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Why Do Cats Knead

Knowing why cats knead can help you discern this baffling cat behavior and help you understand your cat. Read on to know more about why cats knead and the behavior itself.
It is a sign of pure contentment as your cat lies in your lap and pushes and pulls out its front paws while drooling and purring. Kneading is a common cat behavior observed in your feline friends as the cat exerts firm downwards pressure with its paw, opening its toes to expose its claws, then closes its claws as it lifts its paw. The process is repeated with alternate paws at one to two second intervals.

The kneading in cats can be painful for you, especially, when there are those sharp claws to contend with. The deep seated need to knead the cat bed, cushions, blankets or even your lap is because of a trait that the cat has carried forward since it was a kitten. Here is a look at the common reasons why cats knead.

Why Do Cats Knead their Paws?

Remnant Instinct of Kittens
Nursing kittens knead the mother cat's teat in other to stimulate the milk production. This is an instinctive behavior in the young kittens that helps increase the milk flow. The kneading of the mother's teat is accompanied by a relaxed and happy purring. As the kitten grows up, it tends to associate the comfortable places and moments of contentment with the joy that the nursing kitten got when snuggled up against the mother cat's belly. Along with a sign of relaxation, kneading in cats can also be associated with a sense of affection and trust, especially when they knead their paws on human skin.

Kneading While In Heat
In addition to the kittens, you might also observe female cats in heat or approaching the phase displaying the kneading cat behavior. The behavior is accompanied by restlessness, yodeling for the mate and rubbing against the owners. This symptom of a cat in heat does not apply to female cats which have been spayed. Male cats will also knead as a part of their mating ritual. You can observe them increasing the pressure and even digging in the claws as part of the process.

Nesting Behavior
This is a behavior that has its roots in the wild ancestors of the cats which would tread the overgrown plants and foliage to build a nest or rather a sheltered place for itself. Even domestic cats will want to scratch and soften some material by kneading their paws to build a place for itself to rest.

Marking its Territory
Cats are territorial animals and usually they will mark their boundaries with scent markers. Every cat has unique scent glands located at the base of its feet and claws. Although we may not be able to distinguish it, other cats can make out the unique scent left behind by a cat as a proclamation of its territory. This can usually be observed when there are hormonal changes, changes in the seasons or a new cat in the house.

Some people assume that kittens that have been weaned from their mother earlier than they should, have a tendency to knead. However, this is actually a myth and almost all kittens whether weaned out earlier or later in life do have a tendency to knead. Knowing why cats knead helps you understand this baffling behavior of your teeny kitten. Moreover it helps you understand how special you are to your cat that it associated you with love and trust for its mother. So isn't it worth it to grin and bear those sharp claws scratching your leg?
By Parul Solanki
Published: 1/29/2010
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