Why Do Cats Knead?

Do you sometimes sit back when suddenly your cat settles on your lap and starts kneading? It may not even be on your lap. You might find them stretched out, squinting and kneading on a soft spot.

Kneading is when a cat stretches out its paws on soft surfaces repeatedly alternating between both of them. It is a common sight, but there are no concrete explanations for the behavior. However, there are a few possible reasons that might help you understand why cats love doing it. 

Maternal Instinct
Just like human babies, newborn kittens lurch on their mother’s tits when they suckle. They knead the surrounding area of the tits to get more milk. This behavior is carried on from kittenhood into adulthood as it often associates it with that comfort. However, if its prevalent in adulthood, it is not linked to feeding. Rather, it is a way of relaxing themselves. 

Creating a comfort zone
Historically, other big cats such as lions have been observed to circle a patch of land before sleeping on it. Animal experts haven’t conclusively figured the reason behind it. Still, they theorize that it may have been a way to even out the surface to make it a comfortable resting place. It might also be a way to feel for any potentially harmful objects such as thorns. 

Cats carried on this trait even as they became domesticated. They knead their immediate surroundings to make it more comfortable before resting on it. 

Marking a familiar area
Cats have specialized sweat glands in their paws. When they find a comfortable place and identify with it, they often secrete sweat from their paws and use it to mark that territory. If the area is familiar, kneading for territorial purposes is a cat’s way of showing its comfort with that area. However, if it is still unfamiliar, kneading could be a way of marking a trail to remind them of the location. 

The cat will likely settle there every time they rest as they look for other viable spots to mark. It could be likened to stamping authority. As a pet owner, you might realize that your cat tends to knead you a few times a day. Don’t freak out. The mittens like you. Cats kneading their owners symbolize that they like you and they are comfortable with you. 

Stretching out
Cats spend a large chunk of their time napping. When they are up, most of their body is usually fatigued from being at rest for long. They might knead on a hard surface to relieve of the tension in their paws. 

Ready to mate
Animal experts claim that some female cats tend to knead more than usual when they are in heat. Male cats are expected to pick up on this cue. When the kneading is specifically to attract a willing male, the female cat will follow it up with a distinct purr that cements that request. 

Seeking attention
If you have gotten your cat used to a specific habit like rubbing it, it might knead you to attract attention. You will notice that it will knead you more than usual while giving you other signals in accordance to its needs at the moment. Sometimes, the kneading is accompanied by other gestures such as rubbing their heads on you or purring in a specific tone. Interpreting this action may be tricky at first. However, you will learn how to take care of mittens’ needs. 

How to handle a “kneady’ cat
Kneading is instinctive. It can be destructive to things like soft fabric around the house. However, animal experts discourage punishing this habit. Punishing a cat for kneading makes it associate seeking comfort with punishment. 

At times when the cat kneads you, it might claw you if its claws are not retracted. Unfortunately, if your cat really likes you, it will knead you even harder and that can leave a few painful scratches on you. 

Invest in protective claw gear that you can access when the cat is on you. Alternatively, place a protective soft cushion between your skin and the cat’s paws to prevent nasty digs. If all else fails, regularly file its claws with specialized cat claw care equipment. Click here to purchase

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