Why Do Cats Knead? Everything You Need to Know
Cat owners are probably all too aware of the quirky cat behaviour where their feline pets actively knead their beds, blankets or even human family members themselves. Here, we look to answer why do cats knead their owners and what does it mean when cats knead. It’s important to know so that owners can be aware of what is normal and what is not. It is when their behavior turns into abnormal that observant owners can take measures to ensure their pets stay healthy. We will also investigate why do cats knead blankets as this can sometimes cause confusion in owners if they only expect their cats to knead them or other humans.
What is Cat Kneading
But before we answer any complicated questions, it is a good idea to highlight and explain what exactly cat kneading is in the first place. In short, the action of kneading, which cats so commonly exhibit is exactly the same action as humans use in the kitchen when baking. More specifically, it is when a cat uses its paws repeatedly to push a surface, left after right. It is sometimes seen simultaneously with other cat traits like purring for example. It can also be seen in some cats through the use of all four of their paws. In the main, however, cats carry out this action when they are at their most happy and relaxed, so they are often seen kneading while looking completely spaced out in the eyes.
Why Do Cats Knead Their Owners
Now that we know exactly what cat kneading is, we can investigate exactly why do cats knead their owners. There are several hypotheses as to what the answer to this is. The most commonly believed perception is that cats knead their owners as it mimics their actions when they were kittens straight after birth. In the moments following being born, kittens knead their mother near their underbelly to increase the milk supply that the mother has and to help the milk start flowing. This is actually an action or behavior that human babies exhibit after being born too.
So what does it mean when cats knead their owners specifically? It is thought that cats display this behavior once they are separated from the mothers as a sign of love for their owner. It is almost like it has become a reflex reaction that they continue to exhibit even years after becoming an adult. As a result of this instinctive reaction, it is not uncommon to see cats also dribble or drool while kneading their much beloved owner. In fact, they may even suckle on the object which they are kneading to mimic their time with their mother.
Other thoughts on why do cats knead their owners are that they possibly are marking their territory, with owners being part of that territory. It is therefore a protective behavior that owners see. Some advocates of this point of view argue that by kneading their owners, they are using another means to lay down their scent other than the usual cocking of the leg. Given that cats do have scent glands within their paws on the pads, this is infinitely possible too.
Why Do Cats Knead Blankets
So why do cats knead blankets that are already layered in their scent and do not need marking, or given a sign or appreciation like kneading an owner may well do? Well, it is widely thought that this too is an instinctive reaction that comes from when cats lived in the wild. They knead their blankets to copy what they would have done if they were building or making their own nest, or bed for the night. In the wild, cats would have made a nest out of leaves or grass. It is here that they would have slept and reared their own young.
Why Do Cats Knead? Final Thoughts
There are a few other reasons that cats may knead. Firstly, you may have a female cat that has gone into heat who is kneading you, her blanket and any other soft surface. In the wild or simply in an environment where there are unneutered male cats, this is a female cat’s way of alerting a suitor that they are available for mating. If this is the case, other behaviors may be displayed like loud whining or being very loving towards an owner or family member. Additionally, cats on heat also like to explore outside a great deal more and may make a nuisance of themselves by the back door asking to go out every five minutes.
Finally, whilst it is good to know that the above are all totally normal and safe behaviors, it does not stop a cat causing pain to an owner while trying to knead them. Cats have claws in the paws which can sometimes inadvertently cause distress to an owner – even if a cat’s intentions are loving. Additionally, it can mean that blankets or cushions can be ruined around the house that were not meant to be a ‘cat cushion’. The best thing to do in these cases is to distract your cat if you see him or her attacking furniture in this way. Or, if the object of their affection is your knee, try to put more layers in between you, your leg and your cat’s paws.
Cat’s kneading can be a great sign that a cat is happy and contented in your home. Knowing that what they are doing is normal can be a big comfort to any cat owner – experienced or not – as they only ever exhibit it when they are at their most relaxed. If you do see them kneading, you should congratulate yourself on being adored by your feline friend!