The mysterious, delightful, and quirky behavior of cats fascinates the human owner. The funny motion of a cat pushing forward its paws mimics the kneading of dough. It is almost comical watching a cat do so because they try to manipulate both their front and rear limbs while being seemingly zoned out.
You may notice that the cat is equally delighted in this moment of paddling and massage. The weird dance ritual could be that the cat is a professional masseuse, at least in the feline community. Why do cats need to do this? Is it a mechanical and biological motion? Or merely an instinctive behavioral normality? We can understand the phenomena by understanding the entirety of kneading.
What is kneading?
This is a repetitive action of a cat pushing its paws into a soft surface, while alternating paws. They may extend their claws as they push down and retract them as they pull back. They can knead on anything that fits the desired texture, such as your lap, blankets, carpets, or the couch.
Some cats knead with the forepaws while others use all fours. The smooth collaborative motion encourages drowsiness that leads to possible sleep. The only downside of a kneading cat is that it may hurt you if it kneads on your body.
Why do cats knead?
One theory states that the instinct to knead stems from the wild ancient days of cats. Wild cats had to build nesting places with leaves and grass, especially after birth or a hectic day of hunting. This spot is where the cat would regroup their strength and settle down to sleep. This theory may be correct because female cats tend to knead more than males.
The practice is evident in kittens shortly after they are born, as well as grown adults. They often do so after the following conditions:
- Indicates a nudge to relax after a stressful situation
- Stimulates extra production of milk from the mammary glands of a new mother
Why do cats knead their owners?
A cat’s favorite place is on your lap. Some cats cannot get onto the lap of other people and will often prefer their owners, or one person in the house. Additionally, the cat will seem to enjoy kneading when you have on a particular sweater, shawl, or fabric. Why do cats do this? Are they a professional masseuse for the owner?
Kneading is a distinct feline behavior that relates to feelings of joy, security, calmness, and comfort. A cat kneading on you means that they are most comfortable with your presence and closeness than they are with other people. This condition means that the cat has a stronger bond with the person than with other people.
Cats prefer to knead on people who take care of their daily life. They will, therefore, incline towards getting close with anyone who grooms them and cleans or replaces their litter box. They will also have a better trust bond with people who feed them on a regular and takes time to participate in playful games.
Taking care of a cat’s needs is the equivalent of acting like the mother. It makes sense that they will replace the original maternal essence with your caring. This is true because kittens will need their mothers when they need milk. Kneading you is a way of expressing their need for you as a mother.
Cats prefer a calm and graceful life. Some are the complete opposite of a cat’s favorite relaxation spot because they squirm and move a lot. The cat feels that the person cannot hold still for them to hop on and go about the kneading process. Movement is a considerable possibility why your cat may prefer to knead on a motionless object or the most docile person of the household.
Cats are the most luxurious common domestic animals. They prefer the more exquisite selections of life and will opt for something that will not irritate their senses. Your cat may knead only when you have a specific sweater or shirt. They will, however, replace you with the couch when you wear the rougher jacket.
Most cats will hop on a female human, and overlook the men or boys. The gender bias is due to the collectiveness of all other reasons mentioned above. The women will most likely do the feeding, grooming, and cleaning. They may also have a more relaxed demeanor, hence foster an increased chance to be chosen as a kneading spot. It is safe to conclude that gender bias is an illusion.
Why do cats lick while kneading?
Suckling on a blanket while kneading is a little different from just kneading. The behavior is similar to when a child suckle a thumb. Cats cannot suckle their paws, nor can they suckle a pacifier. Suckling a blanket is a way of replicating normal kitten behavior.
The suckling adds extra comfort and calmness. It is most common among cats that are separated from their mothers too soon. The warmth is an additional perk, which increases the feeding sensation.
Have you noticed that your cat prefers the newly cleaned laundry as a nest? Cats are more likely to suck on a blanket that is fresh and clean.
How does science explain kneading?
As earlier stated, kneading begins at infancy, with the function to stimulate the production of milk. Continuation of the habit is a juvenile act that does not always mean it is time to ask for some milk. Humans have plenty of names for this adult kneading behavior, including ‘pussyfooting,’ ‘milk treading,’ and ‘making biscuits.’ Milk treading is a phrase created by the famous zoologist Desmond Morris.
Science explains that kneading is one of the cat behaviors that seem to have alteration due to interference by human behavior. It would not be the first because cats have learned the perfect art of weaving their behavior around the resources and services they can get from humans.
The ASPCA explains adult cats do not purr at one another. They, however, purr to humans, especially when receiving care and attention. This case is because the cats assume humans are weird overgrown parents who may fail at hunting but will always provide food and attention.
