Why Do Cats Knead?

A cat behaviorist shares the source of this behavior, and explains why owners should treasure it.

By Pam Johnson-Bennett | Updated: September 26, 2012, 2 p.m. EST

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Kneading Kitten
Kneading is a carry-over from kittenhood, and in adult cats is simply a sign of affection.
Cats like to knead on people's laps, necks or even the tops of their heads. You might consider this a sign of affection, and you'd be right!

Your cat's kneading behavior is sign of contentment and affection. It's a throwback to kittenhood, where a kitten would knead the mother cat's teat in order to stimulate lactation. As adults, cats often knead (otherwise known as "milk tread") when they are on a soft, warm material and feel very comfortable and safe. It is a loving, precious gesture and although it can sometimes hurt if a cat's claws haven't been trimmed lately, I consider it to be one of the sweetest displays of affection.

 

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Why Do Cats Knead?

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Reader Comments

Cat Editor    Irvine, CA

10/4/2012 1:47:56 PM

Susie in Long Beach: If your kitten suckles wool and clothing, she probably was weaned from her mom too soon. You might try substituting the cloth with a treat or with kitten milk replacer. If she still does this as an adult, you might try a cat-safe product like Bitter Apple to deter her, since cats don't like the taste. Cats also can't stand the smell of citrus, so you might try spritzing the clothes and blankets with nontoxic citrus scents.

Susie    Long Beach, NY

10/3/2012 9:37:59 PM

So you don't recommend gently training them not to do it? My kitten suckles and kneads, so as affectionate as it may seem, it also gets pillows, blankets, and clothes a bit wet. Is there anyway to help her stop doing it, or is the instinct too strong?

Bill & Lorraine    Manhattan, NY

10/1/2012 7:04:36 PM

Interesting

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

9/27/2012 11:13:48 PM

Cats can be very kneady.

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