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Cat kneading behaviour: why does my cat knead me?

Cat kneading behaviour: why does my cat knead me?
by KatKin Team

Read time: 7 min

Affectionately known among cat parents as “making biscuits”, kneading, along with those midnight zoomies and chattering at birds, is just one of those unique cat behaviours. It comes with being a cat parent. Whether they’re busy plumping your pillows or pricking pin holes into your favourite jeans, you’ve probably wondered why your cat kneads.

What is it? Why do they do it? And what do you do if they’re hurting your legs when they knead? We’re here to answer.

What is cat kneading?

If you spot your cat massaging your sofa cushions, blankets, or even your thighs as you cuddle, that’s kneading. They will do this by alternating their paws – flexing and retracting their toes and claws as they go.

Some use their front paws. Others use all four paws. Some purr really loudly. While others are more quiet. But the motions are similar. And they bring your cat comfort in the same way.

Why do cats knead?

Kneading is instinctive. All cats do it differently. But it means the same thing. Kneading is a comforting activity they do when they’re happy. But it can also be calming if they’re feeling stressed. Some people also believe that it helps to make a sleeping spot particularly comfy or mark territory too.

It resembles the motions that kittens do at their mother’s teat to stimulate milk production so it’s no wonder that they associate it with comfort.

Why does my cat knead me?

Making biscuits near or on you is a sign of happiness and trust in your cat. So if your lap cat tends to knead on your lap during cuddles, or even if they just sit next to you and massage their bed, this is a sign that they love you. We’re always looking for ways to tell if our pets love us and with cats, this is a big sign. Either that or they’re trying to make your legs more comfy.

Why do cats knead blankets or their bed?

When your cat kneads a bed they’re about to sleep on, it could be for two reasons. Either they’re doing it to comfort themselves and feel calm before a snooze. Or they could be making their nap spot extra comfy. Cats in the wild will knead patches of grasses to make a comfy bed and it’s thought our domestic cats could have the same instinct.

What does it mean when a cat kneads?

Making biscuits, even if it’s on your treasured blankets or directly on your legs, means that your cat is content and happy. They do it to feel relaxed and soothed. You might notice your cat zoning out, dozing off, or even drooling if they’re really in the zone. They might even suckle or nuzzle the soft object (although this is more common in younger cats). It’s all natural behaviour.

My cat doesn’t make biscuits – what does that mean?

Just like humans, cats have different ways of showing affection. So if your cat isn’t a big kneader, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you or aren’t happy.

Some cats prefer to spend time with you without demanding cuddles. Others will literally tell you they love you by being vocal (Go on, meow back. We know you want to.). And others will sit on your chest while you’re trying to sleep. Kneading is just one way that some cats express their happiness and love.

What to do if your cat kneads with claws & it hurts

While some cats are quite gentle with their kneading, others can be a bit more enthusiastic and forget to put their claws away. Which can hurt. To help avoid involuntary wincing on Zoom meetings and holes in the legs of  your trousers, there are a couple of things you can do. 

Use a special “biscuit blanket”. When your cat is on your lap, pad your legs with a blanket to help take the brunt of that vigorous biscuit making. This can also indicate for them to only use that blanket for kneading – saving your furniture and cushions from the same fate as your legs.

Redirect your cat. Don’t try to punish your cat for kneading. It’s a natural instinct so they won’t understand why they’re being punished. Instead, redirect their attention with toys or place them on something else to make biscuits on. 

Keep their claws trimmed. It’s important to make sure your cat’s claws are kept trimmed anyway. It can save your furniture and carpets from being shredded by scratching. But it also has the added benefit of saving your knees from enthusiastic kneaders.

What does it mean if my cat stops kneading?

If your cat is a kneader (not all cats are) and suddenly stops, it could mean a couple of things. They might be in pain or feel too stressed to enjoy kneading anymore. Make sure you take them to the vet if you suspect either of these things. 

Making biscuits is associated with a healthy and happy cat. KatKin provides everything your cat needs to stay healthy. Check out our 100% meat, fresh, gently cooked cat food for faster zoomies and bigger biscuit-making.

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