Cat Questions
cat kneading

Cat Kneading - Why Do Cats Knead?

Written by Ryan Gliozzo


Don’t worry if your cat is kneading your legs, sofa, bed and carpets as it is a perfectly normal behaviour. In typical Waggel style, we help to explain why…
Cat kneading some biscuits


Do you ever wonder why your cat is so fascinated by the basket of yarn in the corner, or why they always seem to be kneading on your lap? Believe it or not, there are scientific explanations for these behaviours.

Although we don't know for sure why we do know that our feline friends have a complex nervous system that incorporates an instinctive urge to knead.

This motion is thought to have originated from when the cat was still in its mother's womb and is an attempt to create warmth.

The most common place for cat kneading to occur is on the floor or carpeted area where they are sleeping. It can also be done when you pet them.

This behaviour may seem like an odd thing to see but if your cat does not have any health issues then there should be no reason why he/she would need to knead anything apart from showing affection.

What is cat kneading?

Cat kneading is a behaviour that is often seen in cats when they are happy and content.

They will press their paws into a soft surface and push their claws in and out. Some people believe that this is a sign of affection, while others believe it has to do with cats' hunting instincts.

It is believed that the behaviour is instinctual and dates back to when cats were kittens and their mothers would knead them with their paws to stimulate the flow of milk. To a cat, kneading feels good and is a way of showing their contentment.

This behaviour may seem like an annoyance at first but if left alone, it usually stops after some time. If your cat does not stop doing this and is kneading for hours at a time, there could be underlying health issues such as arthritis.

Why do cats knead?

a cat kneading on the carpet

If you are a cat owner, you have probably wondered why your cat is massaging their sharp claws on your best soft blanket or giving your leg a seemingly deep-tissue massage.

Is it a form of communication? Is it to replicate the comfort of nursing?

Well, cats knead with their paws for a few reasons. One reason is that they are marking their territory.

They are leaving their scent markers behind so that other cats will know that this is their space.

Kneading can also be a sign of happiness for a cat. They may do it when they are being petted or when they are around their favourite person or animal.

Finally, for some cats, kneading is a way to calm down and relax. The rhythmic, distinctive paw action feels comforting and helps them to wind down their energy to a relaxed state.

Some cats enjoy being petted or scratched while kneading, while others seem to find it annoying. Kneading is a behaviour that is seen in pretty much all cats.

If you are a new kitten owner, please read our excellent information on preparing for a kitten and what to expect.

What are the benefits of cat kneading?

Closeup of cat paws

For centuries, humans have been fascinated by why cats knead, and what it means for them.

There are many theories about this. One theory is that the cat is stretching their muscles, or that they are just making a comfortable space to sleep on. Another theory is that it is a sign of happiness, or that the cat feels safe when they do this.

Which theory you believe in can depend on your point of view but we can all agree that one of the benefits of cat kneading is that it helps them to relax. It's a behaviour that cats do when they're feeling comfortable and content.

Kneading also helps to stimulate milk production in nursing mothers. It's a comforting behaviour for cats and it's one way that they show their love and affection for their humans.

Why do cats knead their owners?

Cat kneading on blanket

Kneading is just one of the many strange behaviours with which cats can surprise their owners. As we mentioned, It's unclear why this behaviour exists, but complaints about the action are often heard when it takes place on expensive furniture or with bare skin.

There are a few theories about why cats knead their owners. One theory is that cats knead their owners to show their affection. Another theory is that cats knead their owners as a way to mark their territory.

A third theory is that cats knead their owners as a way to get them to pet them more. No one knows for sure why cats knead their owners, but it is a cute habit that cats do and it is a way for cats to show love for their humans.

If your cat is scratching you as well as kneading, you can check out the many reasons why, by visiting our cat scratching guide.

What kind of things do cats knead?

cute cat lying down and kneading

Cats are notoriously curious creatures who seem to be constantly seeking out new activities to engage in. Kneading is one of their favourite pastimes.

Cats knead using their paws, teeth, and claws on soft surfaces like blankets, pillowcases, or even the human’s lap.

This behaviour is typically observed when cats are resting near a person or another cat, but it can also happen when they are hungry or experiencing stomach pain.


In conclusion, cats knead their owners and other people's clothing and blankets for various reasons.

Some cats knead because they've learned it from their mother and it is a natural cat instinct while others do it because they want to relax and get comfortable.

 It is important to provide your cat with the physical and mental stimulation they need for them to stay healthy.

Cat kneading also has several benefits for cats, such as relieving stress and helping them to relax. If your cat is kneading you, it means they trust and love you!

Cats have a natural instinct to knead their mother's belly while nursing, so when a cat kneads someone they love, it can also be considered a sign of comfort.

Kneading can also be a sign of happiness - so if your cat is giving you a good old-fashioned kneading session, it's probably a sign that they're quite content in your company! Way to go, you super cat parents!

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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