A kitten learns to knead at birth when suckling on their mothers while feeding. A cat will knead on owners when he is feeling secure, relaxed and comfortable. Kneading can be curbed by redirection behavior, squirt bottles, scratching posts, bitter and odor neutralizer sprays and positive reinforcement to protect your clothes, skin and household objects from sharp claws.
When your cat is kneading on furniture or other items, simply tell him "no" and move him away from the item. Engage him in a game with a laser pointer or a feather wand to redirect his behavior to something other than kneading objects.
If your cat is kneading on your legs or arms, simply place him on the floor and walk away. Go to another room and wait about five minutes before returning. He will get the idea that this is not appropriate behavior.
Placing water in a squirt bottle and keeping it near the areas he likes to knead is another solution. When you see him kneading with claws unsheathed, give him one quick squirt. He will be startled and quickly leave the scene of his crime.
Spray items that your cat keeps kneading with bitter sprays to deter him. Cats do not like the smell of bitterness and usually will not knead on areas because of the smell.
When cats knead and scratch, they release scent from their paws onto the item. Cats will return to the same area to knead the item again. Spray odor neutralizer on items your cat kneads so he cannot smell his scent.
Pay attention to what items your cat kneads and sharpens his claws on and get a scratching post or pad. Cats who stretch upward to knead benefit from a tall scratching post, while cats who knead on flat objects, such as carpet or rugs, benefit from a horizontal scratching pad. If your kitty kneads on something, you don't want him to tear with his claws, pick him up and introduce him to his scratching post each time.
Never push, swat or yell at your cat for kneading. This behavior can make him fearful of you, destroy your bond and cause stress.
Offer your cat some nice treats when he is not kneading on items as positive reinforcement while he is learning acceptable household behavior.