We all know that cats are not like dogs. They are different and mysterious. They like to go independent while doing a lot of things and do not need you to accompany them. In the same way, they might suddenly feel like showing some affection and do not require your permission for that too. One way of showing love in cats is kneading. Also, since cats are commanding and dominating in nature, you cannot complain about this way to show affection, even if it is like a stroke of cactus to you. 

But the question remains the same, why do even cats feel the need to knead their owners/pet parents? Of course, you cannot ask your little fur baby this question but it will be least interesting to answer for them. Hence, here are some theories that might give some logic behind this ‘kneading’ behavior.

What is kneading exactly?

It is a common motion found in many pet cats that they make from time to time that involves rocking their paws alternately on the lap of the owner in a rhythm. Some cats also use their claws. Many cats are even found drooling while they are kneading. 

It is common to find your cat kneading when they are on a soft surface, but they can practice kneading anywhere until they feel comfortable.

Several theories explain why cats love kneading on their owners

As mentioned earlier, our cute little feline friends will not answer this question for us. Hence, we have to base our understanding on some of the following theories.

  • Part of reflex

The most common reason that comes out to provide the logic behind the kneading behavior in cats is a habit from their kittenhood. When a mother cat feeds its little kittens, the kittens tend to push their mother cat’s breasts with the help of their paws to get more milk. If we go by this theory, then it also answers the logic behind your cat drooling while kneading. While kneading, cats can also bite the area surrounding them, and this theory justifies it.

The lesson that you can take here is that if your cat is kneading you, then it has developed a strong bond with you and is looking for the same comfort they received from their original mothers at a point in time in their lives. However, this theory has no particular reason to be true entirely as there are no valid reasons for a cat to practice the habits from their kittenhood into their adult life. If it is a reflex, then the owner should help their feline friends stop it as it will only reduce their surviving skills.

This theory cannot be entirely correct because there is quite a difference in the kneading patterns of a male cat and a female cat. The male cat tends to go aggressive while kneading and also bites more in the process. 

Keeping the negatives aside, this theory suits the best if you wonder why your cat has suddenly started to behave this way. But there is not necessarily one reason behind the same. There can be a combination of theories so let us check out more.

  • Way of showing Affection

This is one reason you can trust the most as your cute furry baby tends to show love in many ways, and this can be one amongst them. You can even name it as your cat patting your back for something good you did for them. Also, your cat might be trying to show you some love the way you do to them. While kneading, cats tend to put out their claws too, and that might hurt. Now, you might wonder who pulls the other person if they are trying to show love. Well, cats do. The merrier their mood is, the more claws you will get, and they might also bite you. Hence, a word of advice for you, take a blanket or anything similar if you see your cat approaching you. This way, both of you will enjoy some quality time together without anyone getting hurt. 

  • Practicing yoga

Okay, it is wrong to name it yoga. But your cat might be trying to stretch those hard-to-adjust muscles since we all know that cats like to stay flexible at any and every moment and then have this need to stretch after waking up. Just fix a time and have a look at your cat at the time of waking up. The first thing your fur baby will do is to stretch those muscles in order to remain flexible as ever.

While going by this theory, you can rest assured that you are your cat’s favorite companion as they are using you to warm up their muscles even when they are in relaxing mode. Another reason behind stretching is softening up their tightened muscles after they have explored a lot throughout the day. Although this theory is not entirely correct as cats are found kneading anywhere, and they do not wait for their owner to be around to stay flexible. 

  • They are looking out for danger

This logic is backed by their earlier lives where these cats were yet to become domesticated. When the cats are wild, roaming around on the streets searching for food, they tend to check the area before lying down. It is done in order to stay alert and away from any harmful creature that comes out of nowhere to give a nibble or lethal bite when the feline was not even expecting it. 

By practicing kneading, cats make sure that they will disappear from the area if there are any nasty creatures around. Also, this helps them give a good check on anything that might be beneath them. This is because the cat’s paws will know if there is anything having movement under the ground. 

