Why Do Cats Knead?

If you have ever observed a cat kneading, you would be forgiven for thinking that your beloved kitty is trying to knead dough. But that is just what it seems like a cat is doing when it starts pounding away with its front (and sometimes, back) paws. Just why do cats knead? Should you be concerned if your cat kneads?

Kneading Ritual

Each of my cats and foster cats has their own unique personalities and quirky behaviors that set them apart from each other. Two of the most sociable cats in my household love to knead the most; one will even go so far as to suckle her blanket while she is kneading, while the other cat that kneads acts as if he is fluffing his pillow as he settles down for a nap.


Kneading is an instinct in kittens. From the moment kittens are born, they will knead their mother’s stomachs to express milk during nursing, an action also commonly known as “milk-kneading”. Kneading at such an early stage in their development is usually accompanied by loud purring to signal their contentment and to also let their mother know that they are feeding properly.

Kneading in Adult Cats

But what does it mean when an adult cat continues to knead? Many adult cats that continue to knead seem to do so because they were weaned and removed from their mother too soon in their development, while another common theory suggests that cats knead to express their contentment and affection towards their owners. Yet another way to explain cat kneading is to observe the actions that accompany the kneading ritual. My cats generally knead when they are trying to nestle down for the night or during a cat nap in order to make their beds more comfortable. When the cats are on my lap when they knead, they are very relaxed and the kneading is accompanied by other expressions of affection.
In short, a cat that kneads is a happy, contented cat! Cats that knead often purr loudly to signal their contentment; some even get so carried away that they dribble.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *