Why Do Cats Knead?

»»Why Do Cats Knead?

Making Biscuits
Giving a Massage
Making Butter
There are a number of ways it’s referred to, but what we want to know is, What is it and why does it happen?
What is kneading?
The act of kneading is the behavior of a cat that includes the stretching and pressing down of the paws on some surfaces, usually on a blanket or the lap of their humans. Some cats go through this process very gently, like a light stretching motion of the paws, while others go about this behavior in an extremely energetic way, lifting their paws and pressing with great pressure. If you are the recipient of the “biscuit making”, you know in which category your kitty belongs, and may have scratches to prove it!
Not all cats knead on their humans or at all. And for those who do, they do not all do it at the same intervals. For some, this behavior will be super common, while for others, it doesn’t seem to be common at all. If you’ve experienced it though, you know what it is, so the next question is…
Why the heck do they do it?
What is the purpose of this strange stretching behavior, and why is my belly the best place to do it?
Well, like many topics when dealing with animals, the answer is, no one is one hundred percent sure. We have some pretty good ideas but no one knows for sure if the reason is exactly the same in every situation. Here’s what we do know

1. Kittens knead the nipple to increase milk production. When the kitten is nursing with its mother, the stimulation of the skin around the nipple will increase the milk production and milk flow, leading to a happy and healthy kitty. Obviously, the kitten learns pretty quickly that kneading mommy increases the amount of dinner one receives, but kneading other things, does not. Therefore, over time, kneading is associated with milk and mommy, and therefore, kneading is associated more generally, with comfort and nurturing behavior. If your cat still continues to knead as an adult, it may be a sign of comfort and love. Your cat associates your love and nurturing behavior with the nurturing behavior of its mother while it was a kitten.
Two notes about this. Some people speculate that the kneading behavior is correlated with the age in which the kitten was removed from its mother. This does not appear to be true, and there seems to be no correlation from removal of nursing to later in life kneading behavior. Secondly, to further support this theory that it is a hold over behavior from kitten-hood, some cats will continue to “nurse” on items such as blankets, when the perform their kneading ritual. This further supports the association with comfort and seeing you as a parental influence.

2. Wild cats paw the ground to make a comfortable place to sleep. Your cat may be kneading partly because, that’s what cats evolved to do. In the wild, cats will pat the ground, or piles of leaves, and make a safe place to lay. This behavior may be partly instinctual and has carried on to domestic cats.

3. Kneading is a way to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands in their paws. When they press their paws down, they may be able to release some of their pheromones on to the object, therefore marking the territory. In a way, your cat is letting others know you belong to her and no one else!

So, whatever the reason for the kneading, you can take it as kitty flattery. They love you. They’re comfortable with you. And they get territorial around you and want to protect you. If you get a little kneading, enjoy it! It’s one of the few ways cats show their affection.

By | 2016-04-12T23:40:25+00:00 April 12, 2016|Categories: , , |Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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