Also, kneading helps your feline friend know whether the area they are going to lay down upon is fluffy or not, as the whole purpose of kneading is to make sure that they have a nice nap. This behavior of checking the area also includes the owner’s lap as that would become the most comfortable position to sleep. You can trust this theory blindfolded as this is a common practice in not just cats but also dogs and other wild animals. Since wild animals do not have one fine place to sleep, they tend to give an excellent check to every place they go before finalizing it for their nap.  

However, even this theory is questionable in terms of cats checking their favorite humans to feel safe before sleeping on them. 

  • Part of their territorial behavior

It is one of the most common features of a cat’s behavior. Cats are territorial, which counts in all the places they love, the toys they play with, and the humans they like to accompany them. The male cats even mark their territories using their urine, most especially if they are not neutered. The only reason behind this process is that they mark that particular toy or place of you as ‘theirs.’

Even kneading is a way to mark their territories. While kneading, cats leave their scent at the place, and that scent gives a hint to other neighboring cats that they are not allowed to touch it. Here, in this case, when your cat is kneading on you, then they are marking you, your lap, your couch, or your bed as their own. Your feline friend activates its scent gland while kneading to give a proper indication to other cats that it is their area. 

The issue with this theory is that if cats are kneading to mark their territory, then they should practice it everywhere they go, but they don’t. They do not practice kneading outside their parent’s home where they do not know the area. If we examine dogs in this case, they tend to mark their spot anywhere they go. Cats are a bit different here. They tend to knead around something they feel comfortable with. 

  • They are going into heat

All animals, including female cats, tend to showcase some odd behavior when they are about to get ready to procreate. This phase is also known as estrus. In this phase, female cats show their backside, urinate inside the house but not in the provided litter box, and cry in desperation to get a mate.  However, you will now think that this behavior should only repeat at regular intervals when the cat is about to go into heat. The entire cat owner group here will agree to the fact kneading is not bound by this particular reason and is noticed whenever their feline friends feel like it. Hence, relying entirely on this theory will not benefit you much. Comparatively, other theories stated here hold much more credibility. Since there is no particular reason why your cat has started to push and pull their paws recently, this theory can be considered.

Which given theory seems to match your cat?

As all human beings are different and the same pattern of behavior in one human can be due to various factors, the same is the case with cats. All cats have their characteristics, and due to that, one reason will seem more likely to match the kneading behavior in your cat than others. 

Also, there must not be only one theory or factor causing your cat to knead you or your furniture. Several factors or theories in combination can make your cat practice kneading more often recently than before. Let us consider an example. If your cat is going into heat, this is the most apparent reason why your cat will feel like checking the ground several times and want it safe before the commencement of their business with their chosen partner. Another example is that your cat is trying to show you some love by kneading, which also helps keep warm and stretches those muscles simultaneously. 

Reasons can be many and, in many folds, but you must notice themes in these theories mentioned above. Let’s start with the ratio of cats doing it. All the cats love to knead, and they do it while they are in an extremely happy and joyous mood. The second lesson is the more they are merrier, the harder they will claw and paw away at you, and you have no say in it. So be ready with a blanket-like top sheet to save you some hurting. The third is that this behavior is something they do out of instinct. You cannot and will not want to teach or train your cat to knead. Lastly, these felines feel like kneading to something or someone they trust enormously, and you can take this as a compliment that you have finally accepted that special place in your cat’s heart.

In conclusion:

Many cats follow this behavior for a combination of reasons but rest assured that if they are kneading on you (pet owner), they trust you and love you loads. Make sure to spend some good moments with your cat whenever you find your fur baby kneading, as this is the time when they are in a relaxed mode and will welcome all the cuddling and love from your side. Here is a suggestion for all the cat owners who go by the theory ‘going into heat.’ – It is better if you get your cat neutered as it will save you a lot of effort in finding your cat a mate. It is also beneficial for all those cat owners who are absolutely in love with your cat and do not wish to have any more cats (or kittens) in your house.