Why Do Cats Paw Before Lying Down?

Why Do Cats Paw Before Lying Down

Cats are affectionate and lovable companions with unique personalities. They also have adorable behavior that is sometimes hard to comprehend, such as pawing or kneading. Unlike scratching, pawing does not always involve the use of their claws. In this article, we will get to know the reasons why cats exhibit this particular behavior.

Why do cats paw before lying down?

Cats will paw before lying down to make sure that the spot is comfortable enough to lie on. They are trying to remove uncomfortable lumps so they will be comfortable when they lie down.  Felines will also do this to mark their territory as a way to tell other cats that they have claimed the spot as their own. 

Wild cats paw at piles of leaves or grasses to make a nest for their young cats to relax and sleep in. They will paw to create a soft nest, but also to check for prey, predators, and other threats that may hide in the foliage.  The pawing that you observe among domestic cats is an ingrained habit or instinct culled from their wild history. 

Outdoor cats paw the thick grass before lying down to make a soft bed so they can sleep soundly. It also serves as a hidden nest that provides privacy. They will also paw before lying down to remove objects such as sharp stones and twigs so they will be comfy and cozy when they lay down. They paw at the ground to make sure there are no small nasty bugs that may crawl on them as they sleep. 

Interestingly, cats will only paw on soft surfaces. They tend to do it to make sure the place can carry their weight. In the wild, soft areas are considered unsafe. Humans may also react similarly since, if you tend to step on soft ground, you tend to stop instinctively. If cats are on a hard surface they will not paw the area before they lie down; they will only walk in a circle or two before lying down. 

What is pawing?

Pawing or kneading is a typical cat behavior where they push their front paws in and out, alternating the left and right ones. Cats knead on pillows, blankets, animals, people, beds and other surfaces such as the ground. It is a leftover behavior from kittenhood since kittens paw or knead the area around their mother’s teats to promote the flow of milk. The behavior goes back to a time when cats were not domesticated yet and as an instinct to mark or claim their territory. 

Why do cats paw or knead?

The Humane Society of the United States notes that cats paw or knead as an expression of pure contentment. It could also mean the following:

  • Cats love your company.
  • Cats approve of your snuggles and are showing their contentment to you.
  • Cats find you as a safe and comfortable spot to snooze on. 
  • Cats approve of the bed you provided them and they are kneading it to make it more comfortable to lie on. 

Why do cats paw the ground around their food bowl? 

Cats tend to paw the ground around their food bowl to “bury their food.” This is an instinct among cats, especially in the wild. Your cat may have too much of its food and decide to “bury” it for later. However, since there is no dirt or grass to cover the bowl, the best solution is to make sure you place the right amount of food in the bowl for your cat so that excess food won’t go to waste. Reduce the food to overcome your cat’s urge to paw and “bury” their food.  

Why do cats knead on their owners?

Cats knead on their owners to express affection and flattery.  Kneading is a cat’s way of saying they love their owner and enjoy their company. Trim your cat’s nails regularly to ensure you won’t get hurt each time she kneads on your lap. 


Cats may paw or knead because it is an instinctive trait that is part of leftover behavior from kittenhood. It is also called “kneading dough” or “making biscuits.” Cats in the wild will paw before lying down to make sure there are no sharp stones and nasty bugs so they will be comfortable with the spot they chose to lie down. They will also do it to check for prey or predators that may be hiding in the foliage. 

This instinct has been ingrained even among domesticated cats. Cats will also paw before lying down as a means to “double-check” the spot and make it comfortable for themselves.

Image: istockphoto.com / 5second