I bet at some point you have caught your cat kneading. When your cat pushes his paws rhythmically in and out against anything soft, this is called kneading. No, it is not a bad thing. But why do cats knead? Have you ever thought about that?

Generally, there are various theories on why a cat kneads. For example, if a kitten kneads, it indicates that the kitten is hungry and wants milk. However, if an adult cat kneads, it simply means the cat is content and happy.

If you are more interested to learn about the cat’s behaviour, then give this article a quick read.

Cat kneading

Some beginners may not be totally familiar with the term kneading. So, for them, here is a simple explanation of what kneading is.

Kneading refers to the behaviour when a cat pushes a soft thing in and out using his front paws, alternating between left and right. Some people call this motion “ biscuit motion” or “kneading dough”.

The kneading behaviour of felines is not the same. For example, some cats do kneading along with loud purr, whereas some do it quietly. Again, some felines knead with only their front paws while some knead on four.

Why Do Cats Knead? 6 Reasons Behind The Kneading

Now you know what kneading means. Experts have invested a long time understanding why a cat kneads. Here are the top 6 reasons:

why do cats knead

1. The cats are born to knead

You will be surprised to know that the kittens are born with an instinct to knead. When a kitten feeds milk, it paws the mother cat’s tummy to encourage the milk flow. Sometimes you will notice your kitten dribble while kneading any soft surface. It is because the baby is expecting the milk that used to come with the kneading.

2. The cat is marking his territory

Okay, this might sound insane, but yes, a cat can mark his territory by kneading. When a cat kneads with his paws, the in and out pushes activate special scent glands. Those glands release pheromone and the cat marks his territory using the scent.

3. The cat is happy and content

In most cases, a cat kneads because he is happy. If you see your cat is kneading in front of you, it means he enjoys your company and wants you around. Stroking him or petting him at that time will make him more comfortable, happy and relaxed.

4. The cat is building a nest

This behaviour is mostly seen in wild cats. In the wilds, the cats need to select and protect their habitats all by themselves. So, whenever they find a pile of leaves, they knead the place to make it a comfortable place to sleep and relax. However, sometimes the wild cats knead the ground to check for any predators and make the ground soft and comfortable.

5. The cat is ready to mate

Kneading behaviour of a female cat sometimes refers to the fact that she is ready to mate. This is just an act to get the attention of male cats. When the female cat goes into heat, she kneads, becomes more vocal and begs to go outside.

6. The cat is doing stretches

You know how stretchy a cat can be. They are natural yoga masters and love to do workouts like stretching right after a sound nap. Whenever the cats feel sore, they knead to relax their body.

So, why do cats knead? There can be many reasons behind it. The more time you spend with your pet cat, the more you will get to understand his behaviour.

Why do cats knead their owner?

Cats kneading their owners is the most common scene. But do you know why cats knead their owners? You will notice the cat is kneading right after you pet him. This movement is his way of returning the affection. Kneading also indicates the pure and secure relation you two share.

But sometimes, when the cat kneads on your lap, it can be pretty painful. It is because the happier the cat is, the deeper he will dig in your lap with the nails. No matter if the kneading hurts or not, never punish the cat because of it.

Instead, place a cushion or any other soft barrier between the cat and your lap. You can also stroke the cat to relax him a little bit.

Why do cats knead and lick?

Kneading is a self-comforting behaviour of a cat. The feline generally does not knead in front of someone who he does not like. If your pet is kneading in front of you that means he likes your company and you make him feel secured.

If your cat kneads and then licks you, it demonstrates that he wants to return some affection to you. However, sometimes the feline might lick you just to reduce the stress and anxiety level.

Why do cats knead and bite blankets?

If your cat only kneads a blanket or pillow, it indicates that he remembers his nursing memories. As the blanket, pillow or soft surfaces remind him of his kittenhood and bond with his mother, he finds those things warm and safe. But if the kneading leads to biting, it may demonstrate sexual behaviours of the cat.

In some cases, this aggressive behaviour means that the cat wants to mate badly. If you are confused about his need, consult a vet.

Why do cats knead with all four paws?

Generally, cats knead with only their front paws. But as I have mentioned, some cats can knead with all the four paws. Why? Kneading on a soft surface on all four reminds the cat of his mother.

He misses the warmth of his mom and kittenhood. The movement makes the cat feel safe and secure. If you found your cat kneading on his four paws, stroke or pet him at that time.

Why do cats knead? Honestly, there is no exact answer to the question. The reason can vary depending on the situation. If you notice your cat kneading, stroke him to make him relaxed. 

Related: How Do Cats Purr? – The Meaning And Mechanism Of A Cats Purr


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