Jeannine Young, of Dunedin, asks :-
Our cat sleeps on our bed but since we left him at a cattery for five days he has been "kneading" us at night, keeping us awake. How can we discourage him from kneading?
Mark Farnworth, an animal behaviourist at Massey University's Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, responded.
If this is causing minor disruption (but not anything serious) there are a few things you can do. Don't interrupt his kneading and it will all be over sooner. By putting him on the floor he has to start all over again before he feels comfortable. Also by touching him (and likely talking to him and stroking him as you put him down) you are giving him a good reason to do it again because, from the sound of it, your cat loves cuddles. Kneading = cuddles = keep kneading = keep getting cuddles. Ignore your cat and he will soon learn that kneading doesn't get him what he wants.
If it is a major problem (you are losing sleep, your duvet is being damaged etc.) things are a little tougher (for you and the cat). When the cat does it pick him up and put him out of the room without stroking him, talking to him etc. This way he will learn that kneading = not getting what I want. It's not easy to do this if you are used to your cat sleeping with you but, if he is quiet just leave him to sleep in the hall until he stops kneading. If he is anything like most cats he will miaow a lot the first few times (in order to be let back in), if you want to let him back in you need to wait until he is quiet, otherwise he will learn that miaowing = being let back in (and that is another problem that cat owners often face). Once he is quiet and you allow him back in if he starts kneading again you have to repeat this sequence and keep repeating it until he stops kneading. This can take some time so I suggest a few early nights to avoid losing sleep. Consistency is the key to success if you intend to train your animal to understand what you want (and don't want).