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Why Does My Cat Knead Me When I’m Sleeping?

Why Does My Cat Knead Me When I’m Sleeping?

Cats often exhibit behavior that cannot get rationalized by human logic. One minute, they are cute, innocent animals; the next, they’ll be climbing your window. Despite their frequent questionable behaviors, we still love them.  

Kneading is one of the behaviors that are common in every cat. Sometimes they will knead their favorite chair, bed, and even their owners. But why do cats knead their owners? Let’s find out. 

What Is Meant by Cat Kneading?

First, let’s understand cat kneading. It is a repetitive motion where cats continuously use alternating paws to push in and out of a surface. They repeat this periodic motion many times, sometimes purring while kneading. The cover can be soft material like blankets, sofas, pillows, a carpet, and even their owner’s lap. 

Experts gave this cat behavior the term “kneading” since it resembled the act of humans kneading the dough. We use the same motion, pushing into and out of the dough to knead it. 

Usually, cats don’t show their claws while kneading, but sometimes, they can display and retract their claws while kneading. Cats mostly use their front two paws while kneading, while some use all four feet. 

Cat's paws

Why Do Cats Knead?

Cats start kneading right after birth, and this behavior is part of their instincts, although the exact reason is unknown. 

Some reasons why cats knead are as follows:

  • When nursing to encourage milk flow
  • Following a nap, stretching their muscles
  • Trying to relax after a stressful ordeal
  • Preparing their place for sleeping or before giving birth
  • Marking territory

A few animal experts have suggested that this kneading behavior stemmed from female cats found in the wild. They think these cats used to knead their places of rest and territory among the tall grasses. 

Today, the most common reason why cats knead is right before they are about to sleep in their resting place. Whether it is a bed, a carpet, a cushion, or any other area, they use their paws for kneading their resting site before settling down comfortably. 

Another interesting reason is that they might be marking their territory. Scent glands are present on a cat’s paws. When a cat kneads, the action imparts its scent onto the material and place they are kneading. It is a territorial behavior, thus, marking that place as their territory. 

Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners?

Some cats love to cuddle with their owners. If you have this kind of cat, then the chances are that you have experienced a cat kneading up close. The cat will go up to their owner’s lap, often purring, and start kneading their lap with their front paws. Some people find this behavior adorable. While this may be cute for some, others might find this uncomfortable or even harmful if the cat’s claws are scratching their owner’s skin. 

We have seen in the previous section several reasons why cats might knead a place and it kind of makes sense. Then why do cats knead their owners? 

One reason stems from the deep-rooted territorial behavior that cats will often exhibit. What territory, you might be asking. Cats sometimes think of their owners as their territory when they have a unique and close bond. If you have such a bond with your cat, then it might be kneading on you to release its scent onto you, thus marking you as its territory. 

All kneading behaviors do not stem from territorial instinct. Wearing something soft can sometimes do the trick. Cats like to knead on their owners wearing soft materials such as a sweater, woolen shawls, a sweatshirt, or any other fabric. This behavior is identical to humans fluffing their pillows before sleeping.

Some people believe that when a cat kneads, it remembers its days when it was a kitten. When cats are born and start nursing, they knead their mother’s belly to stimulate milk flow. So cat kneading might be a cat’s way of relieving the security, warmth, and comfort from their days of nursing. 

Why Does My Cat Knead Me While I’m Sleeping?

Cat kneading might look cute, but no one wants to wake up from their sleep because of their cat kneading. Often, you won’t feel it when your cat kneads, but when they use their claws for kneading, you might experience discomfort or sharp pain. 

Let’s look at the top eight reasons your cat might be kneading you while sleeping.

1. Your Cat Has a Close Bond With You

Cat's paws

Cats are often aloof and insensitive to their owners, but some cats develop a strong bond. The bond reflects all the positive emotions between you, including love, joy, happiness, safety, comfort, and more. When sleeping, your cat might experience these emotions and start kneading you. It’s their way of communicating that they have strongly bonded with you. Your cat kneads you to express love, happiness, and affection. Cats will not show this behavior with anyone except the people they connect with. 

2. Your Cat Thinks of You as Their Mother

A good owner takes good care of his or her cat, so the cat feels safe and secure. The cat considers the owner like their mother and starts kneading you while sleeping. It is because when your cat was a tiny kitten, its mother gave it that safety and comfort. It would knead the mother’s belly while nursing. So your cat will knead you while you are sleeping because it considers you its mother taking care of him. 

3. While You Are Lying Very Still

Cats cannot knead you while you are moving. When you are lying in a still position, oblivious to the world, your cat takes this as an opportunity to knead you. Cats do this when they feel comfortable around you and usually knead their owners just before they are about to sleep. If an individual constantly moves even while sleeping, cats will not knead that person because it is uncomfortable. 

4. Your Cat Is Sleepy and Wants to Nap on You 

While sleeping, your cat might feel a sudden urge to sleep on you. It will start kneading you to make itself comfortable, just like it would knead any other place for sleeping. Once it is satisfied, your cat will curl up on you and fall asleep. The kneading process helps make the spot comfortable for napping. 

