Why Do Cats Dig Their Claws Into You? Here’s Why

Have you ever woken up to the feeling of soft paws and tiny claws digging into your skin? Or the scratching sound that signals the destruction of your beautiful rugs and sofas? For cat owners around the world, this is an everyday occurrence. 

So why do cats dig their claws into you, and what does it mean?

Why Do Cats Dig Their Claws into You?

You’ll often hear of kittens or adult cats “making biscuits.” This characteristic kneading motion of pushing their paws into a blanket, your lap, or any other object repeatedly is a common feline behavior. 

Your cat may dig their claws into you as a response to being petted, but it may also do it to get your attention. 

Rest assured, this isn’t an aggressive motion. It isn’t upset; in fact, far from it. 

  1. Kneading

Kneading is an affectionate way for the cat to express its love. The pushing and pulling motion reminds your pet of suckling as a kitten and makes it feel comfortable. 

They also have scent glands underneath their paw pads, so the repeated touching is actually your pet’s way to try and scent mark you.

In fact, your loving pet has no idea their affection is hurting you, which can often suck because the happier they are, the more forceful the kneading motion. 

  1. Grooming

Another thing your cat might do is reach out to touch your face, claws, and all! While it sounds painful, your cat is actually attempting to imitate your touch when you scratch its face. 

This kind of reciprocatory attempt to groom is a clear sign of affection. In fact, if you own multiple cats, you’ll often see them groom each other in a similar manner.

  1. Seeking Attention

Always remember that your cat doesn’t realize or understand that its claws can hurt you. Say you’ve been enjoying a cuddle session, and suddenly you stop petting your cat to answer your phone. 

Your cat may swipe at you because they’re upset you stopped and want your attention.

Regardless of the reason, you should never punish or reprimand your cat for this behavior since it isn’t meant to be aggressive. 

How to Respond to Kneading?

While you shouldn’t scold your cat for kneading, that doesn’t mean you have to sit there and passively accept the pain. There are quite a few ways to avoid the problem.

  1. Place A Temporary Barrier

A cat’s claws against your skin can be quite painful and even leave a scar. 

However, if your cat tends to knead when you’re holding them in your lap, try placing a soft barrier like a towel or blanket in between. And if you wake up to it kneading you, invest in sleeping attire that fully covers your skin. 

  1. Trim Your Cat’s Nails

The longer your feline’s nails are, the more it’ll hurt when it digs them into your skin, so keep your cat’s nails neatly trimmed. 

Or better yet, get it professionally done at the groomers. You can also purchase nail guards to place on top of your cat’s paws.

  1. Train Your Cat

Kittens learn how to retract their claws from their mothers at an early age. Depending on how long your cat spent with its litter, they may be great or terrible at sheathing their claws. 

If your cat is reaching out to pull your hand with its claws, you need to react appropriately so they know it bothers you. Try removing their paws when they use claws and rewarding them when they don’t. 

Why Do Cats Dig their Claws into Soft Objects?

Now you know why your cat digs its claws into you, but why does it knead random soft objects? Let’s find out!

  1. Stretching

Cats love stretching because it helps them work out all those kinks. 

You’ll often see your pet contort into any number of unusual positions, twist, and turn better than any yogi. Digging their claws and getting a hold on your rug lets your cat get the best stretch possible. 

  1. Cleaning

Once you push aside all the hair and take a close look at your cat’s paws, you’ll notice the slight webbing between its fingers. So when dirt, grime, or even litter gets stuck in between the cracks, your cat may dig into the carpets to get it loose. 

  1. Sharpening

Never forget that despite its docile appearance, your cat is a predator. Whether it’s a regular carpet or a scratching post, the repetitive motion helps your pet sharpen its claws and stay in prime hunting condition.

  1. Soothing

Kittens learn how to knead by pushing against their mother’s belly for milk. Even years past infancy, adult felines still associate that pushing and pulling motion with comfort and warmth. 

So if your cat is feeling unsettled or anxious, it may knead to feel better. 

There are a dozen reasons why your cat may be digging its claws into you or your valuable possessions. But the only thing to remember is that this is a good thing. Can it be troublesome? Of course, but that’s just part and parcel of being a pet parent.

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