Why Do Cats Knead Their Owner?

Cats are mysterious and adorably weird creatures. They can’t bake, but they can surely knead. The kneading action is also referred to as ‘making biscuits’, but we know that cookie dough cannot be prepared from blankets, pillows or humans. 

Kneading in cats is a mystery, and we are here to solve it once and for all.

In this article, we take a look at why cats press their paws against soft surfaces and how you can judge your cat’s mood through its kneading behaviour.

What Is Kneading In Cats?

Kneading is a rhythmic motion in which cats press their forepaws against soft surfaces such as pillows, blankets, humans or fellow feline friends. At times, cats knead with all four paws. They will extend and retract their claws during this motion.

Some cats knead more than others because they want more attention. This happens when the kitten has been weaned from the mother early. That is why some kittens can be seen sucking and kneading on the owner’s arms. Cats also purr or drool while kneading if they are feeling affectionate towards their ‘hoomans’.

Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners?

No matter what some dog person tells you, cats love their owners and know how to show it. According to a study, cats love their owners as much as dogs do. It might be hard to digest, but cats have their way of showing love, and kneading is one of them. 

Kneading suggests that your cat is feeling comfortable and cosy around you. If you are lucky, your cat might give you the honour of curling up in your lap after it has done ‘making some cookies’ out of human skin.

This act of showing love and trust is instinctual and starts when cats are tiny, adorable kittens. Kittens knead around the mother’s teats to stimulate the flow of milk while feeding. They replicate this action to assure themselves and their owners that they feel content and safe.

Another theory suggests that cats knead to mark their owners. Cats have sweat glands under their paws, and they spread the scent on their owners this way. Put it simply; your cat is trying to say that this ‘hooman’ is mine and out of bounds for other cats.

Other Reasons for Kneading in Cats

Apart from kneading their humans, cats knead other soft surfaces like blankets and pillows for various reasons.

Cats Knead During Nursing

Kittens start kneading when they are around two weeks, the same time when their eyes have opened. The kittens knead the mother’s belly. As a result, the oxytocin hormone is released that stimulates and directs the milk towards the teats.

Apart from stimulation, kittens knead to show affection towards their mothers or siblings. Most kittens continue to exhibit this behaviour in the adult life stage.

Cats Knead To Get Comfy

You might have noticed that your cat presses its paws against the mattress, sheets or sofa before curling around and sleeping for hours on end. Cats knead to make things comfortable for themselves. Cats love pillows with a depression in the middle as it mimics their mother’s embrace when they were kittens.

Kneading During Heat

Along with vocalisation and begging to go outside, female cats knead when they are on heat. If a male cat appears, they show this behaviour to let the male cats know that they are ready to mate. Plus, kneading helps them spread their scent to attract potential mates.

Kneading Means ‘It’s Mine’

Scent means a lot in the feline world, and cats knead different surfaces around the house to mark their territory. This behaviour is most noticeable and frequent in cats that have not been spayed or neutered.

As we have explained earlier, cats knead humans to officially tell their feline friends that they own you!

To Stretch Their Muscles

Cats are what some would call stretching machines. If cats could do yoga, they’d be champions at it. Ever wonder why your cat yawns and kneads after taking a nap? They knead to stretch their limbs and get themselves ready for a delicious meal because if it were up to cats, they would eat (and sleep) all day.

Cats Knead To Make a Nest

According to a not-so-popular theory, cats in the wild used to make nests out of dry grass. Pregnant cats knead hard materials like cardboard boxes to soften them up and make them suitable for birth. 

This behaviour is different from when cats knead due to comfort or happiness and showcases a mother cat’s instinct to keep the kittens safe.

Should I Stop My Cats From Kneading?

Kneading is cute and very satisfying to watch. It is one of the weird things that cats do. But as a cat owner, you should never discourage your cat from kneading. 

Cats need an environment where they can thrive as pets, and preventing them from carrying out their natural behaviour will only hinder their growth.

But maybe you don’t want your furry friend scratching up your belly and arms while kneading. Well, you can always trim the nail to minimise the scratches. However, you should only cut the tips of the claws. We prefer that you use the guillotine type cutter as it is easier to use.

You can always channel this kneading behaviour to something other than the lovely leather sofa in your living room too. Pheromone-based sprays are available to encourage your cat to knead where you want it to.

If your cat starts kneading the furniture, you can always divert its attention by using treats or toys. You should not punish your cat when it is kneading as you will only receive a hiss and lash. Instead, use the techniques mentioned above to encourage instinctive behaviour.

Final Words on Why Cats Knead Their Owners

In short, your cat kneads on your belly or arms to show that they love you. Allowing this behaviour in your cat will strengthen the bond with your cat. So next time your cat starts kneading you, pet and show some love to your cat. 

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