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Why Do Cats Knead?

Why Do Cats Knead?

27th Oct 2021

Domestic cats are curious creatures with many curious behaviors, one of which is “kneading dough.” Although it may seem like your cat is giving a massage, there’s actually much more to this behavior than you might suspect.

Kneading in Kittenhood

Cute Baby Cat Scratching And Sharpening Claws At Home

Cats often start to knead in early kittenhood, very soon after birth. A kitten finds their way to mom’s abdomen and their first meal in the outside world. As they start to suckle, they instinctively begin kneading the soft surface of mom’s belly, just like their wild ancestors did.

Improved Milk Flow

Studies have shown that at this stage of a kitten’s life, kneading serves a very important purpose. By applying pressure to either side of the teat with the front paws, the flow of milk is stimulated, delivering the amount of nutrients the kitten needs.


Those who study cat behavior say there are other reasons that kittens knead. One theory is that kittens do this to communicate to their mom that they’re busy eating. Kittens typically purr at the same time, which is thought to be another way that a kitten draws its mom’s attention while suckling.


The purring and kneading behaviors of kittens may also help them nurture the relationship with mom. Strengthening this bond ensures the kitten gets the nutrition and care it needs to thrive.

Kneading in Adulthood

Beautiful cat with the scratching post

You may have seen your adult cat kneading your lap, a soft object, or maybe even the family dog. If that’s the case, there’s most likely nothing to be concerned about. The reason for this is that kneading in adulthood is just as normal a feline behavior as kneading in kittenhood, albeit for different reasons.


You may have a pleasant memory associated with an activity you did as a child. It’s said that the same is true for cats. They remember that kneading provided them with a positive experience; a belly full of warm milk, right from mom. The sense of security they received as kittens can certainly cause them to continue to knead as adults.


If your cat loves nothing more than to knead away on your lap as you pet them, chances are they feel very safe and content being near you. When a cat kneads in this situation, it’s a demonstration of affection. Never punish your cat for kneading, even if it hurts you; instead, keep their nails short or place a soft blanket between their paws and your skin.

When a cat identifies you as it’s special human by kneading you, it’s also quality time that can help the two of you form, strengthen, and nurture your bond.


Cats also have scent glands on the pads of their paws, which forms the basis for the next theory about kneading in adulthood. It’s said that when a cat presses their paws onto a cat tree or another surface, their personal scent is released. This scent lets other animals know that this territory has already been taken.


Some female cats have been observed kneading while lying on their side. This has led to the theory that kneading is done to signal the beginning of a cat going into heat. By releasing their scent into the air, a female communicates to males that she’s ready to mate. Kneading also tells other females that this is her space.


Your feline friend’s ability to sleep for hours a day and contort themselves into crazy positions make stretching an absolute necessity. Sometimes a cat will knead as it gives its muscles a good stretch. Kneading also gives them the grab they need for those powerful stretches, and it may help them stretch their paws as well.

Kneading is a common, healthy, and positive behavior for kittens and adult cats that feels good and helps them to:

  • Strengthen their bond with mom and you
  • Help them find a mate
  • Give them needed stretching power
  • Mark their territory
  • Communicate their affection and presence

To keep your cat healthy, they need as many places to knead, sleep, climb, and scratch as possible. Quality cat furniture from Armarkat offers a multitude of heights, surfaces, and much more.

cat trees

Our cat trees and kitten trees are created by cat lovers for cat lovers. They contain only the best and most environmentally friendly materials and are incredibly easy to assemble. Shop our selection of 180 models online or call us today: 609-331-9993.