Have you seen your cats knead? Did you try asking your vet why they are doing such an act? We will answer your question by presenting you the reasons why they need to knead. Cats are exciting creatures, with lots of unique traits and behaviors that only they can do. Some of their unique behaviors include curling up tightly to take a nap or their distinct grooming rituals after taking their meal and of course kneading.
During kneading the cat pushes in and out using paws, alternating between left and right. Some cats knead without showing their claws while others do it with all their claws extended as they push in and draw in their claws as they pull back. The kneading motion resembles the baker kneading the dough, thus some people call it making biscuits.
Cats do this on a sofa, a comforter, a flexible surface, and of course in your lap. Normally, you can also hear the cat’s purring while kneading. Other cats may drool as they relax their jaw. It is not normal for a cat to knead in a trance-like state in a steady, rhythmic movement.
1. A Left-Over Behavior When They Were Just a Kitten
The most popular reason why cats knead is that it is a leftover behavior during their kittenhood. Cats start to knead when they were just kittens before they were able to get around on their own. During nursing, kittens knead on the area around their mother’s teat to make the milk flow. The kneading helps stimulate the production of milk.
So, why do cats continue to knead even they are adults already? They continue to knead soft surface even if it does not yield milk. It’s because they identify the motion of kneading with the satisfying comfort they felt during nursing.
2. They Knead When they are Happy or Contented
Adult cats knead when they feel happy or contented. Sometimes they knead on a soft area thinking that it is their mother’s teat. Actually, there are instances that some cats suckle on the surface they are kneading. No matter how you interpret their kneading, one thing is for sure your cat starts to knead if they feel happy, safe, and secure.
3. Showing their Love and Appreciation
If your cat is extra cuddly and twirled up and kneads on your lap as you are cuddling him, he is repaying the favor and informing you he loves you as well. However, there are instances that it becomes painful because the happier he gets the harder he will dig in his sharp claws. There are ways you can allow your cat to knead on your lap without making your legs turns into raw dough:
• Place a thick, soft barrier between your lap and the cat. By doing this, you can save your legs from getting hurt.
• If you feel that his kneading is becoming intense position your cat on his back and pet his belly instead. In case you got hurt, do not punish your cat from doing this, he is not aware that it hurts.
• Keeping your cats’ nails trimmed is the best solution. So anytime, the cat kneads you don’t have to worry of getting hurt.
4. To Keep Themselves Supple and Limber
Felines are natural yoga masters and they love to work out on their kinks in their bodies that lead from keeping in one position for too long. One way to keep them limber and supple is by kneading.
5. Check the Grounds and Create a Comfortable Place to Lay Down
Cat’s ancestors love to lay down on soft, cozy surfaces to sleep or give birth to their kittens. By kneading down on tall grass or leaves, cats were able to create a comfy spot to lie down in, and probably to check the ground for unwanted visitors loitering under the foliage.
6. To Instill their Scent
Cats are territorial animals, and one way of protecting their area is to instill their scent. By kneading their claws into the surface of an area, they are stimulating their scent glands located in their soft pads on the bottom of their paws, thus making that item their property.
Cats have scent glands that most cat owners are not aware of. One example is on top of their eyebrows. This is one reason also why they love to rub their foreheads on your legs and furniture because they instill their scent all over the surface to tell other cats that this is their territory. Humans cannot smell this scent of course as we do not have a sharp sense of smell like they do. You might not know this but your home and your legs are smeared with your cat’s scent.
Cat’s paws are known to have scent glands. So, one theory goes that cats knead to release the scent in these glands on their paws. It is their way of claiming territory. Some think it’s cute but others find it creepy.
7. A Way of Flirting
This is not common, but it does happen. This is common only in female cats. They are known to knead their paws before going into estrus – which means going into heat. Female cats knead to show male cats that she wants to mate.
One thing is for sure, if your cats combine kneading with solicitation purring, you are in trouble. If you don’t know or you are not aware of what solicitation purring is, there is a possibility you have experienced it already. The sound of solicitation purring is the cry of a human baby. If you hear this, it means that your cat wants to lick on your cereal bowl. And it works with many all the time.
Cats have many unique and funny behavioral traits and kneading is one of them. Kneading is not only specific to certain breeds of cats. All cats do this and you cannot stop them from doing it. So, even if these are some of the more common ideas for why cats knead, it definitely does not provide all the possible reasons. For instance, some cats knead before they are about to take a nap. It does not matter what the reasons why cat kneads, one thing is for sure kneading is a natural, common, and instinctual behavior.
Sarah Keene is the founder of Themeowthing where she writes about the various cat breeds, kitty pet care & health advice, training tips, reviews of cat products, and any other issues that you might love to know about cats.