Why Do Cats Paw at the Ground?

Why Do Cats Paw at the Ground?

Cats paw at the ground to make sure a spot is comfortable and does not have any lumps. They also paw on the ground to mark their territory. This habit can also be their way of showing you that they are content, or they could be trying to cover something up.

If you are wondering why your cat is pawing at the ground, keep on reading.

Why do cats paw at the ground?

1. Cats love to be comfortable.

Cats love a soft bed to sleep soundly on. An outdoor cat may pad down thick grass to make a hidden nest, providing undisturbed privacy.

Pawing removes objects that are uncomfortable to sleep on. This includes sharp rocks and insects.

If your cat is pawing at your bedsheets, it may be trying to get rid of uncomfortable lumps.

2. It may be your cat’s quirky habit.

Cats hunt in the early morning, sleep for most of the day to conserve energy for the evening hunt. Choosing a good sleeping spot is vital.

Cats choose their sleeping spot depending on the season. They will choose a cool shady spot in the summer, and a warm sunny spot in the winter. Pawing on the ground is an instinctive part of the sleep process.

Mother cats will pad down a nest in long grass to hide their kittens from predators.

Pawing or kneading may be a leftover habit as a kitten. Kittens knead their mother’s breasts to encourage milk flow.

3.  They are showing contentment.

Pawing at the ground may also be your cat’s way of saying that he is content with life. Cats can climb up on your lap and knead on your knees before settling down for a nap.

Kneading behavior signals contentment and means that your cat loves your company. They knead to show you that they approve of the safe bed that you provide. They paw at the bed to make the comfort level just right.

Cats are happiest when they are eating, so pawing at the ground while eating can be a sign of that contentment. When he starts pawing at the ground while you are filling up his bowl with food, it is a sign that she cannot contain his excitement.

4. They are marking their territory.

Your cat will claim everything in your house as theirs, including the people and other animals. This territorial behavior is a retained instinct from their ancestors.

Your kitty has special scent glands on their paws, so kneading on objects and people may be their way of marking their territory.

5. Your cat is trying to hide something.

If you notice your cat pawing around his food bowl, you may be giving it too much food.

Cats will instinctually hide any leftover food and try to bury it in the ground. This is instinctive feline behavior for concealing food from predators or saving the meal for a later time. This is called “food caching”, and is a behavior that house cats share with their big cat cousins.

If your cat does not like the food they might want to bury it. Your cat may do this even if there is no food in front of him.

Try to give your cat less food, this will help him overcome the urge to bury his food.

6. Your cat may have a private reason for pawing at the ground.

Cats like to go number one and number two in private. They prefer to do their business before they lie down to sleep.

An outdoor cat will dig a hole in the ground which they will cover up once they are finished. Indoor cats use the litter box and cover it up once they finish as well.

Cats cover their poop because their instinct tells them to hide it from predators. They could also do this to show a dominant cat in the household that they are not challenging them.

Try to observe your indoor cat’s covering-up behavior in their litter box. They will dig a hole, then cover it up after using it. If your cat is not covering, your litter box may be too small, too dirty, or they could be letting your other pets know that he is the boss of the house. A dominant cat rarely buries its poop. They like to leave it exposed as a message that this territory is theirs.

How to stop your cat from pawing or kneading the floor

Pawing and kneading are not harmful behaviors. But it may become annoying and can lead to cats ripping up paper or damaging carpets. If your cat kneads and you would like to manage it, here are some steps you could take:

  • Place food on a hard surface, away from items made out of materials that can be damaged or dragged over to cover the bowl
  • Supervise your cat’s meals. Remove the bowl when he is finished eating.
  • If your cat starts to paw the floor, distract him with a toy.
  • Avoid leaving out dry cat food as it may encourage pawing.
  • Do not punish your cat for kneading, it is a natural behavior that is not harmful.


Your cat is pawing or kneading the ground because it is trying to create a nest to lie down on for a nap. They are pawing on the area to fix lumps and to remove any objects that might not be comfortable to sleep on.

A cat might also be marking his territory when it kneads by rubbing the scent glands on his paws over surfaces, people, and animals he wants to claim for himself.

Cats knead when they are content with their current situation as well as when they are expecting a positive experience, like getting food. They may also paw at the ground as an instinct to bury leftover food and their poop.

Image: istockphoto.com / fusaromike