Why do cats knead?

Have you ever experienced a moment when you’re having a nice time with your cat and you observe them pressing their paws in and out on your stomach or laps? Well, this behavior is commonly experienced among cat owners and it is simply called kneading or “making biscuits”- because it is like a baker kneading dough.

The actual purpose of this kneading behavior may seem hard to understand but experts have clearly shown that kneading has a deep connection with feline evolutionary behavior.

Cats knead for several purposes and in their unique way. Some cats use their front feet alone, while others use all four feet. While some use claws in the process, some do not.

In this article, we are going to show the main reason why cats knead. But before then, let’s understand this behavior properly.


What is kneading?

Kneading in cats is the act of pushing the paws forward in a rhythmic pattern towards and away from a body or object. This act is similar to the way bakers make dough rhythmically, and that’s why it is often referred to as “making biscuits.”

Most times, cats knead on common household objects, blankets and linen, and even your lap. This behavior is commonly seen among young and adult felines alike.

Why do cats knead?

There are a few different ideas out there as to why cats knead, but the main reasons is that it’s an instinctive trait they got from kitten-hood. You would often observe kitties pawing at their mother’s tummies while feeding to encourage milk flow from the teats.

Little wonder cats tend to suckle at a soft object or dribble because they expect milk to come out just as it used to with the movement.

That said, below are some of the most popular theories for why cats knead certain objects and even their owners.

Making territory

Your cat may knead in an attempt to mark their territory. Their paws contain scent glands that release pheromones and they activate these glands by pushing their paws in and out. Your feline friend might be doing this on your lap to mark you as their own, warning other cats to stay away.

Making a nest

Cats may also knead in an attempt to create a nest for themselves. This is a behavior that has been passed down from their wild ancestors. So a cat may paw at piles of tall grasses or leaves to build a nest for themselves and their little ones to relax in.

However, when cats knead to the ground, they are not only creating a soft nest, but also checking for prey, predators, or dangerous things that might be hidden in the foliage.

So do not worry when your domestic cat kneads on your lap; it may just be expressing an ingrained habit in their ancestral history.

Going into heat

Your female cat may also knead when they are going into heat. This behavior is used to show the male cats that they’re ready to mate. However, your cat may show other behaviors alongside kneading, such as being overly vocal, begging to go outside, and displaying more affection than usual. All these are efforts to get the attention of a male cat.

Your cat may also pace restlessly, making some areas around your house with urine. Sometimes, they may assume the mating position (bending their head, and raising their hindquarters), especially when you pet them.

You may find it hard to discourage these natural behaviors. So the best thing you can do to help your cat and get rid of the symptoms associated with the heat period is to have your cat spayed.


If you notice your cat kneading your lap when you have a cuddle, it could be a sign that they are building a connection from what they had with their mother to their relationship with you.

However, note that this could mean the happier your cat is, the more they knead on your laps.

Staying loose

Cats sometimes knead just to stretch and stay loose. After a long day filled with napping, your cat may need to stretch at least until the next scheduled nap time, hence, they tend to knead.

Ready to relax

Kneading in cats may just be a way to show that they are ready to relax. This is more common in some cats than others.

And when your cat doesn’t knead, it could be a sign that they’re a little stressed. However, it could be that your cat doesn’t display affection and relaxation in that manner.

But most cats do knead into adulthood. So you can safely assume that your kneading cat is feeling content, calm, and ready to settle down.

What should I do when my cat kneads on me?

Many cat owners are not bothered and allow their cat kneed to satisfy themselves, even when they have to do it on their owner’s body or cloth. But I’m sure you don’t want to get scratched accidentally as your cat kneads on you.

Some studies have shown that kneading can potentially harm or transmit infections to owners, even when they have their clothes on.  One woman developed “trauma-induced cutaneous punctures after her cat kneads on her clothes using paws.

Even if your cat does not harm you in the process, what about your favorite fabrics. Kneading can cause your fabrics to unravel or pill.

However, there are some measures you can take to remedy this potential problem:

  • Trim your cat’s nails regularly or use plastic nail guards to prevent injury to yourself or other objects in your house.
  • Keep your special blankets in a safe place when they are not in use
  • Place soft pillow or blankets as a protective barrier between you and your feline friend.
  • Redirect their attention to eat a treat or play with a toy
  • Calmly remove yourself or other objects your cat is kneading out of their reach
  • If you feel uncomfortable with your cat kneading on your lap, you can stand up slowly and let your cat fall off your lap.
  • Do not punish your cat for kneading. They tend to respond negatively and become aggressive when you punish them for their natural, instinctive behavior. So try to stick to distraction and redirection techniques instead to maintain your feline friend’s trust.


By now, you should understand the several reasons why cats knead. It is a normal feline activity, and it could be displayed to mark territories, make a nest, show affection, show readiness to mate, stay loose, and relax.

When your cat kneads on you, it could be a good opportunity to bond with these lovely creatures. However, you should be careful to avoid getting hurt in the process.

You might consider putting a thick blanket on your lap the next time your feline friend decides to come to relax and cuddle. You can spray the blanket with pheromones, but if it’s too hot, you can distract your cat with toys. You can also gently coax your cat into lying in a position that encourages that to stop.

However, what many cat owners do to control kneading in their pets is to give them a treat. Giving treats helps solidify your training and makes the control moment enjoyable for you both. Feel free to give your cat a treat they “knead” in their life.



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