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Do All Cats Knead? 5 Reasons for This Behavior

Misty Layne Profile Picture

By Misty Layne

cat lying on passenger seat in a car while kneading owner's hand

It seems as if kneading is a fact of life for cats. They love doing it, and they do it often. Except, what if some cats don’t knead? Is that possible? Actually, it turns out that it is possible! Some cats are not fans of kneading, and there are various reasons why they don’t do it.

As a cat parent, you might also wonder if your cat is kneading normally. Maybe your favorite feline is overenthusiastic in their kneading, or perhaps they do it in what seems like less than the average amount. Cats have individual kneading behaviors, so however your cat likes to knead, it should most likely be considered normal, even if it’s simply normal for them.

The 5 Reasons Cats Knead

Cats start kneading in kittenhood during nursing when they instinctively knead their mama cat to stimulate milk production. As they continue to grow, most continue this behavior, so it’s suspected that they associate kneading with comfort. This isn’t the only reason cats knead, though. There are several other explanations for a cat’s decision to knead.

1. To mark territory

As cat owners, we know how territorial cats can be. What’s theirs is theirs, and what’s ours is theirs! Kneading is just another way for them to mark what they claim as theirs. Because cats have scent glands within their paws, kneading helps release pheromones that say “mine!”.

2. To show pleasure

You’ve likely noticed that your cat tends to knead you while they’re being lavished with pets and attention. This type of kneading is them saying they’re happy and content. It’s also a way to show affection towards you and mark you as their person.

cat claws when kneading
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

3. To make a cozy sleeping spot

Sometimes cats knead to make a comfortable sleeping spot. It’s thought that this is an instinct passed down from their ancestors who lived in the wild. Wild cats will paw at grass or leaves to create a sort of nest to sleep in – a similar process to fluffing up our pillows before we lay down.

4. To stretch muscles

Much like cats enjoy scratching to stretch out muscles, they sometimes knead for the same reason.

5. To attract a mate

When female cats go into heat and want to attract a mate, they will sometimes knead with their back feet. This lets any males around know that they are looking to mate.

cat nails scratching
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Do All Cats Knead?

If kneading is such an instinctual behavior, then you’d think that all cats would engage in it, but some cats do not. They choose, instead, to mark territory or show pleasure, etc., in ways other than kneading.

There are several reasons for this that are listed below:
  • An abnormal kittenhood. We know that kittens start kneading in kittenhood to stimulate milk production, but what if a kitten is removed from its mother’s care before it should be? The result could be a lack of kneading. Kittens taken from mom too soon can’t learn proper socialization and can grow to be anxious and fearful. This lack of socialization can lead to behavioral issues.
  • Inability to find a good spot. Sometimes cats can’t find a good spot or a material they like to feel on their paws, which can lead to them not kneading.
  • Not their style. While kneading is normal for cats, it’s not a requirement. Some cats just prefer expressing themselves in ways other than via kneading.
  • Lack of comfort. Another reason cats may avoid kneading because it’s uncomfortable or painful. This lack of kneading usually applies to cats who have been declawed or older cats who have arthritis or joint issues.

Is My Cat Kneading Normally?

Most likely, your cat is kneading normally, even if their behavior is different from other cats you’ve been around. Every cat enjoys the process of kneading differently. One cause of concern regarding kneading would be if your cat is super aggressive while doing so. You don’t want to encourage aggression towards people, so this type of kneading will need to be discouraged. It’s not abnormal, just not to be encouraged.

Another reason for concern would be if your cat doesn’t knead and it seems to be related to a joint issue – for which you should take them to the vet – or if they seem unhappy. Unhappy cats usually don’t knead; they’ll also have other signs of unhappiness, including aggression, appetite changes, or a lack of grooming upkeep.

bengal kneading blanket
Image By: K Lim, Shutterstock

Ow! My Cat’s Kneading Hurts!

As cute as it is when our kitties knead us, sometimes it just downright hurts. If your pet prefers kneading with its claws out, there are some steps you can try to avoid getting tiny claw marks.

  • Keep your pet’s nails short.
  • Redirect their attention with a treat or toy.
  • Encourage kneading on things that aren’t yourself. You can try getting them to knead soft, cozy blankets or similar items by redirecting their attention or using enticements such as catnip.

Just remember that you should not punish your cat for kneading you. It’s an instinctive behavior, and if it gets punished, this may cause behavioral issues.


Though it seems like all cats do it, it turns out that not every cat is a kneader. There are many reasons they may not engage in this behavior, so it shouldn’t be a concern unless they seem as if they’re not doing it because they are in pain or unhappy. That means no matter your kitty’s kneading behavior, it’s most likely entirely normal, even if it differs from other cats!

Featured Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

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