Why Do Cats Kneel? If you’re puzzled by your cat’s kneading behavior, take a look at this booklet, which explains one of the most puzzling cat behaviors and what to do about it!
Why do cats knead? Cats are interesting animals, and many of their traits and behaviors can be considered cat-specific. Examples include the way they curl their bodies tightly together for naps and their characteristic after-meal grooming rituals. Kneading is another common feline behavior. Kneading is a behavior in which the cat alternately moves its front paws in and out from side to side. Some cats retract their paws completely when kneading, while others extend their paws when pushing in and retract them when pulling out. So why do cats knead? Let’s find out.
Why do cats knead? There are several reasons why cats knead. Photo ©Silvia Jansen | Alamy Stock Photo.
First, let’s look at how cats knead.
Before answering the question, “Why do cats knead? Kneading is sometimes colloquially referred to as “making cookies” because it resembles the action of a baker kneading dough. Cats almost always knead on something soft, such as a pillow, quilt, another cat or kitten, or even your lap. Cats usually purr contentedly while kneading, sometimes even relaxing their jaws and drooling. It is not uncommon for a cat to knead in a steady rhythm, almost in a trance.
So why do cats knead?
There are several ways to answer the question, “Why do cats knead?” There are several ways to answer the question, “Why do cats knead? There are different explanations for why cats knead, but it is definitely an instinct. It is thought that newborn kittens knead their mothers’ bellies because they want to snuggle with their mothers and stimulate their nipples to produce milk. Some outdated theories suggest that kneading cats were separated or weaned early from their mothers and thus continue their kitten behavior into adulthood, but almost all adult cats knead, regardless of how or when they were weaned. In answer to the question “why do cats knead?” it is more likely that kneading is simply a form of comfort for cats (although some cats do “suck” on the corners of pillows and blankets when kneading).
Also, the act of “kneading” dates back to the days when feral cats used to stroke tall grass or crushed leaves to make a soft bed for sleeping or giving birth. Over the years, this behavior has continued to this day as a cat’s pre-sleep instinct.
There is a more practical side to the question, “Why do cats knead? Cats have scent glands in the soft pads at the base of their paws. When a cat kneads, it releases a distinctive odor on the kneaded surface. This scent serves as a territorial marker, preventing unfamiliar cats from coming along and taking your territory. In other words, when a cat kneads your thigh, it is not only communicating that it feels comfortable and safe, it is also claiming you as its territory. (Scratching is also part of the cat’s instinct, and after scratching, cats leave visual markings in the form of claw marks as well as a scent that other cats can recognize.)
How to deal with cat kneading behavior
Why do cats knead? The question may remain, “Why do cats knead? If your cat kneads a lot, you may want to clip its claws to prevent scratching and snagging on clothing. You can also place a folded towel next to your favorite chair to protect your thighs when the cat gets its claws into them.
If the kneading motion seems uncomfortable, you can try gently pulling the cat to lie down and calm it down. Other techniques include gently holding its paw, petting it, or distracting it with a toy or treat. Pet behaviorists agree that it is inappropriate to punish cats for natural, instinctive behaviors such as kneading.
Some female cats frequently knead before estrus as a signal that the male cat is willing and able to mate. As the estrus cycle continues, the female cat will “meow meow meow” and eventually become loud enough to attract the male cat’s attention. They will also walk around restlessly, leave urine trails all over the house, become unusually affectionate, and assume a mating position (head down, hind legs up) when petted. It is impossible to stop these natural behaviors, and the best way to eliminate the symptoms associated with the female estrus cycle is to sterilize her.
Top photograph: Photography by VIZLAND/THINKSTOCK.