How To Stop a Cat From Kneading With Claws (Guide)
If your cat is kneading you, that is one thing, but using its claws too? If this is the case you are probably keen to understand why this is happening and what you can do to stop it.
Why do cats knead with their claws?
Kneading is an instinct for most cats. This habit is usually started when they are babies because kittens will knead at their mother’s stomach as they cozy up to her for feeding. The kneading helps the flow of milk which is how the habit begins.
So, now you know why cats do this. But, what is kneading exactly? Does it matter if your cat was hand-reared, does this affect this behavior? Do they knead random objects as well? Keep reading to get these answers, and much more…
What is kneading, exactly?
Kneading is a simple motion that a cat makes by pushing its front paws alternating from left to right. It is the same motion a baker makes when they are kneading bread dough. You will often notice cats kneading at areas of the body that are more cushiony.
Other Reasons why Cats Knead
Another reason a cat kneads at you with their claws is that those little pads on the bottom of its paws have scent glands in them. Kneading at you helps them release this scent, which in a sense is their way of marking their territory in case another cat comes around. Your cat doesn’t want to share it with you.
Regarding the habit, as kittens, mentioned earlier, it is carried on throughout their life and they tend to pick this habit up again at times when they are most comfortable. This is why your cat often kneads at you when they are getting comfortable on your lap.
As well as this there are several other reasons for this:
One of the reasons that some cats like to knead is that they have long associated food with this behavior. When they are kittens, kneading at the mother helps to ensure that the young kitties get as much milk as possible.
While some cats forget about this in adulthood, most remember and knead automatically when food is involved.
As the saying goes, ‘love hurts’, and that slow and repetitive kneading with their claws is one of the ways your kitty shows affection. This is a little prickly-painful, but you should know that your cat is treating you to behavior that started when they were kittens and wanted to get enough milk from their mother!
You’ll see kneading behavior sometimes when your cat is settling into the bed with you or on the couch, and this is an instinctual behavior with cats.
In nature, they’ll do this with grass and leaves to soften the spot and make it more comfortable and this instinct has just been ‘transferred’ to smoothing out the blanket to make it more comfortable.
Just for Nostalgia
As kneading is a behavior that starts when your cat is a kitten, some believe that many cats are simply waxing nostalgic when they do this. Kneading helps them to feel safe and comfortable, as it is one of the first things that they do to get milk and more attention from their mother.
Kneading is sometimes just a ‘spray-free’ way for your cat to say ‘this person is mine’. Territorial creatures, cats view themselves as being in charge of the house, and that you are living with THEM and not the other way around.
While they are doing this, scent glands that are in their paws and on many parts of their bodies are secreting the cat’s scent on you. You won’t smell it, but your cat does, and it makes them feel more comfortable and safe when they are spending some quality time with you.
How to stop a cat from kneading with claws?
Since kneading is a natural instinct, you mustn’t punish them for this behavior. If you find this habit unbearable there are things you can do to curb the habit. For starters, it’s a good idea to keep their claws trimmed. This way it won’t hurt when they get the urge to knead at you.
Re-direct their energy
Cats often knead when they are starting to get comfortable. You may not be able to stop them from kneading but you can direct them towards something else to knead at.
A lot of cats feel comfortable having their own blanket to knead at, where others may just claim one around your home. A towel, mat, or cushion will work as well.
If you have all the comforting items that you can think of but your cat still insists on kneading at you with claws then you should try to distract them. Use toys or treats (Click here to see the price, on Amazon #Ad) and try to divert their attention. You can even move them off your lap and try to comfort them until they fall asleep.
How do you get your cat to stop clawing you?
If you want to get your cat to stop clawing at you it is a good idea to try to curb this habit from an early age. When they begin to claw tell them “No” in a strict tone to show you are displeased.
When you do this make sure you stare at your cat with a look that shows you are unimpressed, this shows dominance. It also helps if you point a finger directly at them.
You may need to remove yourself from the area and ignore your cat’s presence for approximately 10 minutes. This is similar to giving your cat a time out. Make sure there is also a clear opening for your cat to leave the room if necessary.
Another thing you can do when they begin to scratch is to clap your hands while sternly saying “No”. This method works well on aggressive cats, just make sure you don’t shout or clap too closely to their face.
Does your cat intend to hurt you?
