Why Do Cats Knead?

Kneading is a common behavior seen in domestic cats, in which the feline pushes in and out with its front paws, alternating between left and right.

Cats are mysterious creatures who often do strange things. Kneading may seem strange, but it is an entirely normal activity for our feline friends.

Cats often perform this motion — sometimes called “kneading dough” or “making biscuits” — on soft surfaces, including pillows, blankets, other animals and even people.

There are actually many reasons why cats knead, but the main one is that it’s an instinctive trait that they inherit from kitten-hood.

When kittens feed from their mother they will paw at their mothers’ tummies to encourage milk flow from their teats.

While it may seem unusual that cat kneading is still present as they get older, it’s actually a huge compliment for you, because when they do this it means that they feel happy, safe and comforted with you, much like how they felt with their mother!

Kneading may seem like an adorable behavior, but it can be uncomfortable if your cat kneads with her claws out. She may also inadvertently tear up blankets and furniture, or irritate your dog.

To encourage appropriate kneading actions, try the following tips:

  • Keep your kitty’s claws trimmed short to prevent sharp hooks.
  • Encourage your cat to knead elsewhere. Investigate the line of Feliway products and use a pheromone-based spray to persuade your cat to knead on a blanket instead of your lap.
  • Redirect her attention with treats or a toy. Cats are easily trainable, and you can quickly teach her a different behavior, such as sitting or chasing a toy, instead of kneading.
  • If your cat uses her claws while kneading, consider placing a special “kneading-only,” thick blanket on your lap that will protect you and indicate to your cat that she is only allowed to knead on that blanket.
  • Never punish your cat for kneading. She likely will respond negatively and lash out aggressively if she is punished for her natural, instinctive behavior.
  • Stick to redirection and distraction techniques instead to keep your kitty’s trust.

Your cat’s kneading is a normal feline activity, and one of the many ways we celebrate and bond with these unique, mysterious creatures. If you’re ever concerned about your cat’s behavior, reach out to your veterinarian for advice.

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