Why Do Cats Knead Blankets

Written by Abdulmumin Akinde
Updated: October 14, 2022
Image Credit Foxhound photos/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

Why do cats knead blankets? Cats exhibit a lot of mysterious behavior, and this is just one of the many questions cat parents often ask about their beloved kittens. You have probably caught your cat in a trance-like state, rhythmically pushing its paws in and out of a soft blanket or pillow a few times. This behavior is known as ’kneading’, and cats do it for various reasons. They can also knead on your lap when they feel at ease.

Cats knead for the following reasons: to stimulate milk production as kittens, to prepare a cozy spot, to show possession, for mating purposes, to stretch their muscles, or to show affection.

This habit and the reasons which have been provided are explored in greater detail below.

4,973 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

What Is Cat Kneading?

Bright white cat paws. Sleeping on yellow background, copy space.
There are a few theories as to why cats knead, or “make biscuits.”

phM2019/Shutterstock.com

Kneading is an adorable behavior that cats exhibit sometimes. When your cat feels at ease, it might push its paw in and out of a surface. Usually, they do this on a soft surface such as a blanket or pillow, but cats can also knead on your laps. The up and down motion looks like your cat is trying to knead a dough. This is why kneading in cats is also referred to as “making biscuits”. 

Although the frequency of this behavior varies, most cats will knead. Also, they will not all do it the same way. Some cats may also do other things while kneading, such as purring loudly. Some cats can knead with all four paws, while others only use their front paws. Some cats never use their claws while kneading, while others do so actively. No matter how it’s done, you’ll probably catch your cat “making biscuits” at some point. So why exactly do cats do this? There are a few theories to explain it. 

Why Cats Knead Blankets And Other Soft Objects

cats kneading nursing
Cats begin kneading on their mothers as kittens in order to stimulate milk production.

Rashid Valitov/Shutterstock.com

Generally, cats learn to start kneading when they’re just kittens, nursing from their mothers. This is an instinctive behavior that they use to stimulate milk production from the mother. But in most cases, cats will continue to occasionally knead even when they’re past the nursing age. They’ll do this with blankets and other soft objects around the house, such as pillows and stuffed animals. Of course, kneading surfaces like this does not yield milk. However, the action brings some rewarding comfort to your cat, which is why they’ll continue to do it. In addition to it being reminiscent of the comfort of nursing, the following are some other reasons cats may knead soft objects. 

Best Nail Covers
YMCCOOL 100pcs Cat Nail Caps/Tips
  • Crafted from high-quality vinyl resin
  • Soft and comfortable for your cat to wear
  • Nail covers protect your furniture and other surfaces
  • Follow manufacturer's directions to apply
  • Package includes 100 pieces in 10 different colors , glue, and a 5-piece applicator
Check Amazon

Making a Nest

Some theories suggest that kneading is a nesting behavior passed from the cat’s wild ancestors. Cats in the wild often push their paws down on tall grass or piles of leaves when they’re trying to create a soft nest to sleep on. On one hand, they do this to create a soft fluffy surface to lie on. But it could also be their way of checking for critters or dangerous things that might be hidden in the foliage they’re trying to sleep in. Domestic pets still retain many of the survival habits of their prehistoric ancestors, and this might just be one of those habits. 

Kneading to Mark their Territories 

Like all pets, cats are territorial, and one of the ways they mark their turf is by leaving scent marks all over it. They can do this in different ways, which is why experts think kneading is just another way to show something (or even some people) is theirs. When they knead, scent glands in their paw pads release a unique scent on the surface they’re pawing at. Of course, humans can’t smell this scent. But cats and other pets can. 

Kneading As A Mating Behavior 

Female cats often knead when they go into heat as a way of demonstrating to male cats that they’re ready to mate. There are other oestrus behaviors that cats demonstrate as well. This includes being overly vocal, raising their pelvis with the tail to one side, being affectionate, and trying to go outside. Cats that have been neutered or spayed are less likely to demonstrate heat-related behaviors like this. 

Kneading to Stretch Their Muscles

Cats sometimes need to stretch their muscles, and kneading is a type of workout for them. It’s the same way humans grab onto a surface and pull against it to work out our muscles. Kneading is one of the ways cats workout-call it “cat yoga” or whatever. 

Why Cats Knead Their Owners

where do cats like to be pet
Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed can help to avoid the pain of sharp-clawed kneading.

Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock.com

Although cats typically knead at soft objects and surfaces, they sometimes knead people too. You may notice your cat kneading on your lap while you’re petting it. This is an adorable way of trying to return the favor. 

Unfortunately, your cat kneading at you this way doesn’t always go well, especially when they use their sharp nails. It can dig into your skin and hurt you without the cat even realizing it. A simple way to avoid this is to simply place a blanket or any other type of soft barrier between your lap and the cat. You should also consider trimming your cat’s nails regularly with nail clippers or using nail guards to cover their nails. 

Best Clippers
Pet Republique Cat Nail Clipper
  • Designed for use on cats and other small pets
  • Features large, soft grip area for comfortable clipping
  • 4-year warranty
  • Built-in spring
  • The manufacturer donates 15% of profits to local shelters
Check Chewy Check Amazon

How To Stop Your Cat From Kneading

Although kneading is an adorable behavior, it doesn’t always work out well. Your cat kneading at your body with its claws out can be painful. The claws may also tear into blankets, pillows, and furniture. In some cases, you might have to figure out how to discourage this behavior. You should never punish your cat for kneading since it is natural instinctive behavior. Some tips you can try include: 

  • Keep your cat’s claw trimmed short.
  • Encourage your kitten to knead elsewhere if you don’t want them kneading on your body. 
  • Use toys or treats to distract your cat from kneading. 
  • Place a thick blanket on your lap when your cat is on it. 
  • Encourage the cat to lie down instead by gently stroking and redirecting her body. 

Conclusion 

These are some of the most popular theories that might answer your questions about this interesting cat behavior. Of course, it might not cover every possibility out there, and your cat may be kneading for an entirely different reason. Most times, kneading is nothing to worry about. You can take precautions like we have recommended to keep your cat from causing injury or damaging objects around the house. 

Up Next

Why Do Cats Hiss?– Cats make different kinds of sounds. Find out what it could mean when your cat makes hissing sounds.

Why Do Cats Purr? – what is your cat trying to tell you when it purrs satisfactorily.

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much? – Does it seem like your cat is sleeping too much? It could mean a lot of things, and as a pet parent, you should know these things.

pair of cat paws on white background
Making biscuits is another term for cat kneading.
Foxhound photos/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:
About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated freelance writer on Upwork. He can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing on health, technology and animals. He is inquisitive and currently aspires to become a software engineer. He loves animals, especially horses and would love to have one someday.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.