Cats that Knead – Pet tip 180
Have you ever had a cat sitting on your lap and while you were petting it, and it begin to jab and claw at your legs? This is kneading. First, here is a simple explanation of how your cat kneads: with most cats it is the act of pushing out one of their front paws and pulling it back in, and then repeating this with the opposite paw. A more detailed explanation shows that kneading is actually far more complex. To begin with, the first paw kneads in a downward motion, and its toes are opened to release the claws. Then the cat draws the claws back in by closing the toes as it lifts up the paw once more. So you can see how this can prove to be painful for some owners that have cats with sharp, long nails, or if their cat is particularly strong and not careful with its nails. It seems that cats are more partial to surfaces that are softer and movable, such as a blanket or your lap. If a cat is on a harder surface some cats may still knead, however it is usually then exhibited as a ‘walking’ of the front paws in place.
Why do Cats Knead?
In order to figure out why cats knead, we will add another piece to the puzzle: many cats purr, and may even drool when they are kneading. Thus, it is easy to say that kneading is definitely a sign of a contented cat. They are trying to relax, and it makes sense that they like softer surfaces, as this is where a cat would usually try to relax or sleep and why the ‘walking’ kneading is more rarely witnessed on hard surfaces. There are also other possible reasons that explain why cats knead. One of these reasons could be that it is an ancestral ‘leftover’ trait, which they used in the wild to pack down the ground and make a type of den for them to sleep in. An additional thought is that this behaviour remains from kitten-hood, when a kitten kneads the mother’s teat to try and get a better flow of milk. On this same train of thought, some cats will go further and also suckle while they are kneading. They can suckle a blanket, a furry stuffed animal, or even your own shirt! This usually happens when a kitten has been taken away from its mother too early, and has not been properly weaned and thus retains these behaviours.
Still don’t think that your cat falls into the mentioned categories of kneading? It is possible there are other reasons for kneading that we are not aware of. Each cat has different reasons for doing the things that it does. It is possible that the presence of other animals in your house may be the cause of this kneading behaviour. Cats have scent glands at the base of their claws in their paw pads. This means that kneading certain objects or people in your house could be a way of your cat signaling to other cats and animals that ‘this is mine!’
Usually kneading is a great sign of contentment, and proves that your cat is happy. Since your cat can’t speak, think of it as its way of giving you a compliment. It’s like the cat is unconsciously saying “why what a great job of petting me you are doing” and kneads on you to show its appreciation.