Why Do Cats Knead?

You’ve probably seen your cat knead before—it’s when she pushes her front paws into a soft surface, alternating them rhythmically. Ever wonder why your cat exhibits this interesting behavior? Learn about the possible reasons below from your Reynoldsburg veterinarian.

Nap Time

You’ve undoubtedly seen your cat knead the bedding surface she’s about to go to sleep on. Many cats knead before laying down for a nap. This might be an evolutionary trait passed down from the cats of older generations; cats in the wild would knead soft grass before bedding down.

Territorial Behavior

Did you know that your cat’s paw pads contain scent glands? When a cat kneads, the glands may release scent into the object—including your pant leg! In this way, your cat is using her scent to mark her territory.

Showing Affection

Many cat owners and vets alike will tell you that kneading behavior is often a way of showing affection. Some cats knead while they’re being petted in order to show how much they enjoy it. Be sure to give your cat plenty of love back! Of course, you’ll want to keep your cat’s claws blunted and trimmed properly so it doesn’t hurt when she kneads on your leg.

Nursing Instincts

Young kittens actually knead their mother’s belly to stimulate the production of milk. Many veterinary professionals believe that adult kneading behavior is simply a remnant of this childhood activity! There’s a good chance that most cats associate the contentment and comfort of nursing from their mother with the sensation of kneading.


Since cats love to stretch, especially before and after a nap, kneading is often involved in the stretching process. It can serve as a great way to keep the front limbs limber and comfortable.

Ask your Reynoldsburg veterinarian for more information on your cat’s kneading habits, as well as any other intriguing feline behavior you’ve noticed.

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