As I lay in bed the other night petting my feline companions, I was enjoying the “massage” that I was receiving from one of my cats. This “massage” that I am referring to is the feline habit of kneading, which, if you have a cat, you’ve probably seen yourself.
So it got me thinking, “Why do cats knead?”. Perhaps this is a question you too have asked.
Kneading is a very common behavior among both adults and younger cats, and there are many various reasons for doing so. However, cats start kneading right after they are born in most cases.
There are also other reasons why our feline friends habitually knead including ancestral reasons, marking their territory, and showing love and happiness to their human companions.
What is Cat Kneading?
Kneading is when cats repeatedly push and pull their front paws alternately kind of like kneading bread dough. The paws exert downward pressure while opening and closing the front claws. This is usually done in intervals of half a second to three seconds depending on the cat. Kneading is also often done right before they take a little cat nap.
Why Does Your Cat Knead You?
Simply put, cats knead their human companions because they are showing love and affection. Often times when I am petting my cats, they will reciprocate back with a ritual of kneading my leg, arm, or belly. While they are busy kneading me, they are often purring as well.
Sometimes their kneading hurts a little, but I just endure the little pain there is because they don’t understand that their affection may hurt. They’re just cats, after all.
Cats may also knead you and me because they are simply content with life at the moment or because they are marking their territory, as if to say, “Hey, this is my human companion! Back off!”.
Female Cats Knead When They’re In Heat
Female cats that have not been spayed will often start kneading right before they go into heat. This is a fairly common behavior.
When a female cat kneads, she is letting the male cats in the neighborhood know that she is ready and willing to mate. However, I have noticed that my female cats really do not knead before going into heat, or if they do, I simply do not notice the behavior.
Marking Territory With Kneading
Cats will also engage in kneading to mark their territory. And as stated above, this territory can be their human companions.
Believe it or not, cats actually have scent glands on the bottom of their paws, in the soft little pads.
When they knead, some of those scent atoms are left on the surface that they are kneading on. In fact, when I am laying in bed at night, my cats may very well be marking their territory on my body.
Ancestral and Instinct Kneading
Another reason cats may knead is that they do so because it’s in their genes so to speak. Ancestral cats were known to knead the grass or foliage they used to sleep and give birth in. They did this to get their bed ready for them to get cozy in.
To summarize, cats knead for various reasons, including showing love and affection and marking their territory, as well as having ancestral reasons to do so.
Cats will knead almost anything that is soft including blankets, pillows, and their human parents. Either way, cats are interesting and mysterious creatures, which is why I love my cats sooooo much!