Close up of cat paws on a blanket

Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch

  • Prescriptions delivered free to you

  • Fast access to Licensed Vets over video

  • Unlimited video visits and follow-ups

Cat subtleties and behaviors are often lost on their human companions. When spending time with your cat, you might notice they like to knead blankets, furniture, and even you. Kneading is evolutionary and instinctual, and cats prefer to knead soft surfaces. There are many reasons why cats knead, ranging from communication and creating a comfortable environment to the need for attention. However, excessive kneading can indicate an underlying anxiety or behavioral issue. 

As a pet parent, it’s important to understand and monitor your pet’s behavior. If you notice your cat is spending more time kneading, it could be their way of handling a fearful event. However, kneading can also be your cat’s way of communicating with you. Most cat parents keep their cats kneading from time to time, and this adorable behavior isn’t just to make you watch them. It’s perfectly normal behavior that they find comforting. In this article, we’ll discuss what cat kneading is, why they do it, and when to worry about kneading.

What Is Kneading?

Kneading is a natural behavior rooted in evolutionary instinct

Kneading is a rhythmic motion of your cat’s paws, alternating between the left and right paws to push something gently. They may push blankets, bedding, pillows, and your body when they’re trying to communicate or get comfortable. Some cats may extend their claws when kneading while others knead with their claws retracted. Cats may purr or drool while kneading because they’re relaxed. 

Why Do Cats Knead?

Cats knead for many reasons since it’s a natural instinct they’ve had since they were wild cats. There is no single reason why cats knead because it’s their way of communicating or expressing themselves. However, here are a few reasons why your cat might knead. 

Reasons cats knead

To Nurse

Kittens knead their mother to stimulate the production of milk.2 Kittens knead while weaning because it reminds them of the comfort they had with their mother and siblings. If your adult cat is kneading, it could be leftover from when they were nursing, and some cats never grow out of it. 

To Express Contentment

Cats knead when they’re comfortable and to show happiness. If you have a cuddly cat, you may notice they knead when you show them affection. They may also purr to tell you how happy they are.1 Of course, kneading can be comfortable if your cat has their claws out and is kneading your body, so you should put a blanket between you and your cat just in case they accidentally scratch you. 

To Communicate Affection

Cats often knead their owners to show affection and mark you as their territory.3 Of course, they mean to mark you in a loving way by putting their scent on you through the scent glands in their paws. Cats may also knead you if you’re wearing something soft and comfortable while rubbing up against you. 

To De-Stress

If your cat is restless, they may find ways to self-soothe. Cats may knead as a way to expel excess energy caused by stress. Cats find kneading soothing, and your cat may look like they’re in a trance because the kneading motion is calming to them.1 Cats that are anxious may knead excessively, which we’ll discuss more in-depth later. However, if your cat’s kneading is a symptom of anxiety or fear, it’s always best to discuss it with a vet. 

To Prepare For Sleep

Cats often knead to make their sleeping environment more comfortable because it gently pushes blankets and padding material from pet beds into the ideal spot for them to have the ultimate comfort. This behavior is passed down from their ancestors, who had to use leaves and grass for nests.2 Kneading to prepare for sleep may have been a passed down instinct, or your cat might be doing it to make their bedding more comfortable. 

To Stretch

Cats need between 12 and 18 hours of sleep every day, while some may sleep more than that.4 Cats may knead their paws to stretch and release tension from naps in the same way humans stand up and stretch after waking up from sleep.1 Kneading allows your cat to get blood back in their paws without exerting too much energy while they’re still sleepy. 

To Suggest They Are Ready To Mate

Cats may knead during heat as a form of nesting to tell males that she is receptive to mating. During this time, your cat may begin rubbing against objects, kneading her feet, and meowing excessively to attract a mate.5 Kneading is also part of male mating behavior, and it can get aggressive because males may become restless when looking for a mate. 

Should I Be Worried About My Cat’s Kneading?

Obsessive kneading can occur in stressed and anxious cats

While not all cats knead, it’s completely normal behavior and positive for your cat’s health and emotional well-being. Of course, there are some instances when kneading may indicate a serious problem. Along with excessive grooming, obsessive kneading can indicate an underlying anxiety or behavioral problem in cats, especially if they experience a change in behavior.1

If your cat starts kneading more than usual, discuss the issue with your vet because obsessive kneading may be a behavioral disorder common in anxious cats. Cats may also engage in other compulsive activities that they use to cope with fear or stress.

Additionally, some cats knead more than others, so if you have a cat that doesn’t knead and one that kneads a lot, it could be because some cats overuse this mechanism to provide themselves with more comfort.1 Of course, kneading is just one way cats soothe themselves. 

Kneading may also become a problem when it’s tied to other mating behaviors. Cats in heat may be more sexually expressive, excessively meow, become more vocal or show neediness by rubbing against you. You can prevent this type of behavior by having your cat spayed or neutered to help them live a long, healthy life while preventing unwanted pregnancy.6 Spaying also protects female cats from uterine infections and breast cancer and reduces the chances of male cats developing testicular cancer.6

Kneading can also become frustrating if your cat kneads you with their claws out since they can hurt you. While your cat doesn’t mean to injure you when kneading you, the behavior can get irritating for pet parents. If you don’t want your cat to knead you, you can put them on a soft blanket or pet bed when they begin kneading to redirect their actions to something they can’t hurt. You can also give them toys and treats to help distract them and get out any nervous energy they have that may cause them to knead. 

Never scold your cat for kneading as it’s instinctual; it’s not something they learned, but you can prevent it by redirecting their behavior to something else. Of course, cats can knead for all types of reasons, so if you want to prevent it, you’ll need to figure out why your cat is kneading and come up with a solution based on their behavior. For example, if your cat is kneading because they’re anxious, you’ll need to find ways to manage their anxiety and fear. 

Final Notes

Kneading cats may knead anything that’s soft and comfortable, including blankets or their owners. Cats may knead for several reasons, so it’s important to understand their body language. For example, if your cat is drooling and purring while kneading and seems to be in a trance, it may indicate that they’re happy or calm. 

While kneading is a natural and normal behavior, some cats knead more than others. Additionally, excessive kneading may indicate an underlying anxiety issue. If you notice your cat is kneading more than usual or they’re experiencing other symptoms of fear and anxiety like stiff body language or aggression, talk to a vet. 

Dutch offers telemedicine for pets to help you learn more about your pet, connecting you with a vet who can teach you everything you need to know about cat behavior, including kneading. Whether you’re wondering why your cat is kneading, or you’re worried they have anxiety, Dutch is here to help.



  1. Taylor, Martin. “Why Do Cats Knead? the Cause of Obsessive Kneading in Cats.” WebMD,

  2. “Is My Cat's Kneading Normal?” AAHA,

  3. “Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners?”, 14 Oct. 2021,

  4. “How Long Do Cats Sleep?” Sleep Foundation, 20 Apr. 2022,

  5. Bukowski, John A., and Susan Aiello. “Breeding and Reproduction of Cats - Cat Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Aug. 2022,

  6. “Spaying and Neutering.” American Veterinary Medical Association,

Memberships to keep your pet healthier

billed $132 yearly
20% off of all memberships
billed monthly

All memberships include:

  • Fast access to licensed vets
  • Virtual care for up to 5 pets
  • Customized Rx treatment plans
  • Unlimited video calls & follow-ups
  • Guaranteed low prices on medication
  • Free shipping on every order

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $11/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.