Why Does My Cat Knead Me With Her Front Paws?

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on March 6, 2018

Have you ever wondered why your cat kneads you with her front paws when she’s feeling particularly relaxed? Some people think cats only knead when they’ve been taken from their mother at too young of any age. It turns out, most cats knead regardless of how much time they spent with their mothers. So what’s the explanation? Scientists have uncovered the real reasons why cats knead, and they’re very adorable. Be prepared to say “Awwww” at the two main reasons cats knead!

Kittens instinctively know how to knead when they are born for a very important reason – it helps stimulate milk production in their mother’s mammary glands. Of course your cat understands that you won’t be providing milk for her; it’s just a heldover behavior when she’s feeling particularly relaxed and safe.

Whether you call the behavior kneading, making biscuits, pussyfooting, or milk treading, your cat usually does it while purring. A nap usually follows immediately afterward. These behaviors are also typical of nursing kittens. It’s useful to note that kittens who were taken from their mothers too young will find something to suckle on while kneading, such as a blanket, your clothing, or even your earlobe.

Basically, when your cat starts kneading you, she is accepting you as a stand-in mother.

It’s just one example of cats modifying their behavior as they evolved to live with humans. Another example is that apart from kittens meowing at their mothers, cats don’t meow to each other to communicate. They only meow at humans because they know it gets our attention and is one way they can communicate with us.

Remembering the comfort of nursing on her mother isn’t the only reason your cat kneads, though. Cats in the wild like to knead down a soft bed for themselves before sleeping or giving birth, so kneading you is another way to say they trust you and feel safe enough to create a comfortable bed out of your lap and relax without being worried about predators.

On top of all of that, cats have scent glands in their paws that they use to mark their territory, so kneading you is another way of marking you as belonging to them.

All in all, kneading is a way for your cat to show that she loves you and wants to keep you all to herself!

(H/T: Science Alert)

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