Why Does a Cat Knead?

why does a cat knead

You may have noticed that your cat likes to knead fabrics and other soft surfaces with its paws, maybe even you. This kneading behavior is very common in cats, it may look kind of comical, especially if you imagine that your cat is kneading some delicious dough.

You are probably wondering why your cat is kneading. It’s a totally normal behavior and it’s usually never a sign of any sort of medical condition. It’s just something that cats do. Let’s keep in mind that there’s no actual scientific proof of why cats knead, but there are some very reasonable explanations nonetheless.

A Reminder of Nursing

One of the reasons why cats may knead soft objects with their paws is because it’s a throwback to the days of nursing from their mothers. When cats are kittens they nurse, which means that they suckle milk from their mothers.

When cats nurse, they often use their paws to knead the area around the nipple, which is to help get the milk flowing. This is a behavior left over from kittenhood. It may or may not phase out over time, but it is normal, not a cause for concern.

Comforting and Relaxing

It is assumed that some cats like to knead soft objects such as blankets simply out of enjoyment and relaxation. Some cats just love kneading, they like the feeling of it. For many cats it may be a way to relax, not unlike humans squeezing a stress ball or meditating.

Kneading can be very calming for a cat’s nerves. Whether it needs calming due to stress or the cat just wants to relax, kneading in this way is also totally normal.

They Enjoy the Feeling

Cats are very curious creatures and they are often greatly stimulated by feelings and physical sensations. Just like a cat may like to chew on something with its mouth because it likes the texture of whatever it’s chewing on, it may knead a blanket or other soft objects for much of the same reason.

It just feels good, it’s interesting. Cats are some of the most inquisitive and fun-loving animals around. They might not need any other reason for kneading than simply loving the feeling.

A Throwback Prior to Domestication

Although this is in no way proven, a kneading cat may be exhibiting this behavior due to a throwback to the days prior to domestication. At one point in time, although thousands of years ago, cats were feral, not domesticated.

Cats like sleeping on soft and even surfaces. It is therefore assumed that cats may knead blankets or soft surfaces to pat them down, soften them up, and even them out.

They may be preparing a nice bed to sleep on. There may not be any foliage to knead and pat down inside of your home, but it does not mean that this instinctive behavior is going to disappear altogether.

Claiming Territory

Something which many people do not know about cats is that they actually have scent glands located in their paws. You may be familiar with the fact that cats will spray urine on items to mark their territory, and they may also claw items.

These are both signs of a cat asserting its dominance over a territory. This may also be the case if your cat is kneading items. Kneading something with their ways is a great way to get those scent glands flowing and to really work that scent into an object. It’s a cat saying that “this is my house!”


Although there is no real way to prove this, the reason for a cat kneading a soft blanket or surface may be as simple as it stretching out its feet and legs.

Just like when you get out of bed and do that big old morning stretch, a cat may also do this. Sometimes there is just no better feeling than a good stretch, a way to loosen those muscles.

Showing Affection

Cats not only knead things like blankets and pillows, they may also knead you, their owners. Sure, this is fine if you have a declawed cat, but if your cat still has its claws, this can be painful.

Pain aside, it is assumed that cats kneading their owners do so out of comfort, love, and affection. If your cat is sitting in your lap, purring, and kneading your legs or arms, you can rest assured that it feels comfy and secure.


As you can see, in no way is kneading an indication of unhappiness or illness. Whether due to simple instincts, stretching muscles, marking territory, or pure enjoyment, a kneading cat is nothing to be worried about.

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