There are many things that cats do that endear them to people. They definitely don’t need any help in the cuteness department because they are fully stocked with adorable antics, zany behaviors, and sweet displays of affection and loyalty. Some of the things they do make total sense, even if we can’t fully relate to their methods. Of these, kneading ranks pretty high on the list. Why do cats knead, and is this a behavior they grow out of?
Kneading is not only purr-fectly normal, it’s a natural feline behavior that is commonly witnessed and universally adored. If you’ve never seen cats knead before, the action is characterized by rhythmic pressing of the front two paws into a squishy, soft surface. They do not intend to scratch or hurt anyone while kneading. On the contrary, kneading is an expression of need, devotion, and love.
Cats knead because when they were itty-bitty kittens, they learned that pressing down on their mother’s abdomen would release milk. The result of this action is deeply satisfying, and forever links cats and their mamas. As they age, cats will continue to do this when they are feeling safe, comfortable, warm, and supported. This could mean they use their owner’s lap, favorite pillow, or special place to engage with and show their vulnerability.
Do They Knead Forever?
Some cats will only knead occasionally, others will grow out of it after infancy. While not every single cat will do this, many enjoy tapping into the rewarding, positive associations first experienced alongside their mother and littermates.
If you do happen to be the most common target of their kneading, congratulations. They are displaying a deep attachment to you. If you’re uncomfortable with it, redirect your cat’s kneading to an adjacent pillow or blanket all while soothing them with praise and reassurances. You can also mitigate the effects of kneading by keeping their sharp claws trimmed.
Never scold or punish your cat for kneading on you or the furniture. After all, it’s a 100% natural instinct that provides great benefit to their well-being.
Love When Cats Knead
Interestingly, when cats knead they mark their territory with scent glands located in the paw pads. All the more reason to celebrate when they hop up on your lap to work their paws!
Do cats age out of this behavior from infancy? Most senior cats will continue to knead as a measure of self-soothing, and we are here for it!
Feline Behavior Forever
One of the best ways owners can help their cats is through careful daily observations of their behaviors and routines. If you ever start to notice changes in their habits or disruptions to their schedules, it’s worth looking into. Please call us at (916) 726-2334. Our team at Sunrise Boulevard Animal Hospital is always here to help your cat.