Why Do Cats Knead?

Why do cats knead? When I'm asked about cat behavior, kneading is one of the most common questions that comes up.


A cat kneading is a bit of an odd sight, especially if you've never experienced it before. Typically, the cat will slowly shift its weight from one front leg to the other, spreading the toes on the paw it's about to stand on, then closing the toes again once its weight is on the foot.

Its claws may also dig into the surface it's kneading on as the toes close, as you'll no doubt know only too well if you've ever had a cat do this when it's sitting on you!

The cat may stand, sit or lie on its stomach while it's kneading. It's usually purring and appears relaxed, sometimes with its eyes half shut - very cute...


So, why on earth do cats do this?

To understand the reason for this cat behavior, you have to go back in Kitty's mind to when he was a little kitten, feeding on his mother's milk. To help express the milk, the kitten pushes his mother's skin on either side of her nipple using the exact same kneading behavior.

A kitten nursing on its mother's milk feels safe, happy and contented. Therefore, when an adult cat shows this behavior, it's showing happiness, pleasure and contentment - hence it will often knead on its favorite human's lap (ouch!), or on a soft blanket, cuddly toy, favorite bed etc.

Other cat behavior pages that may be of interest:

Why Do Cats Purr?
Why Do Cats Meow?
Why Do Cats Hiss?
Cat Body Language
Cat Behavior Facts

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