Cat lovers everywhere melt when their feline friends begin kneading their paws into whatever surface they may find themselves on. But when it comes to knowing exactly why they do it, many owners are left to wonder, why do cats knead? 

Fortunately, Furzly has the answer for you! If you’re curious to learn more about your cat’s behavior, let’s dive deeper into why cats knead and what this adorable habit of “making biscuits” may indicate. 

Kitten kneading. Why do cats knead?

Why Do Cats Knead? It All Starts With Instinct!

Kneading actually plays an important role in life when your cat is just a kitten. 

When kittens are still nursing, kneading behavior is used to stimulate the area around the mother’s teat, which helps to promote milk flow so that kittens are getting all of the nutrition that they need to grow big and strong. 

If you pay close attention, you may still notice that your cat drools a little while they are kneading or you may find that they are suckling on a blanket or another material as they knead. This is due to the fact that they are accustomed to the behavior being followed by milk!

Of course, once they grow up and stop nursing, the behavior should stop as well, right? 

Actually, there may be many other reasons for why this behavior follows them well into adulthood. 

But why exactly does this behavior continue? Why do cats knead?

1. A Cat’s Kneading Can Be a Sign of Affection and Comfort

Kneading is an activity traced back to a cat’s early years when they felt comfortable and close with their mothers. Therefore, kneading is a behavior that may be a way for a cat to demonstrate affection and comfort in other areas of their lives. 

For example, if your cat loves to jump on your lap and start kneading, they may be showing you that they love you and feel safe with you. If they’re kneading their paws into soft blankets and other items, this can be a sign that they feel comfortable and safe as well. 

Overall, much like their mother, you are their caretaker, and this behavior continues as a way to signal the same types of emotions they had when they were younger.

2. Kneading May Be a Way of Marking Their Territory

Another interesting fact to know about cats is that they have scent glands within the pads of their paws. 

Although urinating in an area is certainly one way of marking one’s territory, kneading may be another more desirable way (for the owner) to achieve the same effect. 

Next time you notice them kneading you or something in your home, it may just be their way of saying, “this is mine!”

3. Your Cat Is Simply Trying to Settle Down

Pets have behaviors that seem silly to us that may have played a vital role in their lives if they grew up in the wild. 

For example, your dog will typically circle an area several times before lying down. While this is cute to watch, it’s actually a behavior that is designed to help them clear the area where they choose to rest. If they were not domesticated, this would play an essential role in helping them out in nature. 

In a similar fashion, kneading is theorized to be a way for cats to stamp down areas where they would be resting, which would achieve the same effect if they were sleeping outside rather than inside. 

Finding them kneading on bedding or other areas where they’re trying to rest can be a demonstration of their instincts in action. If you find yourself asking, “why do cats knead?”, know that it stems from a very natural cause. 

4. Stretching Is Another Possible Reason for This Cute Behavior

Cats love to stretch and kneading their paws may be another way for them to do just that. Although kneading may be a sign of some of the behaviors listed above, kneading can be a standalone way for cats to exercise their paws and claws, something that is especially important as they get older. 

5. Why Do Cats Knead? They May Be Ready to Mate

If you have a female cat at home, kneading may be a behavior that plays a specific role only to them. 

Kneading is sometimes associated with other behaviors that are displayed when a female cat is ready to mate. For example, they may knead their paws, purr or become more vocal, stretch other parts of their body, display greater affection than usual, and beg to go outside more often than is normal for them. 

It’s important for cat owners to know that cats can, on rare occasions, still be in heat after they’ve been spayed. If you’ve noticed these behaviors in your own pet, reach out to your veterinarian to learn more about what can be done. 

Kneading Hurts: What Can I Do? 

Although kneading can hurt, it’s normal behavior and should not be something that you discipline your cat for. Instead, make sure that your cat’s nails are well-groomed to ensure that their claws are shorter and always put additional cushioning between you and your cat when they decide to cuddle with you. It can be natural to want to stop kneading since it hurts us, but when it comes to instinctual behaviors, it is best to find a way around the pain rather than scolding your cat for it. 

So, why do cats knead? As you can see from the above, they may do so for any number of reasons. Next time your cat begins to paw at you or any material they are on, you will now know why they engage in this adorable habit and how you can best respond! 

If you’re interested in learning more about cat behavior, peruse some of our other feline-related articles here!