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Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners? 8 Reasons You Should Know

From pillows to blankets, furniture, carpets, and their servant humans, you’ve probably experienced your adorable little feline massaging or kneading you or items in your household some time or another.

Why do cats knead their owners? It’s one of the mysterious, and sometimes charming, quirks our kitties present us with. The push-forward motions of their paws impersonating kneading dough — ‘making biscuits’.

If your kitty does this at times, you may be wondering why do cats knead us? Let’s take a look into some reasons behind why cats make biscuits on our bodies.

tabby cat kneads beige cat bed why do cats knead their owners

Why do Cats Knead their Owners – and What is Kneading?

Before we dive into some motives behind why our felines knead their humans, we need to understand, ‘what is cat kneading?’

Kneading is a soft, rhythmic motion during which felines will shift their paws in and out of a soft surface, alternating between feet. It’s often referred to as ‘making biscuits’ as the action appears to look like they’re kneading dough.

ginger cat on woman's lap stares at her face

It’s typical behavior in both kittens and adult felines alike. Some cats purr away and knead contentedly when being petted, and some may also perform the actions at random.

Cats have their own techniques in kneading — some use claws, and others retract theirs, some use all four paws, and others use their two front ones.

One theory behind kneading is that cats in the wild would build places in the grass for nesting, looking after kittens or resting after a day out on the hunt.

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Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners?

There are many possible reasons why cats knead their owners. Whether it’s your kitty making biscuits to show affection or to claim you as their own, kneading is a natural and common feline behavior.

Let’s take a look into the possible reasons why our kitties knead us below. 

Cat rolls around in the sun

1. Seeking Comfort

Some cats knead to express emotions. When your feline is feeling frustrated, anxious, or depressed, they may reach out for a comforting surface to help calm themselves.

If you find your cat kneading out of distress, you should try gently petting her. If the kneading persists, you should consult your vet as your cat could be dealing with a case of chronic anxiety.

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2. Getting Ready for a Nap

Another reason why cats knead is to adjust the surface before they take a nap. Just like how you would fluff your pillows and blankets before you sleep, or how dogs circle their beds to readjust their blankets —so does your fluffy pal with their beds.

It’s a behavior that’s been handed down from their wild cat ancestors. Feral cats paw at piles of leaves or tall grass to create a ‘nest’ for a nap or a safe place to give birth.

Cute little red kitten sleeps on fur white blanket

By doing this, they don’t only create a more comfortable sleeping spot, but they’re also checking for any dangerous things in the foliage.

Your little ball of love sleeps a lot, and when they feel the surface is unsuitable for napping on, they will prepare to make it as comfortable before a snooze. They also knead with their paws to help them wind down and prepare for the nap.

Sleeping young man with fluffy red cat

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3. The Massage of Love

The experience of having our beloved cats knead on our bare skin is less than pleasant, especially when their claws come out. Having our cats use us as a scratching post or a pin cushion can be quite an uncomfortable experience.

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Amazing where you can end up when you chase your tail

Nevertheless, when our purrfect kitty kneads us, we should take this as flattery. It means she trusts you, is feeling safe, and is expressing love. If you notice that your cat tends to knead one member of your household more than another, or only one member of your household, I am afraid that this is most likely means that this is who your cat feels the most affection about.

However, if your kitty becomes a little too excited with her claws, you can try putting something, like a blanket or a towel, between them and you.

grey cat sits on woman's lap with blanket reading

You can also try to encourage your furbaby to lie down and relax by gently pushing them down onto your lap. Alternatively, you can try distracting them with a fun cat toy.

Whatever you do, never punish or scold your cat for kneading you. They don’t intentionally try to hurt you; this is their way of saying, ‘I love you.’

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4. Demanding Attention & Expressing Affection

Felines are portrayed as being unemotional and selfish. However, this is not the case; they often form close bonds with their owners and desire attention. Some domestic cat breeds, like the Siberian Cat, love affection and being social.

