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Pet Bucket Blog

Why do cats knead?

 by lucy on 24 Nov 2016 |
1 Comment(s)
If you’re a cat owner, you’ve no doubt experienced your feline friend kneading away as he purrs on your lap. A soothing behaviour for cats and owners alike, kneading starts long before our pets are independent adults, when they relied on their mothers for both food and protection.

Kneading describes the rhythmic motion cats make when they alternate pushing their paws in and out against a soft, pliable surface. Not all felines knead, and those that do don’t all knead in the same way. Some cats make the motion with their claws out, for example, while others never use nails during kneading. Some felines knead with all four paws, while others use just their front two feet. Regardless of your cat’s style, his kneading behaviour stems from his time as a kitten. Before they’re able to feed on their own, cats instinctually knead at their mother as a way to stimulate milk production. Though the behaviour doesn’t yield a tasty treat for adult cats, our pets forever associate the motion with the comforts of nursing. This helps explain why your cat makes a habit of kneading you when he’s feeling happy, content or displaying affection.
Cats don’t just stretch their paws when they’re at peace, however, and also use kneading as a way to limber up after a long nap. Kneading likely provided our felines’ ancestors with a way of bedding down, too, helping to work down tall grasses while scoping out the area out for snakes and other unwanted visitors. Kneading also served another role for feral felines, who used scent glands in their paws to mark their territory. In the same way wild cats use their scent to demarcate their property, then, so do our domestic pets knead to release their scent on surfaces that want to mark as their own— including their favourite humans. Female cats are also known to knead when going into heat as a way to signal to tomcats that they are ready and able to mate.

Though kneading is a sign of affection, it can be quite painful when Kitty digs his claws into your leg. If this becomes an issue, simply place a soft barrier such as a thick blanket between your lap and his claws. You can also try trimming your cat’s nails or using nail guards to cover his claws. Never punish your cat for kneading, though— not only does he not realize it hurts, but digging his claws into your leg is your cat’s way of showing affection.


Beverly - Comment
Beverly01 Dec 2016Reply
I enjoyed your take on kneading; I only wish I could share the pleasure again with my Siamese beauty, who died a month ago after 13 years with me!

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