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He’s Not Jealous But…Why Does My Cat Knead Me And Not My Husband?

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Why does my cat knead me and not my husband? He may be choosing me because I am the main caregiver for the cat in terms of feeding and general interaction.

Cat kneading is part of a cat’s feline evolutionary behavior. The way in which a cat kneads a person, is a very similar motion to that of kneading bread and that is the reason that cat’s kneading is often colloquially referred to as ‘cats making biscuits’.

This article explores the reasons behind this behavior and offers insights into feline psychology.

Understanding why your cat kneads you can help strengthen your bond with your furry companion.

Kneading Begins At Kittenhood

a kitten kneading a floor rug

Why do kittens knead? Not long after birth, a kitten will place his front paws against his mother’s mammary glands and knead gently to stimulate milk flow. That makes sense. Cats develop this instinctive behavior at a very young age.

Why, then, is this cat-kneading behavior carried on far beyond kittenhood and in adult cats?

Another theory is that kneading is similar to cats marking their territory with the scent glands located near their paws.

This may also explain why adult cats knead soft furnishings and blankets. They are leaving behind a “scent” that marks your things as theirs.

A cat’s maternal instinct will lead them them to knead to make a soft place for a nest when giving birth.

Cats kneading is seen in wild cats also.

If your cat kneads cushions or other soft surfaces then this may become costly very quickly! You may want to discourage the cat from kneading soft furnishings if they are causing damage. We had a similar problem with the cat kneading/clawing the new leather couch.

Why Does My Cat Knead Me And Not My Husband?
The Cat Bonds With You
Territorial Marking And Comfort
The Cat Knows He Will Get More Attention From You
Stop Kitty Kneading In The Middle Of The Night!
Why Do Cats Sometimes Knead Air?
Why Do Cat Knead Right Before They Want To Have A Nap?

Why Does My Cat Knead Me And Not My Husband?

I know this feeling all too well and it leads to other questions. Why did the cat always sleep tucked up against my pillow on the bed but not my partner’s pillow?

cat kneading a soft bed

Another thing the cat likes to do in the middle of the night is have a good gallop around the house.
What is the reason for the cat getting up to antics at night?

The Cat Bonds With You

Cats choose to knead the specific person who is their primary caregiver. If you are the main provider of food, attention, and care, your cat is more likely to bond with you. You are the favorite person for the cat’s kneading, at the moment anyway.

This bond can be stronger if your husband is less involved in daily cat care.

It probably isn’t just the kneading behavior of the cat that is specific to you. It is the cats general behavior towards you.

Gender bias can play a part here, and cats will tend to knead women if you are the person who is primarily in charge of feeding and daily care of the cat. A strong bond is forged. The cat chooses to knead you as he sees you as safety. The cat feels secure in your company.

If your husband is not the type to participate in daily cat care, then your cat may be more interested in kneading you. There is nothing inherently right or wrong with this, it is just the way it is. I don’t want any husbands to be offended by this as I’m sure there are millions of cat carers who are husbands.

The Cat Became More Attached To My Husband Than he Was Before

When our cat developed diabetes, the feeding process that had been in place for years, changed totally. We had to suddenly adopt a strict time schedule for his meal times.

This time schedule was in order to give him the necessary twice daily insulin injections before he could eat.

Prior to the diabetes diagnosis, I had always fed the cat. Now, I had to overcome my fear of giving the cat an injection.

My partner and I started sharing the feeding process. He gave the cat the twice daily injections for the first couple of months.

Now that we are both feeding the cat, the cat has developed a far stronger attachment to my partner then he had before.

Territorial Marking and Comfort

Cat kneading serves as a way for cats to mark their territory using scent glands in their paws.

This behavior may explain why cats knead on soft surfaces like blankets, loose shirts, cuddly objects or your body. They leave behind their natural scent, signifying ownership and creating a sense of security and familiarity

Cats knead to mark their territory, and since they see you as part of their territory, they may be trying to mark you as theirs. So essentially, your cat is choosing you.

Some people don’t like to be woken up by kitty deciding that 2am is perfect cat kneading time.

When cats knead it is usually accompanied by purring so it’s a double whammy.

Now you are Awake, Awake!

However we don’t want to be mean to kitty by getting cross with him because he is just saying is that you are his safe place. He isn’t thinking about disturbing your sleep.

Even if the cat isn’t kneading you, he could be kneading the bedding or soft objects near you, then walking in a circle before kneading again.

This can go on for quite some time before the your feline friend finds his happy, sleeping place. Meanwhile your happy, sleeping place has gone for the night.

There are some things you can do to help adjust this behavior that keeps everyone happy.

silhouette of a cat kneading

The Cat Knows He Will get more Attention From You

Cats enjoy the attention and affection they receive while kneading. If your cat sees and receives positive reinforcement from your reactions, such as petting or cuddling, they are more likely to continue this behavior as everything seems perfectly fine.

Redirecting their attention to toys or scratch pads can help discourage the cat from kneading on your body.

If you want your cat to stop kneading you, try ignoring them when they do it and see if the behavior decreases over time.

Don’t underestimate your cat They know what they want.

Your cat simply enjoys the way you feel when they knead you

Why do your cats love to make biscuits or knead could be that your cat simply enjoys the way you feel when they knead you – after all, it feels pretty good!

They may also be trying to tell you something, like the cat thinks they want to be petted or that their food bowl is empty.

If your cat kneads you and then settles down in your lap, they are probably just showing you how much they love and trust you.

What if your cat pees on your bed? If your cat is unwell or a senior, that may be an explanation. Sometimes it may be your perfectly well and healthy cat that is peeing on your bed.

