If you own a cat, it is only likely that you are familiar with their mysterious and delightful quirks. One of these funny little quirks is kneading, which can be best defined as a forward pushing motion, mimicking the process of kneading dough. Cats knead with both their forepaws and hind-paws, and it is always fun to watch them do that. But have you ever wondered what makes your cat knead? Is it some kind of secret that you should know? Well, that’s exactly what we will find out over the next couple of sections.

What is kneading?

Like we already mentioned, kneading is a forward pushing motion performed by your cat’s hind or forepaws. Since this motion is incredibly comical, some people call it paddling, massaging, marching, or making biscuits.

Interestingly, kneading isn’t something your cat learns in their adulthood. Instead, they start kneading from the time they are tiny little kittens. During this stage, they place their small paws along their mom cat’s nipples and eventually pressure it for stimulating milk flow. While kneading other objects never brings them milk, this memory of a tasty reward gets etched in their minds.

While kneading, some cats also purr, which again is a signal of being contented. You’ll find some cats curling their paws, and others actively lifting it up and down as they knead. 

When your cat kneads you

There are many reasons why cats knead, and we’ll discuss some of them in this section.

Getting comfortable

When your cat kneads along a soft furniture surface, a blanket or your sweatshirt for instance, she is doing that to get the fabric in a more comfortable shape. She is not just channeling her inner kitten spirit, but also arranging the soft surface to sit or sleep on it comfortably. 

Mating

If your female cat is unspayed, they are most possibly kneading in order to express their eagerness for mating. These cats usually knead just before heading into heat.

Marking their territory

Yes, your cat might also be kneading in order to mark their territory. Cat’s paw contains some scent glands. So, when kneading, your cat uses scent glands for emitting her own discernable scent which cannot be identified by humans, but easily located by other cats/pets. So, in a subtle way she is trying to signal that you are her human, and other cats should avoid kneading you at all costs.

They want something

At times, your cat kneads when they really want something. Maybe you’re too busy with your laptop to give them attention. Maybe your ‘purry friend’ wants some treats right now, or maybe they just want your undivided attention.

Bottom line

While cat kneading is indeed a form of feline flattery, it is difficult to be flattered when their bare claws are digging into your skin. In case you want to avoid getting hurt while your cat kneads you, simply get their nails trimmed. You can also fold a thick towel and keep it on your lap. In this way, your cat can comfortably knead without hurting you or your favorite jeans. Moreover, you should protect your furniture, because its soft surfaces might get damaged by kneading. Either way, kneading is a natural and instinctive activity for cats, so never punish them for doing it.