Cat Kneading

Why do cats flex their paws when you pet them?

It startled me awake, and I was so surprised. I just sat there in bed, staring at my cat. I thought she was scratching at me in my sleep, but she actually wasn’t.

She was sitting on my legs with a corner of the blanket in her mouth, kneading the covers with her little paws, lightly pricking me with each little squeeze. What on earth was she doing?

As it turns out, she was a bit of an anxious cat, and the sucking and kneading brought her comfort.

If this sounds a little strange, there’s actually some science behind it! Indiana did this her entire life – when she was happy, anxious, and even sleepy.

Cats will flex their paws when you pet them because it brings them comfort. It also shows pleasure, loyalty, and love. Cats may also knead to ask for attention, attract a mate, or show that they are awake and ready to play. But how did cats learn to flex their paws like this?

Cats Learn to Flex Their Paws as Babies

When a cat has kittens, she typically has a large litter. With so many babies, she doesn’t individually nurse each one. Instead, the kitten finds an open nipple and latches on.

To tell the milk to come down, she beings to suck and knead. This stimulates the milk flow so the baby can eat. Just like with people, nursing brings comfort, enjoyment, and of course, food!

A lot of cats continue this type of behavior into adulthood, too. It’s normal cat behavior.

Check out this video of a momma cat feeding her kittens. You can see the kittens kneading after they have latched on. This signals the milk to flow.

From the time we are babies, we associate food with love and comfort. The same is true for cats! So it’s no wonder that many cats keep this behavior into adulthood.

1. Cats may flex their paws and knead when they need comfort.

My orange Maine coon, Momo, can’t wait for me to sit down and relax. Any time I sit down, whether it is on my bed or the chair, he jumps into my lap. Then, as I pet him, he starts to knead.

I adopted him from a cat shelter, and when he came to me, he was very thin and sickly. He needed comfort, and he found it every time he sat on my lap for me to pet him.

As I scratch his ears or rub his head, he feels comforted and purrs and kneads. Flexing his little paws shows me he is finding the comfort and love he needs.

He looked to me to make him feel better, just like when he was a hungry kitten, and he looked to his mother to fill his empty little belly! He appreciates the warmth and the kindness and responds with kneading and purrs.

2. Cats also knead to show their pleasure

When a cat is feeling happy, such as after a good meal or when they feel comfortable and contented, they may start to knead and flex its paws.

You’ll probably hear some happy purring and see your kitty begin to flex his little paws. All is right in his world, and he is showing you by his kneading feet.

3. Your cat kneads because he wants attention.

If your cat associates being petted with kneading, they may come to you and start kneading to tell you they want attention. For example, check out this video of a cat kneading its owner, who is taking a nap.

Once the owner begins petting the cat, they settle down and sleep. The cat was looking for some hugs and pets!

4. Cats may knead and flex their paws to mark their territory.

If a cat begins to knead when you are petting it, it may be marking its territory, according to It’s a sign of loyalty.

Cats have scent glands in their paws. So as they flex their feet, they are releasing their scent and telling other kitties to stay away because you are theirs and theirs alone.

He or she is saying, “HANDS OFF” this is my human! It shows you just how much your kitty loves you when they start kneading while you are petting them. They want everyone else to stay away so they can have you all to themselves.

My friend sent me a picture of her cats snuggling with her daughter.

They were both kneading her lap in an attempt to proclaim they owned her and they simply weren’t about to share her with the dog. They are very loyal and they demand loyalty in return!

5. Cats might knead when they’re stretching.

If your kitty has been sitting on your lap for a while, they may be in need of a good stretch. They’ve had such a cozy nap with you petting them.

They’ll suddenly wake up, stretch, and flex their paws. Just like we stretch when we get up in the morning, it’s like your furry friend is taking part in a little bit of kitty yoga. In this case, kneading is a sign that you’re kitty feels refreshed and ready to face the day… again.

6. Some cats will flex their paws when they want to attract a mate.

Whether or not you’ve been petting your kitty, you might see her stretch and flex her paws into the air. If she’s doing this while lying on her side and she isn’t spayed, she might be looking for a date.

7. Your kitty is ready to play.

If your cat has been resting on your lap, and she begins to wake up and flex her little paws, she might be ready to jump in and play. Look out! Those sharp little murder mittens can hurt if she thinks your fingers are her latest toy.

Should I stop my cat from kneading?

You don’t need to stop your cat from flexing its paws unless it is causing problems. This is a normal, natural behavior from cats of all ages. It shows comfort, loyalty, and love. However, there are a few things you can try if your cat’s kneading is bothering you.

If your cat is accidentally pricking you when he or she is flexing its paws, you can try a couple of tricks to get it to stop. For example, you might place a pillow or thicker blanket underneath your cats paws, so their little claws can’t break through to your skin.

Or you can trim their claws or put claw covers on so that the claws can’t hurt you.

There’s no need to scold or punish your cat for this behavior since it is a natural response from your cat.

I personally just move his little feet so that when he kneads or flexes his paws, the claws aren’t digging into my skin. He doesn’t seem to mind or notice, he just keeps right on flexing his little paws. Eventually, he gets tired of the activity and goes to his spot on the dresser to take his nightly nap.

So if your cat kneads just like the one in this video, don’t worry!

It’s his way of telling you he loves you, he is happy, you are his comfort, and you belong to him!