Why Do Cats Knead?

Cat kneading can be endearing, but when cats put their claws into the effort, it can become a painful sign of affection for owners’ laps. This often prompts one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to cat behavior. Why do cats knead?

Why Do Cats Knead

Common Reasons for Cat Kneading

Find here the best reasons for a comfortable kneading kitty when turning down their bed, marking their spot or displaying affection.

Kitten Comfort
Cat kneading begins when kittens are nursing from their mother. The rhythmic pushing and pulling of their paws stimulates the flow of milk from the mother’s mammary glands. The rewarding comfort that results from this instinctive cat behavior can remain instilled for life. Cats kneading on soft objects, such as bedding, owner’s laps and other furry household members is their way of mentally revisiting the comfort zone that they recall from their early days.

Turning Down the Bed
Just as humans turn down their beds and fluff up their pillows before slumbering in comfort, cats often knead their chosen snoozing spot. Your cat wants to fluff and pull together a comfortable nest in which to bed down for that blissful afternoon nap. This explanation for kneading behavior can also be traced back to the cat’s wild ancestors. In the wild, cats knead the grasses and foliage where they plan to sleep in an attempt to flush unwanted critters out from the bedding material.

Marking Their Spot
Cats have scent glands within the pads of their paws. When cats knead, they are passing their scent to the object of their kneading to mark it as theirs. Cats also accomplish this by scratching objects. This is why cats that have been declawed will continue to go through the motions of scratching and kneading.

Display of Affection
When your cat jumps into your lap and you begin stroking it, an exchange of affectionate displays has begun. You pet the cat to show affection in response to the cat choice to cuddle up with you. Your cat returns the show of love by commencing to purr and knead your lap. Cats kneading laps are multitasking. They knead to show affection, to try to prepare the laps for comfortable naps and to claim the laps as their own. Find out more about the loudest purr on record!

The Call of the Rear Paw Knead
A different kind of kneading behavior occurs in female cats when they go into heat. To signal that she wishes to mate, a female cat will knead or tread her rear paws while raising her tail and hindquarters upward. Once a cat is spayed, this behavior will no longer be exhibited.

Why do cats knead? The answer lies in your cat’s contented gaze and soothing purrs while it grasps and pulls for comfort. The answer is multifaceted. Your cat is attempting to make itself comfortable, to feel secure in the knowledge that your lap or the blanket have been claimed as its own and to give thanks for your loving, cozy offering by showing affection. In other words, your cat appreciates you.

Visit our Training and Behavior center here for the latest ins and outs on cat behavior and training tips for cats.

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