The act of kneading can either be a calming and relaxing experience for a cat owner, or an uncomfortable and painful one. If you are the proud owner of a cat, you are probably familiar with your sweet feline rhythmically moving it’s front paws up and down, gently massaging whatever particular surface they have chosen in the moment. This activity is known as “kneading”.
It is a very common behavior found in domesticated house cats where they alternate between their left and right front paws slowly kneading either a blanket, pillow, another animal, or even their human counterparts. Really, any soft surface will do. But why do cats knead? Below is a break down on why your feline friend may be giving you a claw massage!
While there are many rational theories that exist, there is no absolute certainty on why cats knead exactly. Not long after a kitten is born, and they find their way to their mother, they instinctively begin to knead while feeding. Past theories have suggested that cats who are taken from their mothers too early, are more susceptible to kneading later on in life.
However, this has been debunked since it seems that most cats knead, regardless of when they are separated from their mothers. However, some cats do suckle the surface of the area they are kneading, only furthering the idea that they may find comfort in the act as it reminds them of their mother.
Some Veterinarians believe that the reason why do cats knead is simply because they are comfortable and content. This could explain why they tend to close their eyes and relax while doing so. The act may also play a role in helping a cat relax when they are feeling stressed, upset, or nervous. The rhythmic motion of the knead has a calming and relaxing effect on the cat.
Another theory suggested by animal behaviorists explains that when a cat kneads it’s human, that it may actually be marking it’s “territory” with the sweat glands located in their paws. This could explain why cats tend to only knead their person. Because as we all know, we don’t choose our cats, they choose us! These glands in their paws could also be their way of marking particular blankets or areas around the house.
Other theories propose that this activity dates back to the beginning of cats in history. Before cats were originally domesticated, wild cats may have used this method to soften and knead down surfaces for giving birth or sleeping. It is possible that kneading is a natural instinct that has been inherited throughout the many generations of cats. It may just be your cats way of settling down and getting comfortable.
If you are Concerned That the Kneading Needs to Stop
Some cats prefer to knead on their owners, and while the act may be flattering, it can also end up being very painful and uncomfortable for some.
Or if the activity becomes more obsessive than that of a regular cat, you may be interested in learning how to encourage your cat not to knead.
If your cat’s kneading begins to tear your skin or cause you or another pet physical harm, it is advised that you take the necessary steps to end the kneading. Particularly if your male cat becomes aggressive or begins to salivate while kneading, or if your cat’s kneading seems to become a compulsive act.
One way to encourage your cat not to knead, is to gently lay your cat down when they shows signs of starting the activity. They are already relaxed and will most likely doze off without kneading. Laying your hands over the cats paws to make the activity more difficult to perform also encourages your feline to relax without kneading.
If your cat is uninterested in relaxing and napping, bringing a favorite toy into the picture may be enough to distract them from kneading. A treat may also do the trick!
It is highly advised against that you punish your kitty for doing what comes naturally to them. Be patient and put in the time it takes to avert your cat away from kneading. If your cat is overly persistent, and refuses to NOT knead, try covering your exposed flesh with a blanket or towel so you do not sustain any more harm.
Declawing a cat is not advised, but clipping their nails may help prevent any future damage to you or your belongings.