5. The Soft Material of Your Clothes

Cats love to knead on soft materials like wool and fluffy sweaters. Your cat might knead on you if you are sleeping with clothes made of soft fabric, and these materials are cozy and easy for it to knead into using its paws. 

6. Your Cat Wants to Be Comforted

Sometimes cats experience emotional discomfort and distress, just like humans do. Kneading is a form of expression and communication with its owner. Even if you are sleeping at the time, your cat might want comfort, and that’s why it starts kneading you. 

You should visit a veterinarian if the kneading continues for more than a few days to ensure your cat does not suffer from chronic anxiety. 

Sometimes, your cat will start purring while kneading you. It usually happens when your cat is pretty happy. Or it might need something from you like food or just an affectionate stroke of your hand. 

7. Your Cat’s Heat Period Has Started

If your cat is on heat, it will start kneading more often, predominantly female cats. Kneading signals to a male cat that the female is ready to mate by attracting his attention. Spaying her can prevent unwanted pregnancies, although discussing this option with a vet first is advisable. 

8. You Are Your Cat’s Favorite

Cats exhibit territorial behavior and protect their space by marking it their own. It applies to humans as well. When cats develop a bond with their owners, they will knead on them. Their intention isn’t to hurt you with their claws; it is just their way of expressing their love for you. The scent glands on their paws will mark you as the cat’s territory. 

How Do I Stop My Cat From Kneading Me?

Orange cat

Cats kneading their owners might look adorable from afar, but it can be uncomfortable and painful sometimes. Also, no one likes to wake up in the middle of the night to find their cat kneading them, and you lose precious sleep while your cat settles down to take a nap. 

If your cat is kneading you at night, you probably don’t want to resort to harsh words or be hostile with them. But how else will you stop them from kneading you? Here are a few options for you: 

  • Put your cat in a lying position: When your cat starts kneading you, try to lay it down. It will back off from kneading you, and sometimes it will start drifting off to sleep. 
  • Use some distraction: You can try using your cat’s favorite toy or treat to distract it so it will stop kneading you. Cats are easily distracted if you can capture their attention. Using your cat’s favorite food or toy will change its center of focus, and it will stop kneading you. 
  • Don’t bring your cat in your room at night: This might seem a little harsh to you; closing your bedroom door while sleeping will prevent your cat from getting inside. If you are worried, you can leave your blankets and pillows outside where your cat will sleep. This way, it will still have a comfortable space to sleep with your scent.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We presented several reasons why my cat kneads me while I’m sleeping. You may have a few questions in your mind that we will answer in this section.

1. Is Cat Kneading Normal Behavior?

Yes, kneading is normal behavior for cats. All cats knead whatever breed of cat you own, whether they are the distant type or the cuddly type. Animal experts believe it is a trait passed down from wild cats to domestic cats when cats knead a place to mark it as their territory.

2. Does Cat Kneading Mean It Is Showing Affection?

Yes, some experts believe that kneading is a way of your cat showing its affection for you. There is no other way for it to communicate with you, so it expresses itself through kneading. If your cat is calm and peaceful while kneading you, it is probably affectionate with you.

3. Why Does My Cat Purr While Kneading?

Cats knead and purr when they feel happy, safe, and well looked after. When a cat kneads to show its affection, it can also purr. It is perfectly normal behavior, telling you that your cat is happy and content.

4. What Is Obsessive Kneading?

Although kneading is a natural behavior of cats, sometimes cats start kneading excessively. The obsessive kneading behavior might be manifesting as a response to some hidden stress or anxiety. In such instances, you should consult a vet. Observe your cat’s behaviors and see if you can determine the source of its stress and behavioral changes.

5. Why Does My Cat Knead Before It Sleeps?

Cats tend to knead the place they will sleep to make it comfortable for them, just like we fluff our pillows or blankets before sleeping, and it also helps them feel more relaxed.


Cat kneading is an instinctive, expected behavior. In order to make the place more comfortable, cats knead it before sleeping. Sometimes, they knead a place to mark it as their territory by using the scent glands in their paws to leave their scent in that place, thus marking it as their own. In order to stimulate milk production, kittens rub their mothers’ bellies while nursing. There are various reasons why cats knead. Some cats knead their owners while they are sleeping. Many people have scratched their heads, wondering why my cat kneads me while I’m sleeping?

When cats have strong bonds with their owners, they often knead them, showing that they feel safe, secure, and loved. Or you might be your cat’s favorite person in the house, so it comes up to you at night and starts kneading you, showing its affection. If you are wearing a woolen sweater or any other soft fabric, then your cat will love to dig its paws into and start kneading. When cats are on heat, especially females, they knead to show males are ready for mating. 

Cats often exhibit questionable behavior, like suddenly jumping around your room at 2 am for no reason. Cat kneading is normal behavior, even if they start kneading at night. Some people find it very cute and fawn over their pets all day long. For others, it may be uncomfortable, especially if the cat is using its claws while kneading. If your cat does not seem calm or peaceful while kneading, then you should consult a vet and look out for any signs of emotional distress. When cats knead their owners, they often express how much they love and care about them. You don’t have to be alarmed if your cat suddenly starts kneading you. Instead, appreciate your feline friend with a loving stroke on the head, returning the love!