If you’ve ever pondered your cat’s unique behavior, you’re not alone. From a love of cardboard boxes, to sleeping in circles, to pouncing on your feet, cats have no shortage of quirks.
Among these might be the rhythmic motion your cat makes with her paws, pressing in and out, as she sits on your lap. Also known as kneading, this behavior gets its name because it resembles a baker working bread dough.
But why do cats knead? Come along with Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital as we explore this question.
What Is Cat Kneading?
If you have a cat, you likely know exactly what we’re talking about. Sometimes cats knead on a blanket, a pillow, or other soft object (we already mentioned your lap). Cat kneading is a pushing motion cats make with their paws, alternating from left to right. Not all cats knead, and some do so infrequently. But most cats will exhibit this behavior from time to time.
Why Do Cats Knead?
There are a multitude of theories as to why cats knead.
Are you my mama? – The most popular theory as to why cats knead is that adult cats keep their kitten tendency to knead. In kittenhood, kneading stimulates the mother cat’s milk while nursing. The thought is that even though adult cats kneading a soft surface doesn’t yield milk, it still evokes the nurturing feelings of safety and comfort that nursing does.
The chosen one – Cats love their pet parents, and this is one way she tells you that. If your cat kneads on you, you can be assured that she’s showing you her undying affection.
Yoga cat – Kneading often accompanies something else that feels good – a stretch. Cats may knead on a surface to hold on to it while stretching their back, shoulders and hind legs. And after all that napping, a good stretch is definitely warranted.
That’s mine – Cats are territorial animals, and kneading may help activate the scent marking glands located in a cat’s paws. So when a cat kneads on an object, she’s essentially saying “this is mine”.
Making the bed – Cats in the wild make nests on the ground each night for sleeping. Kneading the area to tamp down grass and brush and get rid of unwanted pests before lying down is an ancient instinct. It may be that cats knead in modern times as a throwback to this ingrained behavior.
Love Can Hurt
Kneading is a normal and natural cat behavior. You should never punish your cat for kneading – it’s a part of her DNA.
However, if your cat extends her claws as she kneads, it can also be painful. Make sure her nails stay trimmed, and if needed, you can also place a towel on your lap between your cat and your tender skin.
If you want to prevent her from kneading on you entirely, move her gently to a kitty bed or soft pillow when she starts to knead. In time, she’ll learn that this is the preferred place.
If you enjoy kneading and it’s not painful, it can be a lovely bonding time for you and your cat. If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s health or well being, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!