Cats have some pretty adorable behaviors. Head-butting, keyboard-napping, eye-squinting, and printer-prowling top the list, but above all else, the rhythmic front paw kneading truly takes the tuna-flavored cake. Cats knead as a holdover from infancy when their bite-sized paws stimulated the let-down of their mother’s milk for a well-timed snack. That explains a lot, but why do they continue to do this well beyond kittenhood?

Happy Paws

The simplest answer to this kitty conundrum is: cats knead because it feels good. They tune into feelings of goodness and contentedness they felt as nursing kittens, and it shows on their blissed-out faces. They may appear reflective, satisfied, and utterly delighted, but the surface on which they knead makes a huge difference. Kneading the floor just doesn’t hit the same as kneading a soft, cozy rug or human.

My Squishy!

Primarily, cats knead on squishy, plush blankets or pillows. They may even prefer soft, welcoming laps. If your cat ever does this to you, consider this the ultimate compliment. Not only does your cat view you as their mother, but they are revealing their most vulnerable state to you. 

If, for some reason, you don’t enjoy being kneaded by your cat, politely move them to another preferred surface, like a favorite pillow, blanket, or spot in the home. Offer praise and encouragement, and maybe a healthy treat to reinforce the alternative location as a positive one.

Never scold or punish your cat for trying out this purr-fectly normal feline behavior on you. Be sure to keep their claws trimmed to reduce any scratching or clawing. 

Is That All?

Additionally, cats knead as a way to distribute their scent by way of their paws. They have scent glands all over their little, furry bodies, but the ones located in their paw pads are highly effective at staking out their territory. Cats also mark their territory by scratching certain surfaces or areas (plus the stretch to their shoulders and backs feels so good!). Always provide vertical and horizontal surfaces that attract and benefit your cat. 

In the Wild

Cats that live outdoors must go to great lengths to ensure their safety and comfort. When it comes to finding a place to sleep, some cats will push down on tall grass and brush in order to make a bed. This action closely resembles kneading and helps to create a soft little bed for chilling out or protecting their young. Domesticated cats have inherited this trait of their wild relatives, and make efforts to prepare their space for the coziest nap of all time.

Cats Knead, and We’re Here for It!

Wherever you stand on the spectrum of this feline behavior, you may find it delightfully charming, or adorably confusing. We hope that we’ve provided some insight into this quirk so that you may enjoy it as much as possible.

If you have additional questions about feline health or behavior, please call us at (207) 729-4678. We’re always here for your furry friends at Androscoggin Animal Hospital!