I’ve written about why cats knead things and people with their claws before. While I feel that article does a pretty good job giving an overarching explanation for why cats typically knead into human tummies (and other body parts!), I also feel it lacks any real explanation on the topic of why certain people will sometimes be kneaded, while others in the family, living under the same roof, or even good friends who a cat really likes may not be kneaded at all.
As I mentioned in my original article about kneading, there don’t seem to be any concrete, scientifically backed end-all-be-all explanations for why cats knead. The majority of what we have to explain away kneading are theories rather than proven facts. When it comes to kneading choices cats make in terms of which human to select to make muffins atop of, the jury’s absolutely still out.
The theories I’ve managed to find are pulled from discussion boards on various forums where pet owners were discussing their thoughts on why they were being chosen over others in their cats’ lives. As a result, some – or really all of these – may be completely accurate or completely false. We just won’t know which theories are right until scientists become curious enough about the subject to study it.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t make predictions of our own! Be sure to leave your own theories in the comments below, and do tell me what you think of any of the following theories. Do some ring true? Seem unlikely? Which seem strongest to you? Would love to hear your thoughts.
7 Theories That May Explain Why Cats Prefer to Knead Some & Not Others
1. Cats prefer to knead people they are more bonded to.
Kneading is a feline behaviour related to feelings comfort, happiness, security, calmness and other positive emotions. If a cat is kneading on a particular person, typically it’s because he or she is bonded more closely to that individual than others in the household that he or she doesn’t choose to knead on.
2. Cats prefer to knead people who feed, play, groom and clean their litter box for them.
A lot of the reason cats bond more to one individual over others is because the acts of feeding, playing, grooming, and cleaning after a cat all for the most part make a cat feel more connected to that individual. If one person in the household does all the feeding, playing, grooming, and litter cleaning, typically it seems that’s also the person a cat will choose to knead on – if only one person is selected.
3. Some cats may knead only a single person – one they think of as their mother.
If it’s your role to do all the care taking for the cats in the household and you’re the one being kneaded on, it stands to reason that it may be because your cat thinks of you as an equivalent to his or her mother. Kittens knead their mothers with their paws to get milk when they are young, and so through their behaviour, they may be essentially stating with their that they think of you as a mother.
4. Cats prefer to knead people who sit still for them.
Some cats dislike kneading on people who move or squirm under their paws – and since kneading can be a little uncomfortable for the human being used as dough – it makes sense that movement would be a huge possibility on the part of the human.
If you’re trying to figure out why a cat doesn’t knead a specific person in the household whom he or she likes, it could be simply down to the fact that the cat feels that person will not hold still when they try to knead, or that person does not typically sit still enough in the first place for the cat to feel comfortable hopping onto them and beginning the process of kneading.
5. Since cats often knead before napping, they may knead people they want to nap on.
There’s a huge connection between kneading behaviour and cat napping. A lot of cats will knead almost exclusively before they take a snooze. I know my cat, Avery, is like this (even though he kneads on blankets rather than people – unless of course there are people underneath that blanket, in which case we’re game).
One theory of why cats knead in the first place postulates cats may knead because – in the wild – if they knead on a spot right before napping on it (like in grass), it would make that spot more comfortable. Since there’s such a huge connection between kneading and napping, it may be that the reason a cat chooses to knead on a particular person is because that cat wants to take a nap on them – so out of habit of kneading before napping, he or she kneads the spot before napping in it.
6. Cats prefer to knead certain materials (like fluffy wool). A cat may prefer to knead a specific person because of what they wear.
If you’re always wearing wool sweaters, fluffy shirts, or cuddly fleeces, it may be your cat chooses to knead on you because of your choice in clothing. One way I can think of to tell if this is possibly the case? See if the only time your cat seems to be kneading is when you’re wearing something particularly cozy for your cat to dig his or her claws into.
7. Some cats may knead only their favourite people.
Even if cats like a number of people, they may select only one or two, or a small number of people they really favour over others, to knead on. Favouritism definitely does seem to have something to do with cat kneading, though not everything, as you should be able to tell by a number of the other possible theories that might help explain why cats choose some people over others to knead on.
Picture from post This One
Things That Don’t Seem to Explain Cat Kneading Preference
1. The human’s gender.
While it does seem that cats will more often than not knead on a female in the household if he or she does not knead everyone, many cats knead both men and women in a household. The gender bias seems more likely to be caused by the fact that women in the household will typically do the feeding, playing, grooming, and cleaning after cats, and that then creates a stronger bond with the cat which can lead to an increased chance of being chosen to be kneaded on.
2. Liking a person.
Cats don’t always choose to knead on absolutely everyone they like and love spending time with. A cat, for example, may choose to nap and cuddle and spend a lot of time with a human being in the household they’ve never kneaded on before. Just because the cat doesn’t prefer to knead on this person, doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t like or love him or her, just means there’s probably another explanation for the preference to not knead on them, or to only knead someone else.
2. Overall level of sociability.
Even cats who are incredibly sociable will still sometimes be incredibly particular and not want to knead everyone they love interacting with. Some cats can be very choosy about who they’ll knead, and not at all choosy about who they spend time hanging out and having fun with. Again, keep in mind that cats don’t always choose to knead on every person they genuinely like. They may choose to show their affection to different people in different ways.
Your Experiences with Cats Kneading Humans?
What are your experiences with cats kneading humans?
Have any of your cats ever kneaded a human in your household? Has your cat ever kneaded you?
If your cat doesn’t knead you or anyone in your household – does he or she knead at all? If your cat kneads humans, how often? And do some people in your household get kneaded more frequently than others? Is anyone in the household excluded from being kneaded altogether?
Would love to hear your theories about cats kneading selectively in the comments down below!