What Does it Mean When a Cat Kneads You?

Do you ever sit on your sofa, innocently Petlix and chilling, when your cat hops on your lap and starts to knead you? This behaviour is commonly referred to as “making biscuits”, “kneading dough” or “marching”. Yet, since there are no baked goods to store in a treat tin at the end of the session, you may be left wondering what it means when a cat kneads you. Well, we’ve done some research to help you understand more about this feline quirk!

What is Kneading?

Kneading is the rhythmic pushing of a cat’s paws in and out and left and right at alternating times, usually on soft and comfy surfaces. Yet, there is no one set way for your cat to knead. For example, some cats:  

·      Use only their two front paws

·      Use all four paws

·      Drool

·      Purr extra loudly

·      Retract their claws

·      Close their eyes

These are all common accompanying behaviours to kneading and there is no right or wrong way for your cat to knead! Similarly, there are varying reasons that explain this funny feline behaviour. Keep reading to find out what it means when a cat kneads you.  

Inherited from Kittenhood

The most popular theory explaining why a cat kneads you, is that the behaviour is inherited from kittenhood. When kittens feed from their mother, they often paw their mother’s tummy to encourage milk secretion from their teats. This behaviour is referred to as “nursing”.

Interestingly, scientists believe that as cats became domesticated, humans began spaying and neutering them more which caused cats to retain these nursing behaviours, helping them to survive when young. This also explains why cats dribble during kneading as they’re expecting milk. While some cats continue this behaviour into adulthood whilst knowing that they’re not getting any milk, this behaviour is still comforting for them. When your cat kneads you, they may see you as a maternal figure with whom they feel safe and comfortable!

Wild Ancestors  

Another theory that explains why a cat kneads you is that it’s a behaviour that’s been passed on, not only from kittenhood but from their wild ancestors. Instead of taking a snooze on a comfy bed or cushion, researchers believe that wild cats resorted to pawing at piles of leaves and tall grass to create nests for themselves and their young. By pawing at leaves, cats were also checking for predators, prey, and threats by uncovering anything hidden before dozing off. Therefore, some researchers believe that kneading is an instinctual behaviour that cats display before settling down. If your cat’s busy making biscuits on your lap, this behaviour may go way back to their wild relatives!

Marking their Territory

A simpler explanation of this feline quirk (that doesn’t date back to your cat’s kittenhood or wild ancestors) is that your kitty may be marking their territory. Your cat’s paws contain scent glands that release pheromones. By pushing their paws in and out via the kneading action, your cat activates these scent glands to mark a space as their own. Since their paws are the only place where they sweat, this is the only way for your cat to transfer their scent onto people and objects like blankets and towels. So, if you find your kitty kneading on you, this may be a sign that they’re marking you as their own and they’re feeling a bit possessive of you. You should take this as a compliment, your moggy wants you all to themselves!

Kitty Yoga

Quite a logical and obvious reason that a cat kneads you is that they are simply stretching their muscles before their next nap. By performing the ‘in and out’ motion of kneading and engaging in a little bit of kitty yoga, your cat stimulates circulation, allowing them to comfortably stretch out before settling down into a nap.

Ready to Mate 

Has your kitty been neutered? If not, the fact that your feline friend is going into heat and is ready to mate may also explain this quirky behaviour. Other signs to look out for if your cat is ready to mate include them being more vocal, displaying more affection, rubbing up against people and surfaces and begging to go outside. If your moggy is displaying these signs as well as consistent kneading, it may be the case that your cat is in the fertile period of her reproductive system and is ready to find a mate!  

Is Your Cat’s Kneading Hurting You? 

Although our kitties look super cute when they’re busy making biscuits, it might be a bit of a nuisance to you if your cat doesn’t retract their claws. Also, if your cat’s kneading is making a mess of your furniture, you may want your cat’s kneading to stop. However, it’s important that you don’t actively interrupt or punish your kitty’s kneading as it’s a natural, instinctive, and loving behaviour.

Instead, if your cat’s kneading is hurting you, consider placing a thick, soft barrier between your cat and your lap like a blanket or go even thicker with a cushion! If you’re looking for a cushion or blanket with a personal touch, consider purrchasing one of Yappy’s personalised ones! Also, you can always distract your kitty with a cat toy, particularly if it contains cat nip to keep your kitty from clawing away at your lap. If none of the above work, consider trimming your cat’s nails or using pheromone sprays to encourage your feline to knead on appropriate surfaces. Just know that kneading is a perfectly natural way for your cat to express their love for you, for a variety of reasons, so take it as the ultimate feline compliment!

Cat Gifts at Yappy

If you’ve got a cute kitty at home, then why not treat them with some cat gifts from Yappy?

If they’ll let you, dress your cat up with a cute personalised bandana and let them run around the house with some brand-new cat toys.

Keep them happy throughout the day with a range of treats stored away in personalised treat tins and why not get a comfortable cushion for them to nap on? They’ll be “feline” very loving towards you with all these thoughtful gifts!


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