Have you ever wondered why does my cat knead? Kneading is also another one of those unique behaviors that cats portray. It can be described as that repetitive motion when your cat flexes and alternately pushes its left and right front paws (or all 4 paws) against you or on a soft surface as if it is kneading dough like a baker, hence the term kneading. The reasons as to why cats knead are many, but can be narrowed down to a few main explanations.
When kittens were born they would knead their mother’s belly to help stimulate milk production so that they could nurse. This kneading action became instinctual for them, thus associating it with the ability to attain food and feel comforted. If you notice that your cat likes to knead your lap or legs while he/she is getting cozy to lie down next to you, it is safe to say that it is their learned behavior of when they were little of just getting snug and relaxed.
Another reason that cats knead, is to mark their territory. Felines have scent glands on the soft pads at the bottom of their paws and when they knead, these glands become activated and their scent is released onto the surface they are kneading on. That surface area could be you, a soft cushion or a blanket, Once again kneading is instinctual and whichever item that they have scent marked, is now their territory. For a multi-cat household scent marking does not cause a huge concern for territorial aggressiveness since most cats will usually occupy each other’s spaces on a regular basis.
Kneading can also be a trait that has been naturally and intuitively passed down from its wild ancestors. Cats in the wild would ply and push down tall grasses, loose leaves or soft plant debris to make into a cozy resting spot. All felines like to rest and lounge in comfort and will carry out the orderly actions to do so.
Lastly, some female cats will knead just before going into heat. It’s a way of informing male cats that they want to and are able to mate. This action is rarely if ever seen by pet parents, and more so if your female cat is spayed.
As pet parents we may never completely know all of the reasons for our cat’s behavior, but can continue to admire and be delighted by their personalities, intelligence and unyielding affection.