Contact Comfort: Why do Cats Knead?
Hot tea with honey, bubble baths, dark chocolate…we all have different ways to comfort ourselves after a long day. Cats also have their own coping mechanism: kneading. It’s common and perfectly normal, but why exactly do cats knead? Along with a batch of freshly baked biscuits, The Pet Experts at Springbrook Animal Care Center have the answer coming right up!
You know when it’s about to happen. You’ve just laid out your cat’s favorite blanket or pillow or simply just sat down yourself. Your cat gets that special look on their face as they jump up and begin to rhythmically press their front paws into the loveliest, squishiest material they’ve seen all day. Cats knead in cute and endearing ways, but this feline behavior can perplex even the most committed cat lovers.
Your cat’s basic instinct is to survive, and as a kitten, they had to have milk. To trigger the flow of mother’s milk, kittens have to – you guessed it – knead her belly. As a reward for this behavior, their belly got full and they happily slid back into their kitten dreams.
Many cats knead because they were separated from their mother too early, but most cats do it simply because of the positive, blissful associations that were cultivated with their mothers in the first few weeks of life.
Cats knead all throughout life; even senior cats do it. Since the behavior is connected to all the good feelings they received from their mother, cats knead on the people who make them happy. They never do this action when upset or stressed, so if cats knead on you, it’s a sign that you’re truly loved.
Cats Knead to Mark Territory
Cats have scent glands in their paws, as well as the corners of their mouths. When cats knead, they’re definitely displaying affection and happiness, but they’re also saying “mine, mine, mine.” Lucky you!
Stretch it Out
Cats love to stretch out their limbs, and when they knead, their front legs and back are getting a well-deserved stretch. Plus, the outer sheath of each claw can come off when kneading, enabling new claws to grow in safely.
Speaking of Claws
Some people don’t like when cats knead on them. Simply redirect the behavior to another surface or offer a healthy treat. Please don’t punish or scold a cat for doing what is simply in their nature. It’s normal, healthy, and related to good feelings.
If you have additional questions about why cats knead, please let the The Pet Experts at Springbrook Animal Care Center know.
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