The Knead Need: Why Cats Knead Soft, Squishy Things
There are lots of curious cat behaviors, such as scratching, purring, and claiming every cardboard box in the house. But,kneading, or making biscuits, is probably one of the most endearing – yet perplexing – feline traits of them all. Sure, it’s cute and sweet –unless the claws come out, that is – but why exactly do cats knead?
You just sat down in your favorite spot (that is, Fluffy’s favorite spot) and are ready to relax. All of a sudden, your cat appears on your lap. They circle once or twice, looking for the softest, squishiest place of all. Sometimes it’s a pillow or blanket, other times your cat prefers to knead your legs or belly. For those who are unfamiliar with feline quirks, this may seem odd, but the reasons why cats knead start with their instincts.
Going Back to Mama
Every animal’s basic instinct is to survive. Kittens have to stimulate their mother’s mammary glands to get milk to flow, which they do by kneading her belly. Positive associations also flow freely as the kittens are rewarded by tasty, life-sustaining milk. Therefore, cats knead because of their memories of kittenhood, the strong attachment to their mother, and feelings of overall wellness and goodness.
Even adult and senior cats knead, an action that’s deeply connected to happy feelings and love. Since they never do this action when stressed out, take this as a hint that they’re happy being near you. The cycle of love continues!
In addition to the scent glands in the corners of their mouths, cats produce pheromones in their paws. When cats knead their owners or favorite object, they’re also marking their territory. This helps cats with boundaries and borders, and it can also help them find ways to get home (or back to specific places within the homes they prefer).
Speaking of Paws
A major function of your cat’s physiology includes stretching. Cats love to scratch, sure, but part of that has to do with the wonderful stretch that occurs in their arms and backs when they scratch.
When cats knead, they’re also getting that great stretch, and as a bonus, their claws can naturally shed the outer sheath. Kneading also helps cats break in new claws that are just growing in.
Not a Fan?
Some cat owners aren’t comfortable being kneaded. Instead of showing a negative reaction or punishing your cat, pleasantly redirect the behavior from your lap to some other object. Give your pet a nice reward, like a healthy treat, to further establish their connection to something else besides your own body.
If you have other questions about why or how cats knead (or general cat care), please let us know. The important thing to remember is that kneading is completely normal, and it brings about comforting feelings for your cat. They can self-soothe and bond with you at the same time!