Why Do Cats Knead?

The reason is pretty adorable ❤️

cat kneading with a rolling pin

So you’re lying there on the couch scrolling through Netflix when your cat saunters over with that adorable purr and you know exactly what’s coming — she’s about to stretch out her front legs and press back and forth into your belly with her paws.

It’s cute as all heck — even if it does hurt a little.

You’ve probably also seen her doing it time and time again — whether it’s on you, the couch, her blanket or maybe even her furry siblings.

But what exactly is she doing — and why?

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Rachel Barrack, a veterinarian at Animal Acupuncture in New York City, to find out.

Typically called “kneading,” you might have other names for this adorable (and slightly painful) practice — like “making biscuits,” “making bread” or “making muffins” — basically making any sort of delicious and carby treat. The reason they do it is also adorable.

"Kittens knead on their mothers while nursing," Dr. Barrack said. "Many cats carry this behavior into adulthood and may knead their owners, other furry siblings or bedding."

But why do kittens knead on their mothers while nursing? It’s pretty genius, actually — kittens are trying to get more milk out, so they massage their mama’s teats in order to help the lactation process along.

That’s why you’ll notice kittens purring while they’re nursing — they’re happy and getting full, which is also why you might find your cat purring while kneading you. 

According to Dr. Barrack, cats are soothed by kneading, and can even enter "a trancelike state."

Other theories on why cats knead


Similar to the theory about how dogs dig in their beds as a natural denning instinct, it’s believed that cats also might have used kneading in the wild to help soften dirt or pat down leaves for comfy sleeping quarters.

Another theory is that your cat might also be using kneading as just another way to mark you up with her scent (her paws have scent glands) — which technically is also adorbs because it means she loves you and wants everybody to know you’re hers.

"If you do have a cat who kneads their bedding, or better yet you, it's because they're feeling very loved and comfortable," Katie Armour, project coordinator at MSPCA Boston Adoption Center, told The Dodo. "You should absolutely take this as a compliment!"