Kitten in a red tunnel

Why do cats knead?

  • Kneading is the back and forth motion a cat makes by alternating its paws against something soft
  • The habit of kneading comes from kittenhood when they knead their mothers stomach to increase the flow of milk
  • Cats knead when they're happy and it is meant as a compliment to their human friends

We’ve all experienced it, that moment when you’re nice and comfy with a cat on your lap and then they decide to start kneading your legs, or your chest or that lovely cushion in the corner.

This type of behaviour is well known to cat owners and you may be wondering why they do this.

What is kneading?

Kneading is the rhythmic back and forth motion a cat makes by alternating their paws against something soft. Not all cats use the same method; some may use their claws, some purr and some cats even dribble at the same time.

Why your cat kneads

This habit begins when cats are young and are dependent on their mother for food.

Kittens knead their mother's stomach to stimulate the flow of milk from the teat into their mouths. This is also why some cats dribble when they knead; they expect the milk that would have come from their mum after kneading her stomach.


Cat on a lap

If your cat is kneading your lap when you have a cuddle, they could be drawing a connection from the secure relationship they had with their mother, to the relationship they have with you. Unfortunately, this can also mean that the happier your cat is, the harder they knead you (sorry legs!).

Can you stop your cat kneading?

The short answer is that you can’t. Cats knead when they’re happy – it is part of their feline personality and it’s meant as a compliment!

So it might be worth considering putting a thick blanket on your lap the next time your furry pal decides to come for a cuddle!

It’s important to remember that cats are unique and each cat will knead for very different reasons but, rest assured, this is a completely natural behaviour.


— Page last updated 19/11/2021