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Why Do Cats Knead

Dec 16, 2011 · Updated Oct 6, 2013 · ·
  1. Anne
    Why Do Cats Knead? 5 fascinating reasons why your cat may be kneading
    Cats? Kneading? Has TheCatSite become a baking site? Not to worry, we're still here to talk about nothing but cats and cat behavior! And if you're an experienced cat owner you probably know what we mean when we ask why cats "knead".

    So why do they do that? No one knows for sure, but we can think of five possible reasons why cats knead and we've put them all together for you right here!

    What is "kneading" behavior in cats?

    Lying there, all happy and content, your cat or kitten extends his paws, pushing against a blanket, a favorite shirt or even against you. Alternating between left and right, Kitty is pushing in those paws. Had this been dough, you could be putting a nice loaf of bread into the oven soon! Some people call this behavior "making biscuits".

    While kneading, your cat is most likely purring. Possibly quite loudly too! With eyes closed - or semi-closed - your cat seems to be getting right "in the zone". Some cats may be "smurgling" too!

    Smurgling? What's that?

    Some people use the word "smurgle" to describe the very act of kneading. Others reserve it for cats that truly go overboard, to the point of salivating over whatever - or whoever - they're kneading.

    Here's what kneading can look like -

    And here's another kneading cat -

    And this is Korin by our member @Korinmewmew -

    So why do cats knead?

    There are a variety of theories about why cats knead. Here are five possible reasons for this unique feline behavior.

    1. Remembering kittenhood

    When kittens are nursing, kneading Mama Cat helps produce more breakfast, lunch and dinner for them. Massaging the teats could be stimulating the mammary glands to actually produce more milk.

    The memory of comfort and care stays with the kitten as he grows. He pokes and prods you as a form of affection.

    2. Hormonal Kneading

    If your cat is not spayed, kneading can be a sign that a heat cycle is about to start. Females in heat are washed over with hormones that make them extra affectionate. This is nature's way to make sure the female is receptive towards the male cat.

    Please make sure to spay your cat. Being sexually receptive is very intense and stressful for a cat and unless she's mated, she will go into heat every several weeks. Of course, mating means kittens.
    With not enough good homes to go around, responsible cat owners must make sure to spay and neuter all cats.

    Read more: Why you should spay and neuter your cats

    3. Getting sleepy

    While dogs turn around in circles three times before lying down, cats often knead themselves a comfortable place on a lap, cushion or couch, but then cat-like, don’t necessarily lie down there to sleep. Only the cat knows why.

    Kneading can be both a way to stretch and flex muscles or a self-soothing, rocking-myself-to-sleep action, depending on whether they are waking up or ready to nap. It can also be a way to keep you seated instead of disturbing them by getting a soft drink and chips during the commercial.

    4. Marking territory

    Cats have scent glands on their paws. Kneading lets them subtly mark you and their favorite spot on the couch so other cats know, “This is MINE.” Try to take it as a compliment.

    5. Just feeling really happy

    A stressed cat does not knead. Seeing your cat start the push/pull stretch lets you know he is comfortable and calm.

    Whatever reason your cat has, the main thing to keep in mind is this—he only does it when he’s comfortable, calm and being affectionate. It is a compliment.

    One thing is for sure: If you have a cat who loves to push/pull on your body parts, you need to keep his nails clipped! Male cats can get a little rough about this.

    Article images submitted by members of TheCatsite.com.

    Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

    Share This Article

    Shane Kent purraised this.


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  1. foxxycat
    Honeybee is a biscuit kitty. She happily kneads away with her face mashed into her blanket paws up by her head...she drools on the blanket but never seen her sucking it or biting it..just drooling...I could never understand why people wouldn't let their cat make biscuits. I think it's the coolest thing ever...the glazed look in eyes and loud purring make it a very enjoyable experience..in the very beginning Honeybee used to climb on me when I was not well emotionally and stayed kneading until I got my head back...I always find it special that she makes biscuits on me.
  2. Shane Kent
    My cat Taz uses all four paws when kneading. It freaks my wife out and she thought something was wrong with him. Taz is territorial so I am fairly certain he is marking when he does it.
    1. Jen2222
      Awww, well either way it brings joy to them.
  3. Jen2222
    I foster tiny bottle baby kittens, feeding every 2 hours. I have noticed most of the bottle baby fosters continue to knead, make biscuits, etc into adulthood.

    Do you think strays or kittens without a lactating Mom Cat tend to make biscuits more than other cats? I have tried giving the kittens a stuffed toy, clock, etc but the number who end up retaining the biscuit making seems the same. My adult ginger tabby is wonderful with the foster kittens. They never try to nurse him but do snuggle into his loving ginger paws. Our dog is also great with the kittens, cleans their hair, face and paws very gently. I guess some of my friends who have cats who do not make biscuits blame my foster kittens biscuit making on missing the comfort of a Mom cat. I have 4 adult cats, each seems to enjoy the fosters at different ages. Some just watch them until they are old enough to play with toys. One likes to play when they can chase but my ginger ♡ is there throughout their cognition changes. He has his favorites but seems to enjoy being their Pappa Cat.

