Cat lovers are familiar with the kneading motion their favorite felines participate in. It gives these furry little creatures a great deal of pleasure.
But have you ever wondered why do cats knead? It’s very unusual behavior that looks like they’re making the dough. But they only knead at things they love, like their owners, or their bedding. And often do it just before they settle down for a snooze.
Experts in cat behavior don’t know what the kneading motion is for but here are a few possibilities:
It reminds them of being kittens
When cats are young and feeding on their mothers, they make this kneading motion as they drink. This may be to encourage more milk to flow, or it may be a way of expressing pleasure as they drink.
So one explanation may be that the motion reminds them of being young and carefree, as this pushing and kneading motion is what they did to their mothers.
It gives them pleasure
The kneading process naturally induces a feel-good factor that they are addicted to, given the frequency, they practice kneading and their reaction to the process.
The intensity with which they rhythmically push their front paws alternately into their owner’s stomach, or chest, varies. Some cats look as though they have been hypnotized by a snake charmer, others dribble saliva, while some purr as loud as a motorbike.
They have the same reaction when they knead at their blankets, or at a favorite cushion.
They are attention seeking
How dare you be doing something other than stroking, combing, or fussing over your cat!!
By giving you a good pummelling with her paws, your kitty is just letting you know she’s there. Just in case you’d forgotten. After all, you are not the boss of her remember?
Your cat is just letting you know that she is not impressed by your lack of attention and so she kneads at you to distract you from your conversation, your favorite TV programme, or whatever else you are doing, paying her some attention. How dare you ignore her!
Kitty is doing what wild cats do
Cats use this kneading motion just like dogs scratch at the ground, or at their bedding, then walk round and round in circles before they lie down. Sometimes with their claws, to make sure the surface they are about to curl up on or go to sleep on, is soft, flat and comfy.
If it’s your stomach or your chest that is getting the dough-making treatment, it can be a bit uncomfortable though, especially if kitty’s claws are out.
However, it is an instinct, so don’t tell your cat off for this behavior. Animals in the wild do the same things to the grass, or when creating a nest’ in amongst some leaves.
Another explanation as to why do cats knead is: scent marking
Cats have scent glands in their paws, so by kneading at you, or their blankets, they are leaving behind their scent, to ward off any competitors. It’s quite a compliment indeed. They are just telling other cats: hands off, this one’s mine!
They are marking out their territory, preventing any potential interlopers from stealing their place. Another instinctive pattern of behavior that is evolutionary. It may look unusual in a domesticated cat, but it is deeply ingrained in their DNA.
Most cat-lovers don’t mind this kneading behavior as they feel it’s a sign that they are loved and, after all, that’s why we have pets, to love and be loved by.
Why do cats knead It could be because they are marking their territory, or because they are just trying to get comfortable.
They may knead their owner, or their bedding because the process reminds them of when they were suckling as kittens, and it brings back memories of being part of a litter. Alternatively, it may be for fun as it makes them feel good. Or, they could just be seeking attention from their owners, if they are feeling neglected.
The reality is that no-one can provide a definitive explanation as to why cats knead. Because they do is the closest explanation there is.