The Real Deal: What it Means when Cats Knead
Cat owners are lucky to be able to closely observe feline behavior every day. We’re in awe by their reflexes, impressed by their accuracy, and inspired by their cleverness. However, one of the cutest, sweetest things that cats do is knead.
Also called “making biscuits” or “working the dough,” this action consists of rhythmically pressing their front paws into a warm, squishy surface (like your lap!). Knowing why cats knead may help their owners understand – and appreciate – the wonders of this feline behavior.
Taking it In
If you ever have a free moment, search for videos of cats kneading. It’s so soothing to watch these lovely animals immerse themselves so fully in an action that checks all the boxes in the happiness department. In other words, when cats knead, they’re transported to another time and place where they feel the utmost contentment.
That time, of course, is kittenhood. When kittens nurse, they press on their mother’s abdomen to stimulate the mammary glands. Their reward is warm, sweet, nourishing milk. For young kittens, the association between kneading and food is strong, and it’s also connected with the closeness of littermates.
As cats grow and are separated from their mothers and siblings, most of them continue to knead throughout life. Cats knead in adulthood and even during their senior years because the action is oh-so-soothing.
Cats knead when they feel comfortable and content. Usually, this occurs in the presence of their special human.
Some cat owners feel uncomfortable when their cat kneads directly on their body. Simply redirecting them to an adjacent but equally soft surface can make all the difference. Being careful not to punish or upset them, continue stroking and praising your cat to help them make a connection to a different spot.
Here, There, Everywhere!
Some cats are extremely picky about the way a certain blanket or pillow feels and will only knead on surfaces that feel good to them. Other cats knead whenever, wherever, and on anything remotely soft and squishy.
Another explanation for why cats knead is that they have scent glands between their front toes. Whether it’s you or a soft blanket, kneading helps them mark their territory.
Cats Knead Instinctually
Kittens who are separated from their mothers too early will develop a more prevalent urge to knead. Some cats will even try to latch on to something or someone while kneading.
Lastly, female cats knead when they’re going into heat, but scientists believe this is a bit different from the comfort-seeking type of kneading.
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