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Why Does My Cat Knead Me? 10 Possible Reasons

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

fluffy brown and black cat holding on to person's leg

Cats are interesting characters. They can be funny, sociable, independent, or even mischievous at any given time. You never know what actions your cat might take when you’re hanging out with them.

One behavior that your kitty might display is kneading. They might knead your leg, arm, stomach, or even your head, depending on your interactions and the body parts that your cat has access to at the time. But why would your cat knead you anywhere on your body? There happen to be several reasons that they might do this.

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The 10 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Kneads You

1. They’re Trying to Get Comfortable

Cats tend to knead when they are getting comfortable in their dens and resting places. If they are getting ready to cuddle up with you on the couch, they might knead you in an attempt to “soften you up” for more comfort during your cuddle session.

As a kitten, your feline would knead their mother’s belly while they nursed, which would help release the milk and thus result in comfort. So, they are instinctively trying to recreate this scenario and comforting feeling through kneading as an adult.

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2. They’re Marking Territory

Some cats knead people and things to mark their territory. This is especially true if they live with other animals in the home. They want to make sure no other animals or people can claim the places and people they enjoy being close to, so they use their claws to release their scent on whatever it is that they are kneading.

bengal kneading blanket
Image Credit: K Lim, Shutterstock

3. They’re Getting Rid of Pent-Up Energy

If a cat has not had an opportunity to release energy through play and exercise, they might decide to knead you as a way to get rid of that pent-up energy. If this is the case, their kneading is likely to be quick and aggressive and may be followed up with behaviors like swatting and nipping.


4. They’re Showing Affection

Sometimes, kneading is simply a display of affection on a cat’s part. If you happen to be sitting around with your cat and you both feel content at the time, they might knead your leg, chest, or even your face to communicate their happiness and affection toward you. This type of kneading is typically slow and with intent.

cat lying on passenger seat in a car while kneading owner's hand
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

5. They’re Stretching Their Muscles

Kneading offers a cat the perfect opportunity to stretch their muscles after a long nap or a play session. All cats stretch to keep their bodies from becoming sore during the day or night. They most commonly stretch their muscles by kneading on scratching posts, but they might decide to use your body as a scratching post instead.


6. They’re Getting Ready for a Nice Nap

Kneading helps cats calm down and get relaxed, so it is natural for them to perform the act while they are getting ready for a nice, long nap. They will knead anything that they plan on sleeping on or near, including your body. So, don’t be surprised to feel a bit of kneading on your belly as you fall asleep while cuddling up with your kitty.

cat kneading and purring while lying on owner's lap
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

7. They’re Feeling Safe and Sound

Kneading is a way for cats to show their feelings of safety. When they are content and feel safe from all threats and predators, they like to relax and knead their claws to decompress. Kneading due to safety is common at night while in bed and when the house is quiet during the day.


8. They’re Acting on Instinct

Kneading is instinctive for cats. Felines start kneading as brand-new kittens while they nurse from their mothers. The behavior is almost as familiar to them as breathing. This can happen no matter what time of day it is or what is happening around them.

Ginger cat burying head in blanket
Image Credit: Ellen Reidy, Shutterstock

9. They’re Relieving Anxiety

If a feline develops anxiety, they will do just about anything that they can to get rid of it. They could climb up the curtains and cause damage. They might scratch up the furniture or decide to knead your body to feel safety, comfort, and relief during an afternoon cuddle session or at the end of a long day.


10. They Simply Enjoy the Activity

If for no other reason, your cat might knead you for the fun of it. It’s an enjoyable activity for them, so it makes sense that they will include you in the fun if they feel bonded to you. So, when your kitty is feeling fine, don’t be surprised if they decide to have extra fun by kneading you.

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Conclusion

With so many reasons for your cat to knead you, it can take a while to determine exactly why they are currently displaying the behavior. With patience and a keen eye on your cat’s engagements and behaviors before and after they knead you, you can easily pinpoint their reason for doing so.


Featured Image Credit: Andrew Kota, Pexels

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