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June 29, 2021 |0 min read

Why Do Cats Knead?

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Making biscuits, baking bread, or kneading dough; regardless of what you call the behavior, there’s no denying that a kneading cat is one of the cutest things they can do. But have you ever wondered why cats knead? Or even why cats puur? Is it normal cat behavior, and what does it mean?

Let’s look at why cats knead and explain this behavior in more detail so you can understand what your kitty is trying to say next time they hop up on your lap and start making muffins!

Why Do Cats Knead?

Like most things cats do, there isn’t one straightforward answer to the question “why do cats knead?”. In fact, cats knead for a variety of reasons! Below are some explanations:

For Comfort

Many theories point to the fact that kneading is a behavior that cats learn when they are newborn kittens. As kittens, they knead their mom while nursing to get milk out. Because of this, cats might knead to give themselves a sense of comfort, either when they are trying to rest or even if they’re stressed. It’s similar to when babies turn to a favorite blanket or stuffed animal for comfort. 

To Get Cozy

Kneading is a great way to make the bed! If you notice your kitten kneading a soft blanket or other soft objects, it may be the first step as they get settled for a good nap. They have to make the perfect spot for those afternoon lounges!

To Stretch Their Paws

Another reason why cats knead is to stretch their paws and muscles. Cats love to be active and to stay nice and limber, they’re pretty much always stretching. This is also why cats love to scratch and bend their back (there’s even a yoga pose named after cats!). Kneading may help your feline stretch out their shoulders and paws.

One of the primary ways cats communicate with each other is through scent and they have scent glands throughout their body, including on their paws. Kneading is a way for cats, who are naturally territorial, to mark their territory using the scent glands in their paws. This could apply to their favorite napping spot, litter box, blanket, or even you!

To Show Affection

Of course, one of the best reasons why your feline friend kneads is to show their love and affection for you! By kneading you with the same motion they use to knead their mother or mark their favorite blanket as their own, they’re showing you that they are comfortable, relaxed, and that they trust you. Cats have all different kinds of body languages that we as owners should study to understand our feline friends better.  Kneading is one way they show their affection. 

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Is Kneading Normal?

If your kitty just can’t seem to get enough kneading, you may wonder, “is cat kneading normal?” and the answer is yes! As you can tell from some of the reasons why cats knead above, most of the time, this is a natural way to show relaxation and affection. Occasionally, cats will knead to manage anxiety or stress, but most of the time, it’s just a way for them to relax.

Do All Cats Knead?

Every cat is different, so no, not all cats knead. In fact, some cats might knead way more than others, and some might not knead at all. Most animal professionals will agree that cat kneading is genetic and isn’t related to how a cat was raised or if they were weaned off their mother too early. Like other cat behaviors, it’s more likely just a quirk that some cats have developed and some haven’t!

Most cat owners enjoy when their cat kneads them or the bed or couch around them because it’s a cute behavior that shows trust, but make sure you keep your kitty’s nails trimmed so the kneading isn’t painful. You can also keep a thicker blanket or towel nearby that you can put on top of yourself or the bed that your cat can knead on. This will help reduce the chances that they ruin a good blanket or piece of furniture when making biscuits. 

If you would rather not be the subject of your cat’s kneading, gently move them to the bed from on top of you. Most of the time, your cat will adjust and hopefully fall asleep. Never discipline a kitty for kneading as it’s a natural and instinctive cat behavior. 

Does your cat knead? There’s nothing like some delicious kitty biscuits or muffins to warm our hearts. 

Sources:

1. https://www.aaha.org/your-pet/pet-owner-education/ask-aaha/is-my-cats-kneading-normal/ 

2. https://www.petmd.com/cat/behavior/evr_ct_why_do_cats_knead 

3. https://catsinternational.org/sharing-the-turf-part-ii-scent-messages/ 

4. https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/why-do-cats-knead 

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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