Tasty treats, petting, playing sessions, chew toys — most cats demand it all. While you’re trying to watch TV or read and your kitty starts to knead your stomach, it may be a sign your furball wants to connect with you.

woman with blanket and two cats on her lap

If you haven’t paid attention to your kitty for a while and she starts to knead you at random, it’s likely she’s trying to spend time bonding with you.

Your cat kneads to show their affection and that she really loves you just by purring. Kitties can express their enjoyment of your company by kneading you.

ginger and tabby cat sit on lap

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5. Marking Their Territory

Felines are very territorial by nature, and they like to mark what’s theirs. They have scent glands in several places over their bodies, including their paws. Kneading is one of the ways cats mark their territory with their scent.

Your feline may be marking their bedding, your bed, or your clothing to let others know you are part of her empire.

grey and white cat sniffs leaves

So, when they press continuously onto something, they’re marking what’s theirs. Basically, your cat owns you whether you like it or not.

6. Reminiscing About Their Kittenhood

Cats start to knead as early as newborn kitties. The pressing of their paws to both sides of their mother’s teats stimulates milk flow. It’s a basic instinct that they develop from day one, and most cats continue this behavior into adulthood. This is also why your cat may begin to drool sometimes when it is kneading you – it is anticipating a feed.

In adulthood, felines knead when they’re feeling content as it associates the motion with nursing and their mothers’ comforts. Some kitties may do it out of habit or only for enjoyment as they grow older.

white baby-kitten-biting-mom

It also shows that your cat associates the secure nature of your relationship with the one that they had with their mother when they were kittens.

Kneading is soft, and even though they don’t get milk from their mothers, they feel safe and sound. While they knead your arm, leg, chest, etc., your fluffy pal may be recalling happy memories of her kittenhood.

Little fluffy kitten's paw and woman finger for contrast close-up

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7. Getting a Stretch Out of It

Cats love to stretch, before or after snoozes especially. Our kitties have a unique musculoskeletal system that needs to stay in condition by exercising and getting a good stretch out.

They may use kneading to exercise the muscles in their paws, forelegs, and back and relieve any soreness they might feel there. Your cat may also be doing this just because it feels good. Like humans, it is ideal to have a surface of some type to stretch again. This might be you, or your sofa or other furniture in the house.

black cat in curve position on mustard coloured chair
Alexei stretching his long hind legs

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8. Going into Heat

Her behavior acts as a way to communicate and facilitate reproduction. Adult female felines knead more often when they are ‘going on heat,’ also known as estrus.

Estrus is when a female cat (or female mammal) wants male attention. They usually knead to show males they are ready to mate and conceive.

grey cat jumps through grass with tail in the air
Now that is a tail

A female cat will rest on her side and knead, purr, and stretch, signaling she is interested in mating. They may also perform this behavior along with being very vocal, displaying more affection than usual.

This behavior could also indicate a non-threatening invitation or to symbolize a relaxed state.

Norwegian forest cat with green eyes

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A Footnote On Why Our Kitties Knead Us

Kneading got its name from a similar action that we do when we knead the dough. Though, with our kitties, this turns out to be an adorable and relaxing action to watch.

No one really knows what makes cats knead their owners, or knead at all, but it’s believed to be instinct from kittenhood.

woman asleep with grey cat in her arms from a distance

Cat owners should know by now that their kitties offer some funny traits that they adore to exhibit. From purring to kneading, our furry pal’s make our lives much more delightful, filled with entertainment and love.

Although kneading can sometimes be uncomfortable for the humans involved to try not to punish your cat for kneading behaviour. Kneading shows that your cat is happy and relaxed and this is a good thing. It is a natural instinct for your cat to want to knead so as much as you can allow it to go ahead and express this instinct.

If your cat has its claws out when kneading and is causing you pain gently pick it up and put it on another soft surface so it can continue its kneading without causing you pain.

Watch my Why do cats knead their owners web story.

woman lying on bed with ginger cat curled up under her arm

Please Note: This why do cats knead their owners post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on most of the links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not affect the price that you pay. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

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