Why do cats knead?

why do cats knead
(Last Updated On: November 10, 2022)

Cat’s have a whole bunch of odd behaviors that we see each day, whether that’s the tendency to attack you for no reason or their purring to show you love and affection. Another one of these more mysterious habits is kneading. This is the word to describe when a cat alternates between their paws to push against a soft surface or object. This is a very common behavior in most indoor cats and it tends to serve many purposes for them.

Their intentions for kneading may vary but no one has really determined the basic purpose behind why cats do it. Here are a few explanations of why cats knead that I can provide based upon personal experience of having a cat.

Why Does My Cat Kick Itself?

Stop my cat biting me

Why Does My Cat Knead Me?

So, why do cats knead on their owners? It’s usually a common action they do while they are being petted to return affection to their owners. They are unaware that this action may harm their owners since they use their nails to knead a majority of the time.

Kneading is actually a common action that cats have learned since the time they were kittens. It’s a way of nursing from their mothers. Kneading, or “milk treading”, in kittenhood was how they were able to stimulate the milk flow from their mother while they were nursing.

Milk treading is how kittens are typically able to receive the best nutrition from their mother’s milk, and it is a behavior that cats carry on into adulthood. It turns into a sign of affection the older they get and it is an indication that they are heavily content. Due to their young milk treading behavior, cats normally associate kneading with happiness and nurturing.

It is only natural that they start kneading on you when you are giving them affection. Place a blanket or pillow between you and your cat so they can knead contently without harming you. It may also be a good idea to keep your cat’s nails trimmed so they do not dig into your skin or your furniture.

Bedding Down

Cats in the past loved lying on soft areas to give birth or to sleep. You can say it’s a natural instinct cats today have inherited.

Your cat might love to knead down leaves or grass to create its own comfortable and soft surface to lie down on. It’s also a natural instinct to check for threats or unwelcome creatures hiding under the leaves.

How to Stop Your Cat From Kneading

If you cannot have your cat kneading on you for any purpose, train them to start kneading in a particular area. Do not punish them for kneading. They are just really happy and they want to give you affection.

Start by trying to redirect your cat to another nearby soft surface so they can knead at their heart’s content without bothering you. You can do this by giving them treats and placing them on a soft surface and gently placing them in that spot so they know to go there to knead. Your cat will start to make a habit out of kneading in a spot nearby instead of directly on you if you tend to repeat this behavior with them.

Kneading to Stretch

Since cats spend a majority of the day sleeping, kneading is a way that cats can stretch their arms and paws to keep their bodies limber. Kneading is the cat equivalent to a human stretching or doing yoga to settle or work out their muscles. Doing this keeps them limber until the next time they fall asleep.

Kneading to Mark Territory

Sometimes cats knead to mark their territory. They usually do the same when they rub against us as a way to leave their scent to mark their property. It is also a method of showing us affection, but its main purpose is to mark what belongs to them.

Cats have scent glands in their paw pads so it is possible that they are leaving their scents wherever they knead, whether it be on you or your furniture. It is simply in a cat’s nature to mark and knead anyone or anywhere around them to establish a territorial boundary for other cats.

Why Do Cats Bite Blankets?

Another question that many cat owners have is the mystery behind why cats bite blankets. There are a couple of good explanations for that. They bite blankets to either simulate pleasure or to alleviate oral pain. The most common reason why is that they bite blankets for pleasure.

Sometimes biting blankets is one way that cats play to mimic the feeling of playing with other cats. Biting and nibbling is a method of relaxation for a majority of cats. They could be biting a blanket expecting it to respond by nurturing it and bites it as a frustrated response of not receiving anything.

However, if your cat continues this behavior beyond the age of three then they might be dealing with pain in their teeth. Biting is one way of how they can alleviate their pain so they will bite into blankets to help them relax.

If this is the case, it may be best to take your cat to the vet to see if they are suffering from oral disease or decay.


To sum up the information, kneading is an extremely common behavior for cats, whether it be for affection or other purposes. Cats are mysterious creatures that are capable of many things. Taking the time to understand the reasoning behind some of their weird yet common cat behaviors can bring you closer to your cat, and vice versa.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *