• Cat kneading: Why do cats knead?

Why Do Cats Knead? 5 Reasons for Cat Kneading

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Have you ever wondered why do cats knead and why your cat tramples on their favorite bed or your leg with their front paws, as though they were kneading dough? If you‘re a frequent appreciator of feline lap warmers, you’ve no doubt been the beneficiary of the supplementary cat massage referred to as ’kneading.’ No, you cat is not attempting to tenderize you for later consumption. But why do cats knead?

From all appearances, it seems as though your cat were practicing to make bread! From the rhythmic way they alternate their paws you think they’d be decent at it too…but imagine biting into a slice of cat hair! Since baking is far from their minds, at least while you’re present, why then does your cat feel this need to knead? If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering this, you’re far from alone. Many people who have gone on to study cat behavior in depth have asked this same question: Why do cats knead? While there is no definitive reason, they’ve come up with some interesting theories.

Why do Cats Knead? Some Theories

1. The Iron Caress

Why do cats knead?Remember the times your cat is most likely to knead. You’re probably stroking them, and it’s most likely they’re purring loudly. In some cases, they may even drool slightly.  Clearly, they are in a state of deep contentment.  So, kneading may be a way of returning the favor.

Unfortunately, that feeling might be more uncomfortable than pleasant for you… especially if they’re enjoying it. Because the better they feel, the deeper they are going to knead – and if they’ve been sharpening their claws you’ll soon find out. To circumvent this, it is best to cover your lap with a thin blanket before they perch or to distract them with a cat treat.

2. Getting Comfortable

Another theory traces the roots of kneading to the wild ancestors of domesticated cats, who would knead grass to create a suitable sleeping place – similar to the circling dogs do before they settle in. So, if your cat is kneading your lap, just be patient, sit back and relax… because that’s likely what they’re preparing to do.

3. Nostalgia

A third theory draws from more recent history, specifically, your cat’s infancy. Cats begin kneading instinctually as kittens, when they are nursing, to help stimulate their mothers’ milk. Though your cat may be long past nursing age, they might still enjoy the comforting sensation of being close to a protective figure they associate with kneading. You can see this in the ‚far-off‘ expression they adopt as if they’re reminiscing on fond memories of being kittens.

4. Mine!

Kneading may also be your cat’s way of “claiming” you. You’re not just being kneaded; you’re being tagged – by scent glands under their paws. Think of it as their way of showing they care enough to tell the rest of the feline world to keep their paws off you. Yes, that’s right — your cat officially owns you. Stop pretending you didn’t already know.

5. Keeping Limber

Finally, a kneading cat may simply be a stretching cat. With power napping taking up so much of their day, cats need to take a break every so often and keep limber, at least until their next snooze is scheduled.

One thing is for sure when your cat combines kneading with solicitation purring you’re in trouble. While you may not have heard of solicitation purring, chances are you’ve experienced it. It is no surprise that cats have developed a purr that sounds similar to the cries of a small child, as though it was specifically designed to manipulate us. This is how your cat manages to get leftover food, despite being repeatedly told ‘no‘. And it works. Every time.

When all is said and done, the exact explanation for why do cats knead is not as straightforward as you’d anticipate. Then again, these are the kind of unknowable things we’ve come to expect and love about cats. Sometimes the best things don’t need to have an explanation.


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