Why Do Cats Knead?

Why Do Cats Knead

Most people that have a cat have asked themselves this age old question. The truth is, cats are pretty intricately designed. They have a lot of behaviors, traits and characteristics that differentiate them from the other domestic animals. Kneading is a common cat behavior that dates back to, well, forever really. Kneading is when your cat makes a motion of pushing in and out using their paws. Some cats don’t ever put their claws out when they knead, while others extend their claws (and yes, this can be pretty painful).

More About Kneading


A lot of people refer to kneading as making biscuits, because the motion is very similar to the motion that you use when you are kneading the dough to make biscuits. Typically, cats will knead soft surfaces. They sometimes choose blankets, pillows, other types of bedding or furniture, other animals, or maybe even on your lap! Sometimes, cats go into a trance type state when they are kneading, because they are so relaxed.

 

So Why All the Kneading?

Now that you know more about kneading, it is time to learn more about why it happens. Explanations to this behavior can vary greatly, but all in all, it comes down to instincts. Newborns must knead their mother in order to stimulate milk flow for them to nurse. Some people say that adult cats that knead must have been weaned too early, but there really isn’t sufficient research to back this up. All cats usually knead, and more often than not it is because it provides them with comfort.

Another common theory as to why cats knead dates all the way back to when cats in the wild would have to pat down tall brush and grass to make a bed for themselves. This behavior is still common before a cat settles down for a nap. Just keep a watch on your cat before they lay down to nap. They will probably knead before they do so. This is much like how dogs turn in circles before they lay down. They used to have to do it to flatten tall grass with their tail. Some behaviors simply stick over the years!

Anatomical explanations to kneading are also something to consider. All cats are designed with scent glands in the pads of their paws. When they knead, it leaves behind their scent. They may use kneading as a form of marking their territory. This is extremely common in multi-cat homes. If your cat is kneading you, they are likely claiming you as their ‘people’.

Should You Try to Stop Kneading?

Some cat owners get annoyed with kneading, and wonder if it would be okay for them to try to discourage the behavior. The truth is, it is something that is instinctive for them and it will be difficult to get them to stop entirely. The best thing to do is just keep their claws trimmed, or get a scratching post that will do that for you. This will make it hurt a little less when they decide to knead your lap. If they are kneading on furniture or other inappropriate places, look for a spray that will help to discourage this behavior in those areas. Typically, they will knead furniture and other areas as a way to claim those areas- but you can train them to choose more appropriate places for kneading.



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I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.

We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.

On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.

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2 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Knead?

  1. I never knew what kneading was until a few years ago. My cat would do it all the time on one of my favorite blankets. She doesn’t use her claws or anything and she seems to be in this weird trance, I let her do it because she’s not hurting anything and it looks like she’s comfortable. But yeah, seen it many times with my cat, and I just never knew why they did it.

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