PetMD reveals that wild cats prefer lying down on soft surfaces. They also prefer to lay down their young ones in a small soft area. The wild ancestors of domestic cats would take it as a compliment if you took the time to prepare their sleeping spot, as it is a part of their genetic makeup. It is, however, not obvious why they feel the need to push and pat down the grass on the bed while they already have a comfortable state of the art cat blanket and cocoon.
Cats have glands of scents in the pads of their paws. They use these to produce pheromones that mark their areas of lounging or living. This is evident when you observe a cat stand on its hind legs and slide their paws on something you want to take away.
Observation also explains that cats will slide their paw on their favorite teat while they are still at the suckling stage. Human babies do the same thing and will pat the mother’s breasts while suckling. The difference is that kittens have claws and teeth, which can cause pain and harm to the mother. Kneading releases endorphins for the mother hence making the milking process tolerable. The kittens will always come back to the marked gland when nursing after developing familiarity.
Your cat may be communicating that they enjoy your company when they knead you without removing claws. It is their way of saying that they love you and enjoy your company. Have you noticed how your cat kneads when you give them a satisfactory petting? They will pet you back by kneading, as a way of exchanging open love.
Female cats will knead when they go into heat. PetMD says that this demonstrates the urge to mate with other cats. This kneading inclination will have the accompaniment of increased vocalization, increased affection, and begging to be in the outdoors. They will also play more with cats of the opposite gender.
All the scientific observations and explanations negate the suggestion that cats are professional masseuses. It is however undeniable that the pressing act is calming to both them and the owner. A playful assumption is that kneading is the cat version of massages.
What can you do when your cat’s kneading is hurtful?
Unfortunately, the loving act of kneading is potentially harmful to humans. This can be dangerous when the cat wants to knead on a baby. It may be instinctive for you to scold your cat for inflicting pain. Your cat is not aware that they are causing pain by pushing their claws on you. What can you do to encourage natural behavior but maintain a sense of control?
· Nail trims or installing nail guards on the cat’s paws is a way of making the kneading bearable.
· Your cat will find better comfort in knowing that you cannot tolerate an uncontrollable behavior. You can redirect the pattern by giving the cat an appropriate scratching post.
· Use a clicker to train the cat not to dig into you. Reward the cat every time it kneads you without using the claws, by refilling the food bowl.
· Spray or neuter the cat to prevent excessive kneading. Additionally, you will prevent numerous illnesses and unplanned pregnancies.
· Try to block the cat’s dig by using a soft barrier between you and the paws. These replacements could be a blanket or cushion. Slide the fabric underneath them every time they want to knead, until they shift their attention from using your lap, to using a piece of cloth.
Remember that kneading behavior is simply a behavioral and psychological instinct. It can be altered and tweaked to reflect the desired qualities. The cat should eventually replace the first learned instincts with the taught habits. You may surprise yourself after a couple of years when you realize how many stuffed animals or fabrics you successfully allocated to the cat.
· Encourage the cat to lie down and relax by stroking them gently while pushing their paws into something soft.
· Use a fun toy to distract the cat until they learn that kneading the blanket is better than trying to knead you. Do not use harmful toys like spray bottles because they will eventually turn into a punishment object. The objective is to transfer unwanted attention to something else.
One disclaimer while trying to control the cat’s behavior is that you should never declaw your cat because of a kneading habit. The process is utterly painful and does not equate to the causative action.
Professional way of handling kneading
Like most awkward behaviors of cats, entrepreneurs have discovered how they can merge their love for cats with business. There are too many solutions that will deliver the same results. One way is by using a soft and comfortable to handle toy – the Petlinks Floor Cat Scratchers cat toy.
A toy is a playful object that has a decent rating from former buyers. Here is what your cat will get from using the toy:
· The fun-sized toy encourages interactive playing when you pull the tassel and feather for a hide and seek game
· The catnip in the toy is an irresistible enticement for play and cuddling. It sensitizes multiple senses and promotes active play without bore
· The three textures of the toy are foreign to the cat and soft enough for extended use. The curiosity of the cat will not fizzle over anytime soon, because they will want to figure out all its exciting bits over the non-uniform shape.
An easy guide on the toy’s properties
|0.5 x 18 x 18 inches
|Target of use
|All types of house cats
|Number of items sold
|Manufacturer of item
|Quaker Pet Group
Petlinks Floor Cat Scratchers has affordable prices and will send your order as per the specificity of your instructions. Do not hesitate to reward your cat with as many play toys as possible from a trusted manufacturer.