Kneading Behaviour Of Cats: Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners?

At some point, you might have caught your cat rhythmically pushing its paws in and out against a soft object, like a blanket or even your lap—that is kneading.

It closely resembles the action of kneading dough and is also referred to as “making biscuits”. It is a common behaviour in young as well as adult felines alike. While they sometimes purr and knead contentedly when being petted, other times, they may do it for no clear reason. Cats also have their own techniques—some use all four paws, while others never use their claws when kneading. Below are some popular theories suggesting why cats knead certain objects and their owners.

To make a nest

One theory suggests that it’s a cat behaviour that has been passed down from their wild ancestors. Wild cats tend to paw at tall grass or piles of leaves to make a nest for themselves and their young ones to sleep in. Wild cats do this to the ground to create a soft nest and check for predators or anything dangerous hidden in the foliage. So, when you catch your domestic cat doing this to your lap, it is probably just an ingrained habit from their wild history.

Marking their territory

Sometimes cats knead to mark their territory by releasing pheromones from the scent glands in their paws. By repeatedly pushing their paws in and out, they activate their scent glands, and if they are doing this on your lap, it is only to mark you as their own while warning other cats to stay away from you.

Kneading for possible mates

Female cats may knead to demonstrate to male cats that they are ready to mate. They may display other behaviours like being overly vocal and begging to go outside. But in some cases, they don’t knead their paws. Instead, they raise their pelvis with the tail to one side.

Kneading to stretch their muscles

We know that cats work out all the kinks left over from sleeping pretty much all day. When we have sore muscles, does it not feel great to grab onto a surface and stretch or pull against it? Kneading serves the same purpose for cats, and it is one of the many ways they keep themselves limber until the next nap.

Whether your feline is showing you affection or trying to claim you as their own, kneading is an instinctual, common, and natural cat behaviour.


Satavisha hails from the city of joy, Kolkata. She took up writing as my profession amid the pandemic when the world was at a standstill. Here, she acquired a balance between her passion for writing and sharing various ideas and facts through her stories.
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