Why Do Cats Knead?

Treasure this sign of affection from your pet, recommends a feline behaviorist.

By Pam Johnson-Bennett

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Q. Why does my cat, Kelso, like to knead my neck or on top of my head? Some say cats don't love, but I take this as a sign of love from him. Or is this a way that he's showing domination?

Pam Johnson-Bennett explains the meaning behind kneadingFeline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like a Cat, says: Who in the world told you that cats don't love? That person was way off the mark.

Your cat's kneading behavior is sign of contentment and affection. It's a throwback to kittenhood where a kitten would knead the queen's teat in order to stimulate lactation. In adult cats, they often knead (otherwise known as the 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.

Pam Johnson-Bennett, CABC
IAABC-Certified Animal Behavior Consultant

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Reader Comments

Geri    Atlanta, GA

6/20/2014 5:43:55 AM

It is good to know that my cat's kneading is a positive sign of affection. I have throw in my living room that is very furry, and I cover myself with it, and there he is, kneading away! Lovely to have the affection from Prince!

janet    bethlehem, PA

9/12/2013 4:46:07 AM


CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

4/1/2013 12:29:08 PM

Kathy -- Try finding a security blanket of sorts for your cats to knead. The next time a cat tries to paw you, place a blanket or towel where the cats are kneading. Put this cloth over your arm or stomach or wherever your cat is kneading and let your cat paw this for a while. Gradually remove the blanket and place it next to you. Encourage your cat to use this blanket by sprinkling it with catnip, too.

You can also reach out to other cat owners on our forum at CatChannel.com/Forum for their advice. Good luck

Kathy    Ormond Beach, FL

3/31/2013 3:11:12 AM

my problem is this -- I KNOW that my cats are loving me when they milk tread on me, but IT HURTS! and sometimes I yell at them ("get the hell off me!") and then I feel bad... i'm going to just have to take the bad with the good, right? but... owww. my question is this -- if they are milk treading on me it means that i'm their mommy and they love me and they're comfy, WHICH I LOVE, but I have so many scratches on me, and it hurts, and if they would stop it would be great... HELP???

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