Why do cats need to knead?

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Whether you think a dog is a man's best friend or you are a cat lover, everyone can agree that cats are cute when they knead. What's the term "kneading" refer to? Kneading is when a cat pushes back and forth their paws on either a person's lap or something like a blanket. Commonly cats can be seen doing this when they are in a state of ease or feeling very calm. I have always known this to be some type of instinctive behavior that the cat must possess but what exactly is the reason behind this instinct? I have a cat myself, so I decided it would be interesting to finally find this out.

A cat actually learns to knead right after birth. The kneading process is performed on the kitten's mother on her nipple because the pressure provides a flow of milk for the kitten. Of course, this is something most of us already knew but why does the cat continue to do it long after being just a baby trying to get food out of their mother?

The kneading is actually symbolic for the feline. The kneading reminds them of the sense of pleasure and reward they got whenever they were a kitten receiving the milk. This makes the cat calm and often they will purr while kneading to show that they are content and happy. The kneading can either be very faint where the cat is just pulling back her paw or it can be very large where the cat looks like they are walking in place.

I had heard before that sometimes cats who knead more were taken away from their mother's too early and they long for that relationship and sense of parental care. The article explains how this can be a reason but even kittens who stayed with their mothers all their lives still knead on their owners or on other objects. It has also been thought that the kneading may be from their feline ancestors who actually needed to do this to trample down grass.

Kneading can also be a signal for the cats. Sometimes cats knead right before going into heat to show the male cat their eagerness to mate. Also, just like how a dog marks it spot by peeing on a tree or a spot of grass, the cat can mark their spot by kneading in that area. 

No matter what the reason, I will always think it is very cute to watch my cat knead on my bed or on my lap. Now I know that this activity is not necessarily because she was ripped away from her mother too early, but it instead just shows their affection and calmness. Do you know of any other animals with similar habits? Are these also linked to a prior action from when they were born?

1 Comment

This was so interesting! I always wonder why pets do the things that they do. I have never had a cat but I know whenever I'm around them, they always seem somewhat mysterious. Obviously, a large amount of animals get their nourishment from their mothers when they are young, so why don't more animals do this kind of stuff?

I found an article, not sure how reliable it could be found, but the woman at the bottom comments and talks about how this could be a cat saying it needs attention...may be another explanation as well!

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