Why Do Cats Knead on People?

One relaxed cat… By: David Precious

This little habit has many names: kneading, making biscuits, happy feet and many more names have been given to cats kneading.

Kneading is a repetitive motion cats use on different surfaces or people. The motion looks like a baker kneading dough, hence the name. But why do cats knead on people? There are a few reasons.

Why Do Cats Knead on People?

Some cats need with only their front paws, while others use all four paws. Some do it on blankets, toys or you! Kneading is one of the first behaviors cats learn, even before they can get around on their own well. Kittens must knead on the mother to get milk to flow down when feeding.


This behavior has a habit of sticking around as a source of comfort and relaxation and may even be a sign of affection and bonding with you.

A cat may exhibit this behavior because it sees you as its mother, authority figure or it’s the cat’s way of saying, “I trust you.” Whatever the reason, kneading is something special if it happens to you!

A cat may also knead as a sign that a heat cycle is starting soon. Several cat owners have observed this just prior to their cats going into heat, and this may provide another explanation for the behavior. Please spay and neuter your pets!

This exercise is perfectly normal and should not be blocked from occurring. Cats and kittens may settle down for a nap after kneading just as they would with a full tummy after feeding. Cats might also use kneading as a way to fluff their bedding or move it to be more comfortable. Other theories include cats kneading as a form of resistance to keep them limber.

Hey, That’s Mine!

Another reason for kneading is to mark territory. Cats may need on toys, blankets, objects or you to show ownership. There are scent glands in the paw, and kneading can activate these glands to leave a scent behind when the biscuit session is over.

While you may notice your cat kneading your belly when you are sitting or laying down, cats also knead other areas of the body such as the neck or back. A cat might knead some of these other areas because of your sleeping position or because it’s the only parts they can reach at that time.

This normal behavior can occur on fuzzy blankets, their favorite toys or you! The cute little paw excursion can be painful when it’s on you and your cat is using claws. Ouch! Open wounds are prone to infection, so you need to get the claws under control.

For an example of kneading, this video provides almost three minutes worth of kitty biscuits:

The Ouch Factor

Keep the cat’s nails trimmed regularly. Also remove the cat from your lap with a firm, “No” if the claws are being used. You can also put the cat on the floor after this correction. When your cat does knead without claws, be sure to offer praise and a reward such as a cat treat to reinforce the desired behavior.

If your cat keeps up with the claws and nothing else seems to work, keep the nails trimmed and keep a thick blanket nearby to protect your skin. If your kitty is like mine and will appear kneading away on top of you in bed in the middle of the night, you might want to start closing the bedroom door at night.

There are different reasons for kneading, and it could simply be because your cat needs you! Whether it’s to show affection or call you mom (or dad!), kneading is a normal expression usually reserved for loved ones.

From Around the Web

  • Robert W. T. Short Sr.

    My daughters cat just started doing this. Kinda hurts, I dont think she means to use her claws.

  • Jennifer Christine Fleming

    Well I have a baby cat and he’s just start to do this to my neck 3 times a day and if I put him down he gets all mad what can I do

  • aurelie

    There’s a young neighborhood cat (not a kitten though) and he follows me to the bus stop. If I pick him up he starts to knead.

  • Tom

    My cat has been doing this since he was a kitten. But he doesn’t only knead, he also suckles on pieces of clothing and bed sheets while kneading.

  • Aubree

    My kitten does this to me but not my boyfriend she loves us both but shows clear signs that she knows who plays what role in her life.

  • AJ

    I am after some advice. I used to have 3 cats all of a similar age, Cats 1 & 2 i adopted at the same time as kittens, cat number 3 was adopted about 10 months later (cats number 2 and 3 pictured below), but cat number one had to be put to sleep a few months ago after a short illness. After this cat number 2 took on many of his traits, such as kneading me, climbing into cars and sleeping next to me. About 5 days ago cat number 2 disappeared and now I find that cat number 3 has started kneading me and seeking attention. He is also going outside less now.
    Even before cat number 2 disappeared, I was thinking a rehoming another cat, but I do not know if cat number 3 is now content and that is why his behavior has changed, or if he is actually anxious and that is why he is seeking comfort / reassurance and therefore another cat might be good company?