    I explain to potential adopters that the kitten will likely not grow out of it. Learn to embrace it, give them a blanket or bed with the material they love to make biscuits on. Embrace the biscuit time. ..
      foxxycat and tarasgirl06 purraised this.
    1. tarasgirl06
      I can't imagine anyone not wanting to share in the experience of a cat being happy and showing so much love!
      foxxycat and Jen2222 purraised this.
  4. SeventhHeaven
    Shocking discovery a few months ago ginger/red tabby Robin started giving me full body massages!
    He does it all on his own kneading his way tightly with all fours my other cats just stare at him while he is
    Offering his services. Bless him right down legs to the ankles balancing well on blankies never falls off. He's just
    2.5 very petite like a kitten, he's been holding back his magical secret powers for a little while. (They All have) It's exposed now, Cats are super intelligent. *all my cats have targeted him since birth, he's affectionate partially handraised.
  5. tinydestroyer
    Yes! My kitten, Lucy, has always been big on kneading and "smurgling." I have a couple of blankets she specifically likes because they are the same faux fur fabric as my robe collar, and I used to wear it when I bottle fed her in the middle of the night / morning. She was abandoned at only 4-5 weeks, so definitely weaned early. She gently and rhythmically kneads and softly suckles at a spot on the blanket multiple times a day, for a few minutes each time. She's so into it that no matter what she's doing you can pick her up at any given time, set her down on her blanket, and watch her go to town.

    My other cat, Mog, used to never knead, but lately he's been taking on Lucy's biscuit-making habit. At first, he'd do it a bit before settling in to sleep, but a couple of times I've caught him smurgling full-out on the same blanket Lucy uses. His movements are much more jerky and stuff, though. And rather than softly suckling at the faux for of the blanket, he just chews it, rather hard. Maybe it's because he's learning this adorable behavior from Lucy, but if not, it kinda makes me feel sorry for whatever kitty was his momma. I hope they both keep it up! I think it's so sweet and adorable.
  6. tarasgirl06
    *All of the above* and then some! btw, one of our beloved furmily used to turn around several times before curling up and as far as I know, had never been around dogs.
  7. morganalefae
    My little girl Banshee normally only kneads when we go to bed (she sleep's in our room in our bed and hogs the bed asap) normally she only kneads my side of the blanket. Someone told me the only reason she is doing it cuz she was way to young to be taken from her mother she was 7-8 weeks when we got her most breeders only let them go at 10-14 weeks but I would not think she was to young but thats me
  8. walkingrock
    Yup, Oliver is a kneady cat! 
  9. camillel
    Sam and Tigger love to knead; especially at night when we are all in bed they both knead their spot  between David and I. Yes they both sleep with us
  10. kntrygrl256
    Sammy loves to lay on my lap and knead on anything he can, even air.
  11. godiva kiss
    Panini loves to knead on anything soft and cozy(blankets, sheets,etc.). She even kneads on clothes(whether or not we are wearing them):)
  12. magiksgirl
    My Grinnie boy loves to knead! He's 19 weeks (4.5 months) old and he's always kneading things like his bed, clothes of me! He's adorable! ♥♥♥
  13. milosmom123
    Milo loves to knead my arm when I'm in bed and my face when he wants me to get up 
  14. str8upcat
    Our cats are funny.. the female will jump on your back after you come from the shower and kneed up and down... free back massage ;)  The male will go into a trance kneeding on my belly 
  15. jasei santiz
    @PennyWise Aww yea my Cheetos can be like Schnitzel
  16. pennywise
    We have a comforter on the couch that Eopie kneads into a nice little nest before she takes a nap in it.  Our other cat, Schnitzel, will knead any human arm/leg/torso that she can get her paws on.  It's really sweet actually. :)
  17. jaspurr
    Jaspurr loves to knead my IPad cover.
  18. jasei santiz
    Cheetos loves to knead in his lil cat bed :)
  19. Anne
    Please have your cat spayed ASAP. It won't stop the kneading (no need to, really), but with so many kittens being put to sleep every year, you will be saving precious lives. She doesn't need to have a litter, that's a common misconception, for any reason. She'll be much healthier if she's spayed before going into her first heat cycle.
  20. catlover4ever
    My cat kneads on EVERYTHING! She isn't fixed yet, i belive that it is right for a cat to have a liter before she is spayed.
    Is she going through heat?
  21. annabell
    My Smokie, a Rushian Blue Mix feral cat is almost 2 years old, who was abandoned at about 4 weeks old by her mother - feral from a long line of feral cats, either deliberately or from an accident, and she has never kneaded and purrs so lowly that you can only feel it, not hear her. I think this is because she never had an opportunity to really nurse for very long, She never had a mother to teach her to keep her claws sheathed and I have the scratches to show for it. She's never been outside since we found her, will not let you pick her up. but she loves us in her own way. She loves to play [rough] and follows me from room to room, and seems to love us as much as we love her. We wouldn't give her up for anything despite her wild nature [or perhaps because of it!]
  22. phfurballs
    Both my senior ladies love to knead, and seem to get a lot of pleasure from it, but their preferences are quite different. Brina likes cushy textiles, while her very little sister, Matty, seems determined to dig a hole right through my chest. Ouch !!! :-). I keep trying to redirect her to my stomach, where it doesn't bother me at all, but she is nothing if not stubborn. Fortunately, they are both very cooperative about having their nails trimmed, so that helps.
  23. pushylady
    As you can see from the photos, my boys love to knead! They often settle in on their humans for a good cuddle and knead away, usually purring too. It's good to know they're both so comfortable and happy.
  24. annmariemtz
    Cookie loves to knead on Gabrielle and Christina's zebra printed fury blanket...
  25. rosiemac
    Jack loves to knead my sleeve, and Rosie still does it on her blankie sometimes 9 years later. Awww
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