If we were asked which feline behaviors we enjoy the most, it would be a pretty long list. We really like (in no particular order) the butt wiggle and pounce, long, slow eye blinks that say “I love you,” chirping while eyeing birds through a window or catio…to be sure, the list goes on and on.
While every cat is unique, they all share certain traits that endear them to cat fanciers around the globe. However, few feline behaviors are more perplexing than when cats knead.
The reasons cats knead are layered but fairly basic:
- Survival – You know that feeling when you’re rewarded in the most absolutely blissful way just for being you? Kittens know that feeling very well. In the first days of infancy, they knead their mother’s belly to stimulate the flow of milk. This results in instant comfort, security, and gratification. As a bonus, the milk enables them to survive and thrive, nourishing them as they grow.
- Territory – A huge component of feline behavior hinges on establishing and maintaining territory. They do this by marking and spraying, or through kneading cats also claim what belongs to them (via powerful scent glands in their paw pads). As a side note, female cats knead the ground or a male cat to say that she’s in heat and interested in mating.
For the Sake of Happiness
Cats knead when they’re happy, never when they’re in pain, stressed out, frightened, or anxious. If you notice this behavior, take a moment to share some affection with your cat. It means they’re happy, you’re happy, and the love between you can multiply!
Many cat owners don’t like being the recipient of this feline behavior. Sure, if your cat has longer claws, this can feel more than slightly uncomfortable. Instead of punishing or scolding your cat for this perfectly normal behavior, simply redirect them to another surface while offering pets and encouragement. Over time, they’ll seek out another spot in lieu of your own body or clothes.
Speaking of Claws
Since we mentioned claws, it should be noted that another reason cats knead is to stretch out tight muscles in their front legs and back. When they knead, the outer sheath of the claw breaks off, allowing newer, sharper claws to grow.
We Love When Cats Knead
Remember, when cats knead, they’re simply heeding a primal instinct. Whether you call it “making biscuits,” “baking bread,” or just “doing that thing,” kneading is a lovely reminder that your cat feels safe, secure, and happy.
If you have further questions about feline behavior, we’re always happy to hear from you.