Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners? Secret Revealed

It’s pleasurable to knead not only for cats but for all feline creatures. It always varies if their owners like it or not.

Kneading by cats is not a parent-oriented or humans-oriented habit. Cats knead their owners as well as furniture, pillows, blankets just like they scratch all these things. Thankfully though, they don’t scratch humans.

There is a variety in this kneading as well. Some cats like to knead using all four paws while some like to knead with only one of the front paws.

If you ponder, you will notice that their stretching in luxury, purring in joy, adds to their pleasure.  


This pleasure is oftentimes way more than that brought by anything else, even by their favorite toys or food.

They always knead the softer side of the object, either it can be furniture or your body.

This is why they choose blankets, curtains, pillows, and similar soft items for kneading as well as for scratching.

We will see what are the reasons in general, and in particular, why do cats knead their owners?

What is kneading?

Just like a child, when it is exciting, pushes her toes against her mother or father, Cats push their paws against some soft surfaces, most of the times, it’s your lap, your back and more possibly, the lower part of it, the softer part.


They would spread their paws oftentimes and knead in a repetitive order. When they pull their paws back from a stretched position, their claws retract, and that’s where it becomes a bit dangerous if their nails are not trimmed.

They repeat the process again and again. You can call it their gym session. Just like someone is kneading flour in a container, probably that’s why their knead is referred to as “Biscuit making”


Why do cats knead?

Well, like many other habits, the roots of this habit of cats lie in their instinct. A kitten learns to knead soon after its birth.

There are many reasons, let’s have a look before we discuss specifically Why do cats knead their owners?

Kneading is an expression of joy and satisfaction from cats. Nobody taught them this way of expressing joy; they just do it.

Take the example of a child. When it is happy, it starts jumping on the floor. Does it learn that way of expressing joy from its parents or somebody? No, that’s in its instinct, and it does that just because it is from the species of humans. Nobody ever teaches it that it should jump when it is excited or happy. It just does that and feels even happier.

The same is the case with cats kneading. When they knead, it’s an indication that they are happy and want to enjoy their time. Just like jumping adds to the happiness of the child, cats’ happiness rises when they knead.

why do cats knead their owners?

Territorial motivations

We all know about the territorial nature of the cats. One of the reasons why do cats knead their owners is to mark the person as their own buddy.  

We all know, cats mark each and every object that they love, and they feel its presence. They have their own way to declare them as theirs.

They scratch things, keep sitting long with people, meow when they enter the room—everything in their own style.


Cats’ sweat glands make this goal easy to achieve. When she kneads her owner, she leaves her smell on him/her and then feels home. You might not smell that odor. 

That odor, oftentimes, can only be smelled by her thanks to her 14 times stronger sense of smell than humans. This way, she marks her territory on her owner.

This is how they respond

Your cat has her own way of responding to your love. When you take care of your cat, tickle her, pet her, many times she replies by kneading you. Yes, when she wants to send love back, she kneads your lap.

So, basically, it’s her style to express love and dedication. When she is so much happy, she purrs and kneads together. This is their favorite combination to enjoy themselves when feeling over-excited.


If you are attached to your cat, it is quite possible that you feel pampered, and enjoy when she kneads you.

So, one thing that you must take care of is, her nails should be trimmed before you allow her to be romantic with you.  She might hurt you out of excitement.


A more biological reason – cat kneading anxiety

You must have noticed occasional excessive kneading from a kitten when her mother is not around, well these raised levels of cat kneading anxiety are just normal.


A mother human comes to realize if her baby needs to be fed when it cries. Cat mother realizes she needs to feed her kitten when it gives her a hint by kneading.


A human mothers’ milk glands don’t need any such stimulation so to release milk, but cats’ milk glands do need some kind of stimulation, and that comes from her kittens kneading.

So, when the kitten feels hungry, it kneads. The mother cat gets prepared to feed it.


Role of memory

In adult cats, the kneading is inspired by their reminiscent nature. When they knead, they get to remember their kittenhood, and it brings them pleasurable feelings.

For us, childhood memories are aroused by different things, say music, pictures etc. while in cats, it’s kneading.


Maybe its time for sleep, as they are relaxed now, they want to sleep, and they want you to give them lap for sleeping but only in the case when you have allowed them to adopt this habit.


Perhaps they want to mark you as hers when she is just about to sleep. Maybe she wants to take that satisfaction along.

Cats’ Yoga

Don’t you yawn and stretch your arms when you are tired, when you wake up? You do.  


What you actually do is you relax your muscles. In the same way, when cats need to relax their muscles, they simply knead you.

You can refer to it as cats’ yoga. They get their muscles relaxed by kneading.


Male cats kneading behavior

Male cats often knead when they are about to mate, it’s a kind of ritual they like to follow. And, this where the habit of aggressive kneading emerges.

As far as neutered male cat aggressive kneading is concerned, it’s just a policy backfire.

We usually neuter male cats so to lower their testosterone, and consequently, stop them from showing lewd behavior in the house.     


Sexual frustration leads them to be aggressive in their own style. They might attack relatively softer muscles of your body i.e. shoulders of a woman etc.  This aggressive male cats kneading behavior actually emerges from low testosterone levels.

You might want to stop neutering them for a while, so their testosterone levels rise back to normal.

Other satisfactions

When you go to sleep, you sort of dishevel the bed? Don’t you?  

Sometimes, it’s actually needed, while sometimes it’s just about a habit loop. Cats like to set their sleeping place, so when they come to sleep in your lap, they knead your lap.


You must have observed, cats get to sleep anywhere they want to.

The reason is, the satisfaction they get after kneading is enough to convince them that the place is now ready for them to sleep.


This way, the habit gets cemented, and they knead even blanket, your soft lap before sleeping in it.


Final Thoughts: How to pacify her?

Now, when you can respond to the question, what does it mean when a cat kneads? You get to realize how to pacify her.

When needed, you can trap her into sleeping, playing with her toys etc. You know, she is actually relaxing while kneading, you can easily manage to make her go sleep.

You can slightly turn her to her side, her weight will fall towards herself, now she relaxes even more. High chances that, after a few minutes, she will be sleeping.

Cat kneading anxiety leads to excessive kneading, especially when your cat is deprived of mother feed. She seeks the same comfort in your lap.

You can place her favorite toy along with her. This way as well, she can be trapped into playing with it and leave you free.

In addition to that, what precaution that you can take is, don’t wear woolen or other softer clothes, she gets more attracted to soft surfaces.


You can spread a blanket in your nap, your nap is already soft, but maybe you need a safer restriction between you and cat. You can prevent her from tearing apart your clothes.

Well, happier she is, more passionate her kneading is, so better take precautions before you let her begin. You can buy nail guards and cover her nails with them.


Amelia Kteylor

Amelia Kteylor, DVM, attended the University of Georgia. She is a cat expert with 20 years of experiences in field. She has a passion as a writer and editor for pet publishing industry too. Amelia contributes to numerous pet magazines in the areas of pet health and groom. Further, she volunteered in cat rescue centers in her leisure time.

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