Wed. Jun 12th, 2024

Cat Carrol

By Cat Lovers, for the Cats and Their Owners

Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners? Reasons Behind the Behaviour

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Cats knead their owners to show their love – that’s the simple answer. But why they show their love in such a way? What drives them to do this? Is there a natural reason for doing it? Do wild cats knead, or just domestic cats? – We are going to find the answer to all these questions in this article.

Why do cats knead their owners?

If you have a cat, you may have experienced that your little fuzzy friend kneads you from time to time. Although sometimes it hurts, because your cute animal companion has claws which are quite sharp – however, it’s actually a gesture to show affection.

If you are coming across this information for the first time, it might surprise you – but it’s the truth. Now, you may want to know exactly what drives them to do this. Let’s dig into the topic and try to find out.

What exactly is kneading:

Kneading is a repetitious gesture that domestic cats make with their paws. They push and scratch their paws on a soft surface. More often than not, they do it on their owner’s body; but they also do it on pillows, carpets, sofas, bed cushions, and other soft household things.

When they do it, they push in and out and sometimes they take their claws out while pushing in, and draw them back when pulling out.

While it’s adorable to watch them doing the gesture, it can sometimes be quite uncomfortable or downright painful for the owners, when it is applied to them.

Do all cats knead?

The answer is – yes. Both wild and domestic cats knead. Many saw wild cats kneading on a tree trunk or other wild cats. This particular motion is seen in cats of all breeds all over the world. It’s actually a universal thing for cats. No matter what breed of cat you adopt, you are most likely going to experience your cats kneading at times.

How do cats feel while kneading?

Well, it is quite difficult to exactly point out how or what cats feel while kneading their owners or other things. But, it’s safe to say it feels good to them.

Most of the time, cats knead only with their front-paws, however, they use all their paws occasionally. No matter how many paws they use, you can say it’s very relaxing for them just by watching them do it. You might notice them drooling during the action, just as you would if you smell or see your favorite food near you. Sometimes you’ll see their eyes half-closed due to the comfort they feel doing it.

Exactly why cats knead?

It is actually a natural action for cats. Kittens at a very young age start doing this. Most of the time, they do it the first time they drink milk from their mother. Kittens do it to their mother while drinking milk from her. It stimulates the production of milk in the mammary glands of mother cats. Eventually, it becomes an indispensable part of their nature, and the keep doing for a number of reasons.

First of all, it is a gesture of relaxation. When they are happy and relaxed, their inherent aptitude engages them in the activity of kneading. It is also said that when a cat comes out of a stressful situation, it performs the act of kneading to relax.

If you own a cat and see it coming from outside and starts to knead you – it probably has come back from fighting another cat or run from a dog, and now seeking comfort by kneading you. It’s a cat’s way to shake off stress.

Some believe that cats knead their owners to put a mark on them. While they look cute, soft, and innocent – cats are actually extremely territorial animals, and your cat sometimes kneads you to mark you with their sweat glands.

According to Kathryn Primm, a veterinary at Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, cats are able to release a chemical between their toes called interdigital semiochemical, which, they use to mark stuff. Therefore, when they knead you flexing their toes, they could actually be tagging you as a safe territory!

Kathryn also said that this action might be a throwback from their childhood when they did it to stimulate milk from their mother. When cats knead their owners, it might indicate that they are feeling safe and comfortable just like they felt around their mother.

There is another theory that says modern-day cats may have inherited this habit from their ancient ancestors who lived in the wild. They might perform the action in order to build nests with soft leaves and grass.

A gesture of affection:

If you are a cat owner, there is no doubt you love that furry thing, and it loves you too. The act of kneading is a gesture to demonstrate that love. Kneading is a cat’s way to buttering up its owner and letting him/her know that s/he is a snug human being whom it wants to claim as its own. Even if your cat does it with claws, know that it is saying it has affection for you, and it enjoys your companionship.

How to avoid pain or discomfort:

While your cat kneading you is a gesture of showing love, it can get uncomfortable or even painful. Sometimes it can cause minor injury to your skin. Therefore, you might want to avoid being kneaded by your cat; but it can hurt its feelings (yes, they have very strong feelings). So, what can you do?

To avoid the pain caused by the claws, you can trim your cat’s nails so it can’t hurt you while saying ‘I love you master’. You can also put a thick piece of cloth or blanket on your lap when it’s likely for your cat to knead you.


To sum it up, a cat kneading its owner is a wonderfully positive gesture, and you should never discourage your cat from doing it. It’ll make your cat feel close to you as it was close to its mother in its kittenhood. While you should take some precautionary measures to save yourself from injury and discomfort, you should also give your fuzzy pet to enjoy the bond it feels to you and adore you.

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