Cat Behavior

Cat Kneading Facts You Need to Know

Why Does My Cat Knead Me

Our cats have so many adorable and just quirky little things that make them so special. Of these, one little move is still shrouded in mystery even to this day. Once and for all, let’s take a look and see why cats actually knead you.

Kneading is a very common behavior for cats of all ages and breeds. It is possible that a cat may take to kneading as others do, and that is just fine as well.

In most cases, this kneading is simply a pushing on your or an object with her paws, but sometimes cats may use their claws to push, too.

The actual reasoning behind this need to knead is truly unknown to us as of now. There are several theories from a great many reputable sources as to why this instinctual behavior is so prevalent among felines today.

There are also some things that we now know to be true about cat kneading that makes this adorable quirk even more precious.

An Act By Any Other Name Is Just as Adorable

The act of kneading is one of the most common quirks or habits any cat may have. As with many common actions, cat owners have put their own spin on things when talking about their kitty massages. Some of the more well-known terms to refer to a cat’s kneading is ‘making biscuits’ and ‘kneading a dough.’

What Exactly is Cat Kneading?

According to LiveScience, Cat kneading is the instinctual behavior of kittens and older cats to sort of massage items or people with their front paws. Sometimes, a feline can really get into and will start using all four paws to gently massage her favorite blanket or maybe your favorite outfit.

Often times, this motion will be accompanied by purring and other signs of contentment and relaxation. More often than not, this kneading of the paws is done of soft surfaces like plush, fabric, and bedding.

If your cat seems to slip into an almost trance-like state, this is usually nothing to worry about or be concerned with.

It is simply a sign that she is truly relaxed and comfortable with her surroundings, her bed, or her cat parent. Often times, this motion will be accompanied by purring and other signs of contentment and relaxation.

A Cat’s Early Kneading Habits are Need-Based

Cats will generally knead for the vast majority of their life. From kittens all the way through their geriatric years, cats will instinctually try to knead you and other soft things. At first, kittens learn this as a way to get something they need.

As kittens, they need milk from their mother for nourishment. They learn early that kneading the area around their mother’s nipples can help stimulate the flow of milk.

While kneading your favorite sweater doesn’t bring milk, it may bring back the feelings of being around mom and the glory days of being a child.

While it is true the exact reasoning behind the kneading is unknown, we do know it is instinctual. Nearly all cats knead throughout their entire lives, beginning as kittens and lasting well into the geriatric years.

According to Catster, There are several theories that we will discuss and examine that are both rooted in science and in cat folklore, in our digging for the truth of why our cat knead us – and everything around us – constantly.

Are Kittens Taken from Mothers Too Early?

This bond with their mother leads to another theory on why cats knead. Some people believe that a cat’s desire to knead is because they were taken too early from their mothers. The kneading is meant to represent the feeling of security they felt during those early times with Mom.

This theory has been shown to be somewhat unbelievable. Mostly, this is due to almost all cat being prone to kneading. This holds true for cats that have lived in the same homes as their mother for their whole lives.

In cases when kittens are actually taken from their mothers too early, the cats can become more dependant on the act of kneading.

Part of this is due to the fact that they want to look at you as their mother figure. While they know this will not bring them milk, they adore and love you as their cat parent.

Everybody Just Wants to be Comfortable

A more reasonable theory as to why cats like to knead is based on the lives of ancient felines. Back in these earlier days, wild cats would use kneading in a more practical sense. By using this motion to tramp down grass and other plant life, they were able to make a bed and lay claim to the surrounding area.

There is another theory tied to this ancient behavior of wild cats and other animals. When it comes time for the mother cat to give birth, they will need a warm and comfortable place to do this. Matting down and pushing around the foliage can be a way to prepare an area for an expectant mother.

This can also be applied to the modern cat hanging around your home. If you really watch as this little guy walks around kneading and pushing a pillow or clothing item just so, you will notice that there is more going on than you thought.

Much like the way we fluff our pillows or adjust our bedding, a cat may simply be using this as a way to make their place to nap that much more comfortable.

Your Cat Is Marking Her Territory

Kneading may not be the first behavior we associate with an animal marking their territory. In truth, the pads on a cat’s foot actually contain a special gland that can secrete a special scent. This scent, while not discernable to the human nose, can tell other felines and animals to keep on moving as this spot is taken.

