Why Do Cat Knead Blankets

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 01/20/23 •  6 min read
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Why Do Cat Knead Blankets

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Cats can be curious fur babies! They do so many strange things; at least, they seem strange to us! Have you noticed that your cat likes to knead her blankets? Is this normal cat behavior, or is it something to be concerned about?

We’ve gathered information about why cats knead their blankets and whether this is normal behavior or not. Let’s get started!

What is Kneading in Cats?

Kneading is a normal cat behavior that you may notice occasionally. Your kitty may come over when you’re lying down and start to knead your stomach. Or she may knead her blanket before settling down. Kneading is a sign that your fur baby is feeling relaxed and comfortable.

Cats may push their paws on a surface, and it looks as if they’re kneading bread. If your cat is kneading your sweater, you may even feel her claws slightly touch your skin.

Most cats knead, though the behavior can vary. And not all cats do it the very same way. Some cats may also do other things as they’re busy kneading. For instance, some cats use all four paws to knead, while others only do this with their front paws. Some cats use their claws, while others only use their toes (with no claws). And there are some felines who may take hold of a blanket in their teeth as they knead! There are many forms of kneading!

We once had a cat that would come and lay on me after I went to bed. The blankets would be pulled up to my chin, and the cat would hop on the bed. Her goal was to knead the blankets while holding them in her teeth.

As she kneaded me and the blankets, this funny feline (Fluffy was her name) would pull the blankets down using her teeth. She would do this as a slow process until the blankets were at my waist. Then she would lay down and snuggle into the blankets, leaving me in the cold!

Why Do Cats Knead Blankets?

Cats first start kneading when they’re kittens before their eyes even open. They learn to do this when they’re nursing from their mother. Kittens learn that kneading stimulates the mother to produce more milk. It’s a common behavior you may have noticed in kittens.

As they grow up, most cats continue to knead. They may knead blankets, their pet parents, and soft items such as pillows, stuffed animals, or your dog’s bed! In these cases, the cat is not trying to get milk. Instead, the action is something that relaxes your fur baby and offers some comfort.

But there are some other reasons that may cause a cat to knead!

Making a Nest

Cats may also knead in order to create a nest. This instinctual behavior comes from our cats’ wild ancestors. Wild cats often knead their paws in the grass or leaf piles to create a warm, comfortable place to sleep.

In addition, some cat experts believe that the cat may be checking for unwanted critters or other dangers that could be hidden where they want to sleep.

Our domesticated felines still retain some of their wild ancestors’ behaviors, such as kneading.

Marking Their Territory

Another reason a cat may knead soft surfaces is to mark their territory. Cats are very territorial and will mark their territory to keep other cats out. They do this in different ways, including kneading.

Cats have scent glands on their feet. When their paws are kneading a surface, these scent glands release the cat’s unique scent on the surface. We can’t smell this scent, but other cats and other pets can definitely smell the scent and know to stay away!

Mating Behavior

Cats also knead as a kind of mating behavior. That seems strange, but this is entirely normal for cats. Female cats may knead when they’re in heat; this action can show male cats that she’s ready to mate.

Of course, most female cats have ways of showing they’re in heat. Female cats usually become very vocal and yowl. A lady cat may raise her pelvis and put her tail on one side to show the male she’s ready. She may also show you more affection, hoping you’ll let her outside!

However, cats that are spayed or neutered usually don’t show these behaviors. Though, a cat may still knead when showing affection.

Stretching Muscles

Cats also do quite a bit of stretching. Some will knead as they stretch. It’s much like the way a person would grab onto something a pull against it while exercising.

You could say cats kneading in this way may be doing kitty yoga!

Why Cats Knead Us

While kneading is normal feline behavior on surfaces and soft items, our feline fur babies sometimes knead us, too! Like my cat kneaded the blanket, some cats will lay on you and happily knead away as you pet them. This may be a sign of their affection for you and that they’re quite happy and content.

Is Kneading a Problem?

Kneading can become a problem, especially if a cat has long claws. When a cat kneads their pet parent, her sharp claws can dig into the skin and cause pain. Their claws can even become stuck in things. If the cat pulls her foot back, the nail may remain caught or it can snag the fabric, causing a tear.

How to Stop a Cat from Kneading?

If your cat likes to knead you and you don’t want to stop her, consider throwing a blanket over yourself. You can also use a thick towel. Either of these will stop your fur baby’s claws from coming through and digging into your skin.

Another thing you can try is trimming your cat’s nails or having the vet put nail guards over her nails. You might also try to distract her with a toy or a treat she particularly loves.

Summing It Up

It’s completely normal for cats to knead their blankets and other things (including you!). Most of the time, there’s no worry about kneading; however, if your cat hurts you or gets caught in fabric, try trimming her nails. You can also ask the vet to put nail guards over her nails. These won’t hurt your cat, and they may save your skin and the furniture!

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.