cats can get anxious due to many different reasons. To deal with anxiety, they may start kneading. It helps them to feel comfortable and relax peacefully. 

If you notice that your cat is breathing faster, hiding, flicking their tail, displaying their aggression along with kneading, it is a sign that they are doing it to soothe their anxiety.

8. Your cat is making their bed

Kneading isn’t just about nursing; there could be another instinct involved. Before settling in for a nap, cats might knead a surface. Experts suggest that this behavior might come from the ancient instincts of their feline ancestors. 

They used to flatten and pad their resting spots to make them cozy and check for any hidden dangers before taking a nap. That kneading habit might be a nod to that old survival instinct.

9. It is a form of relaxation mode

If your cat kneads while having slow blinks, soft eyes, and purring loudly, it means they are relaxing. Your cat is just incredibly relaxed and might be ready for a cozy nap. When your cat kneads on your belly or chest before snuggling, it’s a big sign of trust from your furry friend.

10. Cat is ready for mating

When cats are in heat, they show some strange behaviors—like yowling at night and raising their hindquarters. They might also become more affectionate, which could mean more kneading on your lap. Females in heat might even lie on their sides while kneading. Spaying your cat will put a stop to their behavior. 

11. They are going into labor

If your female cat is pregnant, you may see them kneading the surface of their birthing box. It is a sign that she is going into labor. During the initial stages of labor, one of the things she might do is create a nest or arrange her birthing box by using her paws to knead.

12. Kneading in kittens

As we have discussed before, kneading is a typical behavior in kittens. They knead their mother’s teat to stimulate milk flow while nursing. The motion helps them to feed as well as feel secure and content. If your cat has given birth, you will see them kneading their mother’s belly.

When Cat Kneading Can Be a Problem?

When Cat Kneading Can Be a Problem

Kneading is considered a normal behavior in cats and is pretty harmless. However, cats have sharp claws, which can sometimes cause scratches. 

If your cat’s kneading gets painful, it can be problematic. Also, your cat can damage the blankets and other surfaces in your home with excessive kneading.

So, if you are finding this behavior to be more problematic than endearing, it is best to stop it. There are many tips and tricks you can use to stop your cat’s kneading habit.

How to Prevent Cat from Kneading?

How to Prevent Cat from Kneading

If you want to stop your cat from kneading, here are some tips to follow:

1. Trim your cat’s nails

Keep your cat’s nails trimmed to avoid uncomfortable kneading on your lap. This makes cuddle time more enjoyable and prevents scratches. Trimmed nails also stop ingrown nails and protect your furniture from scratches.

2. Encourage your cat to knead elsewhere

Guide your cat to knead someplace else. You can also get a pheromone-based spray to encourage your cat to knead on a sheet or blanket instead of your lap.

3. Divert their attention

If the kneading on your lap gets overwhelming, guide your cat to knead on a suitable surface like a blanket. Gently move them or entice them with toys or treats. Reward them with treats, praise, or pets when they knead on the desired surface.

4. Create a kneading spot

You can use a special thick blanket just for your cat’s kneading. It will help you to create a kneading spot that your cat can use. This tells your cat that it is okay to knead there. 

5. Don’t punish your cat

Avoid punishing your cat for kneading. They might react badly and become aggressive when you punish them for natural behavior. Rather, employ distraction and diversion methods to maintain your cat’s trust.

6. Look out for signs of stress

Cats may knead because of excessive stress, so you need to look out for signs. Stress factors for your cat could include schedule changes, new companions, or medical problems. Consult your veterinarian if you observe behavioral changes in your pet.


What does it mean when a cat kneads you?

If you are wondering why do cats knead on you, it can be a sign that they love you or want your attention. 

Why do cats knead soft blankets?

They do it to feel comfortable and relaxed.

Do unhappy cats knead?

Indeed, when sad cats experience stress or anxiety, they might knead.

Why do cats knead blankets before sleeping?

Before going to sleep, your cat could knead blankets to make their bed.

Why do cats make biscuits?

Making biscuits is a natural behavior for cats in times of happiness.


Cats can knead for a variety of reasons, and it’s one of their natural behaviors. However, because of their strong claws, it can occasionally become painful. Make sure you cut your cat’s nails if you wish to happily indulge in their hobby of making biscuits. Alternatively, you can train your cat to use a blanket on your lap. Both you and your feline companion will benefit from this arrangement.

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