If your cat is unspayed, she may be kneading for another reason. Often, female cats who are unspayed will begin kneading shortly before going into heat. This is done as a sign to male cats that the females are ready for mating.

Just a Way to Say I Love You

If a cat is kneading you, she may not be marking her territory. Instead, it is a way for your feline companion to show how much you mean to her. A form of feline flattery, kneading their human companions is one way that cats show they love you and respect you.

When a cat kneads, they tend to purr. This can be taken as a sign of relaxation and contentment of your kitty. Kneading seems to be a way for them to just relax, slow down, and just de-stress a bit with their favorite human.

Even taken you out of the equation, the kneading can be taken as a sign of great relaxation. In some cases, cats have been known to simply stare off into space and ‘zone out.’ Maybe they are just really contemplating some serious thoughts from their busy day.

Cats Knead Because They Can’t Speak

Cats have many ways of informing you that they need something. While that often times cute (but sometimes annoying) meow of his is a dead giveaway that is something is needed, kneading is another way to let you know that you may have forgotten something. This can be anything from food and water to a little tickle and snuggle with you.

Cats Have a Lot of Kinks to Work Out

In case you haven’t noticed, your cat can get into some pretty crazy shapes and positions throughout the day. This intense yoga regiment he has going on can do quite the number on his muscles.

Much as we like to stretch and work out the kinks after a workout or long time in one position, your cat is also looking for a way to stretch his legs and get ready for another round of crazy cat yoga poses.

Some cat enthusiasts believe this kneading is also meant to be a help to your muscles. While not meant to be a full on massage, cats can be known to knead owners after workouts or during times of stress. This is seen as a way to simply help their owners relax, much as they would another cat in need.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Kneading

While watching your feline friend knead away on things can be adorable as all heck most of the time, there can be times when you just do not want him to start kneading his way through your home. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent or train your cat to stop kneading.

There can be a multitude of reasons that one might want their cat to stop kneading. The most common reason is the pain from their claws. The easiest fix for this is to ensure you always have your cat’s claws trimmed and filed low.

This may not always stop your cat from hurting you, or you may have another reason to want them to stop kneading. In this case, you can try a few simple things that may help train your cat to stop kneading.

– As your cat begins to knead you, attempt to bring her into a lying position. This may cause her to relax and maybe even fall asleep.

– Divert the unwanted attention elsewhere, such as a toy or unused piece of clothing.

– Attempt to make kneading more difficult by gently covering your cat’s paws with a slight pressure from your own hands.

– Male cats may perceive how you pet him differently. Use short strokes to promote a more playful attitude and environment.

The thing that all cat owners should remember is that kneading is a completely natural and instinctual behavior. In most cases, it is harmless and actually shows affection for you. Because of this, a cat’s kneading should never be punished through any means.

Be Alert for Obsessive Kneading

Another big reason to stop your cat kneading is obsessive kneading. This is not always a serious issue, but it can worsen and become more serious over time.

This can result in excessive suckling on the owner’s skin, clothing, other pets, and toys.

There can be some signs that your cat has a problem with obsessive kneading:  

  • Your cat may exhibit a compulsive attitude towards kneading.
  • They may be causing harm to other pets, animals, or people.
  • Male cats may become aggressive and even start salivating during kneading.

Some Final Thoughts on Cat Kneading Behaviors

The actual reasoning behind cats’ instinctual kneading behavior may forever be shrouded in mystery. It can be something that reminds them of better days as a young kitten or the security of being around Mom. Maybe it is something that has been in them since the days of ancient felines.

The things we do know about feline kneading can tell us a lot about our buddies. When they knead us, it is a sign of love, affection, and even respect. They do this as a way of letting us know that they do need us in their lives as much as we need them in ours.

According to Animal Planet, Professionals and experts agree that kneading is completely normal behavior. There are times when it can be too much, so cat owners should be aware of the warning signs of obsessive kneading and take signs to curb it if need be. More often than not though, cat kneading is nothing to be concerned about.

It is best to just let our feline pals do their kneading thing. As long as they are not harming people or animals, a cat’s kneading is something they may not be able to truly control or explain themselves.

Be it instinct, biology, or pure emotions, our kitty kneading is just another reason to love these furry friends of ours.

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