Your cat has no idea that it hurts when they knead at you with their claws. It doesn’t hurt them and they associate kneading with comfort, so they assume that you are comfortable too. This is why it is a good idea to show your cat from an early age that kneading is causing you discomfort.
How should you react to your cat clawing you?
When your cat starts to claw at you always react calmly. Never lose your temper, especially if you had called the cat over in the first place. Instead, the first thing you should do is stop petting the cat when they begin to claw at you.
If they continue to claw at you it is best if you get up and remove yourself from the situation until they have calmed down.
One thing to keep in mind is not to try to comfort or soothe the cat when they begin clawing. This will lead them to believe that you are okay with their actions.
Does it matter if your cat was hand-reared?
If your cat was part of a litter then they likely experienced playful rough-housing from an early age. However, hand-reared cats missed out on that and it often shows later in their adult life.
They didn’t learn how to control their play attacks and can sometimes come off more vicious than they intend. When they become adults they may swipe or claw at you for no reason. However, they often give off cues before lashing out so their owners will know what they are and when to back off.
Why do some cats knead more than others?
Kneading is a great way for cats to de-stress. If your cat is home alone for long periods of time during the day then you may notice they knead a lot when you get home. This really helps your cat soothe itself, so you must take some time to give them affection.
You can do this by petting or brushing them. They may even enjoy it if you pick them up or cuddle with them. It is also a good idea to talk to them in a soothing voice to ensure they are relaxed. Giving your cat some quality one on one time should provide them with enough affection to help curb the kneading.
Can cats knead random objects as well?
Yes, cats will also knead on objects as well as people. You may have noticed your cat kneading on your bedding or a particular rug. This goes back to their instincts in the wild. Wild cats will knead at an area to create a comfortable area to sleep and hide from dangerous predators.
This is also how cats mark their territory. Even if your cat is the only pet in the household they will still knead at random objects as a way of showing you that they are claiming it. If your cat is kneading at a particular blanket it is safe to say that they are telling you that blanket is no longer yours.
Why is it hard to train a cat to stop kneading?
Many cat owners have difficulty training a cat to stop kneading. It may even be impossible for some. The reason why you can’t stop a cat from kneading is that it is an instinct that stems back to their early kittenhood.
However, you may have better luck if you try to divert this habit instead of training them to stop. It is in a cat’s nature to knead, so if they are bothering you try to get them to knead on an object they find comforting instead of your lap.
How can you protect your skin from your cat’s claws?
Probably the absolute best and simplest solution for kitty claws is to get a small blanket of sufficient thickness to keep the claws at bay. This allows you to pull the blanket onto your lap before your kitty comes to you and then for your cat to knead to their heart’s content.
A thick robe, pajamas, or even a sweater-thickness shirt are also an option, as you can’t always anticipate your cat in time to put the blanket on. Just be sure to go with a material that doesn’t unravel easily, otherwise, you might have to replace them regularly if your cat is a bit on the ‘kneady’ side.
Why is declawing not a good idea?
Declawing is not a good idea for several reasons. First off, this is surgery, designed to physically modify your cat’s feet. You wouldn’t want a doctor to remove your toenails without your consent and those claws are an integral part of your cat.
You are also removing their natural defenses and relegating them to live mostly on the floor. Cats are natural climbers and by removing these, when your cat attempts to jump to a high shelf or another prime area of high elevation, they may come crashing down and may very well hurt themselves.
A better approach is simple redirection and positive reinforcement. Scratching posts, kitty towers, and several other alternatives will allow your cat to have a ‘designated scratching area’ and when your cat wants to scratch somewhere else, a gentle ‘no’ and the showing of a treat will let you lure them to the proper place.
Once you’ve repeated this a few times, your cat will understand that you want them to do their scratching at the scratching posts and typically they’ll adjust their behavior accordingly.
When is kneading a potential problem?
While it’s uncommon, some male cats will knead and begin drooling during the process, becoming aggressive when you try to redirect their behavior. Females, by contrast, often initiate kneading as one of the signs that she is going into heat.
When your kitty does this, treats can be used as a distraction, and if your cat likes being brushed, lightly touching their side will often get a cat to stop the kneading and roll on their side to offer you the area for more brushing.
Spaying or neutering your cat can also help to calm the kneading down a bit, as it makes them less territorial and less aggressive. Odds are that your cat will still knead, but with a bit of luck and the occasional treat distraction, the problem-kneading episodes should be reduced to a minimum.