Is there anything sweeter than watching your cozy cat, eyes half-closed, rhythmically kneading their sleeping spot? If the spot happens to be your lap, even better, and completely worth the occasional claw in your thigh.

If you’ve ever wondered why cats knead, you’ve come to the right place. At Sunrise Boulevard Animal Hospital, we love to explore the fascinating behaviors of our furry friends, and we look forward to sharing our findings with our loyal readers!

Why Cats Knead

Kneading, the pushing and pulling of paws against a squishy surface, is a universal cat behavior. The actual reason cats knead isn’t specifically known, but there are several prevailing theories, including:

  • Instinct – Kittens knead their mothers’ bellies to stimulate the flow of milk. The memories of full bellies and warm snuggles may be why your fully-grown cat still indulges in this behavior.
  • Territory marking – Cats have scent glands in their paws, and kneading helps to spread that scent, letting other cats know that the object in question is their territory.
  • A good stretch – Kneading stretches out the muscles and tendons of the legs and feet, and contracting and retracting the claws help to safely shed the outer sheath of each claw, allowing for new growth.

Paws Out, Claws Out!

Because many cats contract their claws during kneading, your couch, chairs, pillows, and pants may take a beating. Punishing or scolding your cat is ineffective, and will only damage the bond you share. Instead, try the following tips to prevent damage to your belongings:

  • Place an old blanket, towel, or pillow down on kitty’s favorite napping spot, including your lap.
  • Keep your cat’s claws trimmed (we can help with that).
  • Female cats tend to knead more often as they enter their heat cycles, so having your cat spayed can cut down on the behavior. 
  • If your cat begins to knead in an undesirable area, try redirecting them and rewarding them with a treat.

The Need to Knead

Although we may not know exactly why cats knead, we do know that it comes from a place of comfort and contentment. If you are concerned that your cat’s kneading is compulsive or destructive, please give your team at Sunrise Boulevard Animal Hospital a call. Otherwise, just sit back, get cozy, and enjoy your sweet kitty’s expression of love and happiness!