Why Do Cats Knead Their Front Paws?

Cats knead when they're happy.
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Angel has the same routine every time shes lies in your lap. She gets cozy, starts purring and flexes and relaxes her toes in a kneading motion. Kneading is a trait kittens learn early on. In her adult life, kneading is simply a sign of pure delight.

Habit From Youth

When kittens are first born and still nursing, kneading comes in handy. Infant felines knead their mama's belly to get milk flowing, the Humane Society of the United States reports. The gentle pressing around mother's teats stimulates her mammary glands, telling her brain that it's time to feed her fuzzy brood. If your kitten was bottle fed and never latched onto mom for feedings, she may not knead as an adult.


As Angel gets older and bonds with you, she'll continue to knead her paws as a source of comfort. Kneading reminds her of her first few days of life when mom was there to take care of everything. After all, you're her mom now, and when she's on your lap she feels comfortable, safe and secure, just like she did with her feline mother.

Showing Affection

If Angel curls up next to your head at night and kneads your hair, you should feel grateful. She's showing you love and affection for all that you do for her. You make her happy and, since she can't tell you that, kneading is her way of showing you affection.


When you prep your bed at night, you probably toss aside your covers, stack up your pillows and fluff them. You're making your nest nice and cozy to get a good night's rest. When Angel curls up in your lap and kneads, she's doing the same type of thing. Kneading, whether it be your down comforter, pillow or even you, makes the surface soft and perfect for her to rest her head on.


While kneading lets you know that Angel is happy and comfortable, sometimes it can be painful. Not all felines bare claws during a steady kneading session. However, if you have a cat who digs her nails deep into your thigh while kneading, it can be painful and even draw blood. Keep her nails trimmed so they don't wind up with razor-sharp edges. When kneading becomes painful, gently put her down. At the next kneading session, praise her for painless-kneading. Eventually she'll get the hint that claws out makes you stop petting her. If all else fails, toss a throw blanket on your lap to absorb her blunt nails. She can happily knead away and you won't have to worry about suffering through the process.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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