If you've owned a cat for quite some time, then you've probably become aware of some of its tendencies. You've maybe noticed a particular behavior where your cat repeatedly presses its paws against you or a soft object. Maybe you've thought to yourself, "why on earth is my cat doing that?" For those who have been curious, keep reading so that you can learn a little more about your feline friend!


Kneading is an essential communication tool for your cat. Visually, kneading can be described as what looks like the motion of someone kneading dough with their hands, or in your cat's case, their paws. This behavior traces back to your cat's days as a kitten. Kittens perform this instinctive behavior on their mother's mammary glands to help stimulate milk production by exerting pressure on the mother's nipple area and using their retractable claws in repetition.


Kneading can be considered a juvenile trait that cats retain in adulthood. Cats, along with some other domestic animals, tend to carry on kneading long after they have been weaned off of their mothers. Since domestic cats tend to be babied by their human owners throughout their adult life, most manage to hold on to this kitten-like behavior even as adults.

One reason why cats knead is because it is their way of showing affection to you. While they are being petted, you may notice your cat starting to purr or knead, and this is because they are showing their fondness of you and your company. If you notice your cat kneading every time you start to pet them, then it is an indication of your pet enjoying physical interactions and being in a positive emotional state. Well-socialized felines also resort to kneading when they have established a special type of bond and affection with their owners.

a orange cat affectionately kneading owners arm as he pets him.

Don't get us wrong, though – cats don't just rely on humans to knead. If your cat has been socialized with other pets around your home, then there is a chance that your cat will knead on them as well.

Another reason why cats knead is that, just like humans, they need to stretch their muscles. Since cats can be pretty agile, they need every muscle and bone in their body to be in tip-top shape. Just like how we may stretch our hands and fingers after hours spent typing away at our computer, cats need to stretch their paws and claws as well!

Our feline friends can also be very territorial. Since animal behaviorist also believe that since paws have scent glands, cats use kneading to mark their territories and let everyone else know what belongs to them!

Cats also sometimes resort to kneading to help them sleep better. You may notice them kneading just seconds before they lay down comfortably. You may also see this specific instinctive behavior among pregnant cats when preparing for the birth of their kittens.

Lastly, cats knead when they are in the process of finding a mate. Kneading can be a signal that shows that your pet is now ready to find a partner!


Before you get concerned, it is helpful to know that kneading is considered a natural behavior amongst cats. It shouldn't be a cause of worry as long as you notice your cat kneading for the right reasons. However, kneading can become quite a nuisance, especially if your cat has sharp claws. The last thing you want is to get your arms and legs scratched up while you're cuddling with your pet!

To remedy this, ensure that you keep your cat's nails trimmed at all times. Another thing you can do is always have a trusty towel or blanket around to help protect your lap from scratches. You can also train your cat to knead on a toy, like the FAT CAT Boogie Mats which are made specifically for kneading (shown below)! These fun kneading cat mats are filled with organic catnip to attract your cat and saves your furniture by giving your cat their own dedicated spot to knead. Other objects can be useful as well, such as a blanket or pillow.

A black cat laying on a FAT CAT Kneading Mat

Above all else, never resort to punishment whenever your cat kneads. Understand that this is considered normal behavior, and as long as you rely on the tips mentioned above, you and your feline friend will do just fine!

Hopefully this has helped give you a little bit more insight as to why your cat kneads. Overall, kneading is harmless and something natural that cats just do! It is usually a positive act and something they do to show affection. The next time you notice your cat kneading, know that they are likely feeling content, comfortable, and happy.


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