Why Do Cats Knead and/or Drool When Cuddling Up?

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Dear Rebecca Ann,

My cat seems to think I am a loaf of bread! She jumps on my lap and will "knead" me with her front paws, sometimes she even will drool. Why does she do this?


Hi Lisa,


Some adult cats will drool while they are being petted or while nuzzling into fabrics. This drooling is often accompanied with the kneading of the cat's front paws. This paw kneading is the same action that is performed by nursing kittens and it is this behavior that the cat is reproducing in adulthood. Adult cats that do drool/knead, often choose sweaters, coats or other clothing that reminds them of their original suckling environments. There, the nursing kittens kneaded their paws on their mothers, to stimulate milk flow from their nipples. The anticipation and smell of the milk caused the kitten to produce saliva and drool.

The reason cats drool and knead is in response to the warmth and good feeling they're getting from the petter or sweater, some people find that this is a behavior that they'd like to stop. This is difficult since it is so primal and involuntary. It would be like trying to correct a human being for salivating at a summer barbecue. If the cat drools on you, place a dishtowel on your lap.

If your cat is not a drooler/kneader as described above, then sudden drooling normally indicates a problem. The problem can range from to a chipped/cracked tooth or gum infection (the more common reasons), to poisoning or a object lodged in the throat. Try to check your cat's mouth and look to see if you can spot the problem. Maybe there is a splinter or object you can see and gently remove it without hurting the cat. If not, then it's time to make a trip to the vet and diagnose the condition.

Sharing in your love of animals,

Rebecca Ann

If you have any more questions about your dog,
please feel free to contact me!

Rebecca Ann
Domestic Animal Behavioral Specialist

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