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Why Do Cats Knead

There are a variety of theories about why cats knead—both front paws pushing at your leg, your arm, your face. One thing is for sure. If you have a cat who loves to push/pull on your body parts, you need to keep his nails clipped! Male cats can get a little rough about this.


When kittens are nursing, kneading Mama Cat helps produce more breakfast, lunch and dinner for the kittens. The memory of comfort and care stays with the kitten as he grows. He pokes and prods you as a form of affection.


If your cat is not spayed, kneading can be a sign that a heat cycle is about to start. Kneading, especially if you’re getting poked with sharp nails, is part of the mating ritual.

While dogs turn around in circles three times before laying down, cats often knead themselves a comfortable place on a lap, cushion or couch, but then cat-like, don’t lie down there. Only the cat knows why.


A stressed cat does not knead. Seeing your cat start the push/pull stretch lets you know he is comfortable and calm. Cats also have scent glands in their paws. Kneading lets them subtly mark you and their favorite spot on the couch so other cats know, “This is MINE.” Try to take it as a compliment.


Cats nap a lot. Kneading can be both a way to stretch and flex muscles or as a self-soothing, -rocking-myself-to-sleep action, depending on whether they are waking up or ready to nap. It can also be a way to keep you seated instead of disturbing them by getting a soft drink and chips during the commercial.


Kneading could just be a cat’s way of cracking his knuckles so to speak. Whatever reason your cat has, the main thing to keep in mind is this—he only does it when he’s comfortable, calm and being affectionate. It is a compliment.

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Comments (20)

Jack loves to knead my sleeve, and Rosie still does it on her blankie sometimes 9 years later. Awww
Cookie loves to knead on Gabrielle and Christina's zebra printed fury blanket...
My Mooch does this all the time when she's comfortable, and ready to take a nap.
As you can see from the photos, my boys love to knead! They often settle in on their humans for a good cuddle and knead away, usually purring too. It's good to know they're both so comfortable and happy.
Both my senior ladies love to knead, and seem to get a lot of pleasure from it, but their preferences are quite different. Brina likes cushy textiles, while her very little sister, Matty, seems determined to dig a hole right through my chest. Ouch !!! :-). I keep trying to redirect her to my stomach, where it doesn't bother me at all, but she is nothing if not stubborn. Fortunately, they are both very cooperative about having their nails trimmed, so that helps.
My Smokie, a Rushian Blue Mix feral cat is almost 2 years old, who was abandoned at about 4 weeks old by her mother - feral from a long line of feral cats, either deliberately or from an accident, and she has never kneaded and purrs so lowly that you can only feel it, not hear her. I think this is because she never had an opportunity to really nurse for very long, She never had a mother to teach her to keep her claws sheathed and I have the scratches to show for it. She's never been outside since we found her, will not let you pick her up. but she loves us in her own way. She loves to play [rough] and follows me from room to room, and seems to love us as much as we love her. We wouldn't give her up for anything despite her wild nature [or perhaps because of it!]
My cat kneads on EVERYTHING! She isn't fixed yet, i belive that it is right for a cat to have a liter before she is spayed.
Is she going through heat?
Please have your cat spayed ASAP. It won't stop the kneading (no need to, really), but with so many kittens being put to sleep every year, you will be saving precious lives. She doesn't need to have a litter, that's a common misconception, for any reason. She'll be much healthier if she's spayed before going into her first heat cycle.
Cheetos loves to knead in his lil cat bed :)
Jaspurr loves to knead my IPad cover.
We have a comforter on the couch that Eopie kneads into a nice little nest before she takes a nap in it.  Our other cat, Schnitzel, will knead any human arm/leg/torso that she can get her paws on.  It's really sweet actually. :)
@PennyWise Aww yea my Cheetos can be like Schnitzel
Our cats are funny.. the female will jump on your back after you come from the shower and kneed up and down... free back massage ;)  The male will go into a trance kneeding on my belly 
Milo loves to knead my arm when I'm in bed and my face when he wants me to get up 
My Grinnie boy loves to knead! He's 19 weeks (4.5 months) old and he's always kneading things like his bed, clothes of me! He's adorable! ♥♥♥
Panini loves to knead on anything soft and cozy(blankets, sheets,etc.). She even kneads on clothes(whether or not we are wearing them):)
Sammy loves to lay on my lap and knead on anything he can, even air.
Sam and Tigger love to knead; especially at night when we are all in bed they both knead their spot  between David and I. Yes they both sleep with us
Yup, Oliver is a kneady cat! 
My little girl Banshee normally only kneads when we go to bed (she sleep's in our room in our bed and hogs the bed asap) normally she only kneads my side of the blanket. Someone told me the only reason she is doing it cuz she was way to young to be taken from her mother she was 7-8 weeks when we got her most breeders only let them go at 10-14 weeks but I would not think she was to young but thats me › Cat Behavior Articles › Why Do Cats Knead