5 Reasons Why Cats Knead

Cats are quite interesting creatures and they make cute pets. It’s interesting to see them as they take a nap, or as they groom themselves after enjoying a meal. Another common behavior among cats is kneading.

Cats knead by rhythmically pushing their paws in and out, alternating right and left. Some knead with fully retracted claws, whereas others knead with their claws extended as they push in and retracted as they pull back.

They often do this on soft surfaces such as pillows and blankets. You may be wondering why your cat feels the need to knead. Cats knead for several reasons. Here are five theories why your cat kneads.


Cats show comfort and affection by kneading. If you’re petting them while they’re curled up on your lap, it’s a sign that they like and trust you. This is the most likely reason why cats knead as they use it as a relaxation technique too.

However, this feeling may not be as pleasant to you. The happier the cat is, the deeper it’ll dig with its sharp claws. Placing a thick, soft pillow between your lap and the cat will help prevent that unpleasant feeling.


When cats are content, they may start flexing and extending their paws since kneading is soothing for them. Cats love spending most of their time sleeping and may need to take a break from the power naps.

With all the kinks left from napping, your cat may start stretching to get rid of them. Just like you feel the need to stretch your sore shoulders, so do cats. Kneading is a way of keeping themselves limber.

Kittenhood memories

Cats start kneading instinctively as kittens, especially when they’re nursing. Kneading helps to stimulate their mothers’ milk. Cats continue kneading past their nursing age as a throwback to the times they were tiny and comforted with an endless supply of warm milk.

Kneading on a soft surface may not yield the milk they so yearn but will remind them of the rewarding comfort they got from their mothers.


Another reason why your furry friend is kneading can be traced back to their wild ancestors. The domestic cat’s ancestors enjoyed laying on soft, comfortable surfaces to either get some rest or give birth.

To achieve this, they kneaded on grass or leaves in a circling similar to what dogs do before settling in. The next time your cat starts kneading your lap, be calm as they might be preparing to settle in.


Cats are very territorial and scent-mark their items as a way of safeguarding their territories. There are scent glands on a cat’s paw so kneading is a way of putting a claim on you, a favorite toy, or sleeping surface.

It’s also a way of showing you that it cares and that other pets should keep their paws off you. Kneading helps to activate the scent glands located on the bottom of the paws, thereby marking territory as theirs.