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Home > Cats > Do All Cats Knead? Facts & FAQ

Do All Cats Knead? Facts & FAQ

cat stretching in the wood

If your cat comes up to you and starts pressing their paws into you one after the other, you’re far from alone. This behavior, known as kneading, is common for cats, but it’s not a behavior all cats exhibit.

While not all cats knead, it’s a common behavior that many cats exhibit. But why do so many cats knead, where does it come from, and should it worry you? We’ll break it all down for you below, but usually, kneading is completely normal behavior that you don’t need to worry about.

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What Is Cat Kneading?

Cat kneading is when your cat stretches out all their paws and then uses a pushing motion with their front paws, alternating paws each time. Many people call it “kneading,” “kneading dough,” “making bread,” or “making biscuits.”

But no matter what you call it, it’s a common behavior for many cats. It all comes from their time as kittens when they knead their mother to help stimulate milk production while nursing. While the nursing stops, the positive association with kneading stays, and many cats continue this behavior throughout their entire lives.

cat kneading
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Should You Worry About Cat Kneading?

Typically, there’s no reason to worry about whether your cat kneads or not. It’s a pretty common behavior, but even if your cat doesn’t do it, it’s not a big deal.

It’s more important to recognize what behaviors are normal for your cat. As long as their behaviors stay consistent, there’s usually nothing to worry about. It’s only when you notice drastic changes in your cat’s behavior that you might want to investigate further to see if something is wrong.

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The 5 Reasons Why Some Cats Knead

While not every cat will knead, if your cat does, there are a few different reasons they might do so. We’ve highlighted five common reasons many cats knead for you here. Read through them and watch when your cat chooses to knead and you should be able to narrow down exactly why your cat is doing it!

1. To Show Affection

Kneading is a common way cats show affection, and it all comes down to their natural instincts. They’re showing that they trust you, they’re content with you, and that you are a mother-like figure to them. While kneading you might be a bit painful, they don’t realize they’re hurting you, and they’re not trying to.

We recommend putting something soft yet thick between you and your cat to protect your skin from claws and so they can keep kneading you without any discomfort.

cat lying on passenger seat in a car while kneading owner's hand
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

2. They Want Attention

If you repeatedly give your cat attention when they knead in your lap, they might be performing that activity simply to get your attention. Cats are smart creatures, and if they start to recognize a pattern, they will use it to their advantage!


3. Stretching Muscles

Your cats spend a lot of time napping throughout the day and evening, which can lead to tight muscles. Kneading is an excellent way for your cat to limber up a bit so they can easily move around again without any tightness. This explains why many cats will knead right after waking up, even if they’re not near a person or another pet.

long haired cat stretching in an outdoor catio
Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock

4. Spreading Scent

Cats mark their territory by spreading their scent, and while they prefer to do this with their heads and sides, that doesn’t mean they won’t use their paws from time to time. Kneading is an excellent way for your cat to spread their scent to a specific location that might not be as easy to reach with their heads or sides.

Plus, it’s relaxing for them, so they get to spread their scent by doing something they enjoy, and that’s a classic kitty win-win.


5. They’re Relaxed

While there are a lot of different reasons your cat might be kneading, one thing’s for sure: if they’re kneading, they’re relaxed.

ragdoll cat lying on balcony corner egde
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

While it might feel a little unpleasant if your cat is kneading directly on you, it’s usually just a way they’re showing you affection. Don’t punish them for it, just find something you can put between you and your cat so they can keep kneading.

It’s one of your cat’s most relaxing activities, so ensure you’re not punishing them for it when they’re not trying to do anything wrong!

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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