Cat Kneading Behavior

Cat kneading behavior is common. When your cat finds an area he wants to make himself comfortable in, whether it be a sofa cushion or your lap, he'll begin to knead the area with his paws in a slow, rhythmic manner. Your cat will also rhythmically spread and close the toes of his front feet. Your cat may purr softly while performing kneading behavior.

How Cat Kneading Behavior Develops

Cat kneading behavior begins in kitten hood. When young kittens want to nurse, they use their front paws to knead the flesh around their mother's nipple. This kneading motion stimulates milk flow. Over time, kittens learn to perform the kneading behavior when they experience comfort, warmth, satisfaction and emotional bonding. Adult cats perform kneading behaviors when they're experiencing feelings of happiness, emotional security and contentment, because they remember experiencing these feelings as a result of kneading behavior they performed when they were kittens.

In general, unhappy and stressed out cats don't perform kneading behavior. Adult cats often exhibit kneading behavior to show feelings of closeness with a human owner.

Other Reasons for Cat Kneading Behavior

Adult female cats may exhibit kneading behavior right before they come into heat, or during their heat cycle. Female cats become excessively friendly and affectionate just before and during their heat cycle, and may express more affection for their human owners than they usually do. Kneading behavior can be a part of this expression. If you get your female cat spayed, she should also cease to perform heat related kneading behavior.

Cats may also perform kneading behavior as a way of leaving territorial markings. Cats have pheromone scent glands located in the pads of their paws, and kneading behavior can help to release this scent when a cat wants to mark its territory. Cats may also knead with their paws before spraying urine to mark territory.

Aggressive Kneading Behavior

Cat kneading behavior can sometimes become too aggressive for owners to deal with, especially when cats begin to knead the owner's body. Male cats especially perform aggressive kneading behavior, since digging the claws into the skin is part of normal mating behavior for male cats.

To cope with aggressive kneading behavior in male cats, neuter your cat. Neutering cats often brings about a drastic reduction in feline kneading behavior.

Establish structured play times in which you'll engage your cat in games with his favorite toys. Always structure play around a toy, since you don't want your male cat to display any sort of aggressive behavior toward people. You're trying to teach him to stop behaving aggressively towards people, and to redirect his aggression to appropriate channels.

Pet your cat differently. Cats knead more when they begin to feel extremely comfortable and relaxed. This isn't to say that you shouldn't make your cat feel relaxed, but when your cat's kneading behaviors become too aggressive, change from long, slow strokes to short, fast strokes. This will take him out of the relaxed mood and may make him feel like play.