Can I Stop Kitty Kneading In The Middle Of The Night?

Here are two suggestions. The same basic principle applies in both suggestions.

Move kitty to a more acceptable space that has your scent and where he feels secure. How?

1.Put a comfy pillow on a chair or somewhere that is near the bed. If kitty starts being problematic in the middle of the night, relocate him to the pillow. Our kitty has a love of all things white, so there was a fair chance that a white, comfy pillow would do the trick. I can’t say it was successful 100% of the time but some mornings I was surprised to see that he was still there.

2.Have a soft fleece rug nearby, at the end of the bed. As soon as the cat starts kneading, move him to the blanket. If the blanket or cushion/pillow is one that you use, it will already have your scent. The cat will like that. In cold weather consider a microwave warmed heat pad (specially for cats) underneath the bedding.

While we are on the topic of sleeping and cats – Why do cats like to sleep between legs? You just want to turn over but the cat is in the way.

Why Do Cats Sometimes Knead Air?

Cats engaging in the behavior of kneading air is not uncommon and can be attributed to a combination of instinctual and learned behaviors.

While kneading is typically associated with surfaces like blankets or your body, cats sometimes exhibit this behavior in the air, seemingly kneading nothing at all.

One possible explanation for cats kneading air is that it is a carryover from their kittenhood. As kittens, they knead their mother’s teats to stimulate milk flow.

Even though the cat is not a kitten anymore, this behavior is comforting and familiar to them, even in the absence of a physical object to knead.

Kneading the air may serve as a way for cats to relive the comforting sensation of nursing, providing a sense of security and contentment. It’s a normal cat behavior.

Another reason cats like to knead air could be an expression of positive emotions. Cats often associate kneading with pleasant experiences, such as receiving attention, being petted, or cuddling.

Kneading is commonly accompanied by purring, indicating a state of relaxation and happiness.

When cats knead air, they might be expressing their contentment and the joy they feel in that particular moment.

Furthermore, cats’ individual personalities and preferences play a role in their choice to knead air. Some cats may simply find the act of kneading enjoyable, regardless of whether there is a specific object or surface involved.

They might engage in this behavior as a way to release excess energy or to self-soothe. Each cat is unique, and their reasons for kneading air can vary.

Why Do Cats Knead Right Before They Want To Have A Nap?

Cats often knead right before they want to have a nap.

When the cat kneads before a nap is because it helps cats create a comfortable sleeping spot.

By rhythmically pushing their paws into a surface, such as a blanket or a cushion, the cat starts kneading by manipulating the area to their liking, making it softer and more suitable for relaxation.

This behavior is reminiscent of their wild ancestors who would knead tall grass or foliage to create a cozy spot in which to rest.

Kneading before a nap can also be a way for cats to release excess energy or tension.

Cats are known for their natural curiosity and agility, often engaging in play and exploration. After an active play session or when they feel a bit restless, they may resort to kneading as a means of self-soothing and relaxation.

The repetitive motion and the exertion of their paws can have a calming effect on cats, preparing them for a peaceful nap.

When the cat kneads it is often accompanied by purring, which is a sign of contentment and relaxation in cats.

The combination of kneading and purring creates a soothing environment that allows cats to unwind and prepare for sleep.

It may also serve as a form of communication, signalling to their human or feline companions that they are in a calm state and ready to settle down.

image of a cat dressed like a baker kneading bread

A Quick Recap

Cat kneading is a behavior that has intrigued scientists and researchers for years.

One prominent theory suggests that cat kneading is a remnant behavior from their kittenhood. As kittens, they instinctively knead their mother’s mammary glands to stimulate milk flow during nursing. Even after they have been weaned, cats continue to display this behavior into adulthood, associating it with feelings of comfort and security.

Research has shown that kneading is linked to the release of endorphins, which are hormones that promote relaxation and pleasure. Thus, a cat kneads as a way to recreate the comforting sensations of their early development and to induce a sense of well-being.

Another intriguing aspect of cat kneading is the involvement of scent marking. Cats have scent glands in their paws, and when they knead a surface, they leave behind their unique scent. This behavior serves as a way for cats to mark their territory and establish a sense of ownership over their environment.

Research has shown that the scent left behind during kneading contains pheromones that communicate information to other cats, conveying messages related to territorial boundaries, familiarity, and even reproductive status.

Studies have explored the relationship between kneading and the cat’s physical and emotional state. Cats will knead when they are feeling content, relaxed, or seeking attention. It is a behavior closely associated with positive emotions and a sense of trust.

Research has indicated that cats are more likely to knead when they are in a calm and secure environment, reinforcing the notion that kneading is an expression of comfort and well-being.

Cats kneading behavior is very common and may happen at any time during the day or night. The person being kneaded usually takes care of the cat. It is usually accompanied with purring.

There are some things you can do to stop your cat from waking you up in the middle of the night with their kneading antics!

Similar to kneading but not quite, your cat puts his paw out to rest on your arm. This is quite deliberate and cute. Why do cats do this.

Firstly, try the ideas given above.

You could also try giving them a new toy for night-time playtime.

Petstages Nighttime Cuddle Plush Mouse Cat Toy with Catnip
They really are trying hard to work out why we do what we do. Love the idea of the heated pad. I will definitely stop kneading for one of those.

This pad stays warm for hours when heated. Pop it into the microwave. It can be used anywhere the cat likes to sleep. A cat window perch is an ideal place for a heated pad.

Snuggle Safe Pet Bed Microwave Heating Pad

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