My Cat's Kneading Keeps Me Awake

CatChannel cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, shares reasons behind a cat's need to knead.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

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Q: My 2-year-old neutered male cat is part Persian and part Siamese. Why does he scratch the comforter when he gets in bed with me? I keep his nails clipped and he does not claw the comforter. It is very frustrating when he does this because I’m trying to go to sleep. He also does this early in the morning.

I am away a lot at work and social engagements. I contemplated getting another cat for a companion but don't know if that just compounds the problem and I am not sure I really want another cat.

A: The behavior you are describing is called kneading. Kneading is a natural behavior that domestic cats do when they are feeling contented. When cats knead, they exert downward pressure first on one front paw then switch off to the other. While pushing down, cats spread and stretch the toes revealing claws. As they pull back and relax the paw, the claws retract. Cats rhythmically alternate between the front two paws.

A few theories exist about why cats knead. One theory revolves around cats' kneading as a comfort behavior that first starts in kitten-hood. Kittens knead when they are nursing, stimulating the release of mom’s milk. Another theory is that the domestic cats’ wild ancestors made themselves comfortable sleeping and napping areas by kneading grasses and other foliage.

Whatever the reasons, kneading is a behavior that domestic cats continue to do throughout their lives. Cats typically knead when they are feeling safe, secure comfortable and are happy with their world.

Adopting another cat won’t stop your cat from kneading, but it can help keep him from becoming bored while you are away from home. If you do decide to adopt a buddy for your cat, look for a cat who gets on well with other cats and then slowly introduce the cats to each other.  

Read more articles by Marilyn Krieger here>>

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Reader Comments

Alicia    Endicott, NY

2/12/2012 9:13:04 PM

my cat's kneading puts me to sleep. Every night my cat silas kneads my shoulders neck and back giving me a nice realaxing massage.

-RE    =RE, MD

7/14/2011 5:19:08 AM


Jill    Sacramento, CA

7/8/2011 9:28:56 AM

my cat sassy who i have had for about 20 yrs kneads on my pillows and while he is kneading he makes this horrible meowing noise not sure why but that is the only time i see him kneading. Of course when i pet my other cats they knead while i am petting them but he does not he only kneads on my pillows.

Norma    Thayer, MO

7/7/2011 6:42:03 PM

My cat's name is Oscar also and he kneads. He lays on my belly and kneads and purrs and gets his head rubbed, his cheeks scratched and behind his ears massaged. When all this is done, he lays at my feet and sleeps all night. I would take anything for my Oscar Jon and his complete love and trust. He's a sweet sweet cat. O.J.'s Mom Mom

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