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Why Does Your Cat "Knead" You?

If you have a companion cat, then you have most likely felt them knead you. Well sure, your cat needs you, but we are talking about that pawing they do on your chest, stomach, legs - or whatever area suits them. It's totally adorable, but why does your cat knead? And what does it mean when you are kneaded by your feline friend?

What Is Cat Kneading?

According to PetMD:

Kneading is the motion cats make by rhythmically alternating their paws, pushing in and out against a pliable, soft object (such as a lap). Not all cats knead in the same way; some never push out their claws at all, and some even use all four paws.

Some of the cat kneading is accompanied by the wonderful sounds of your cat purring and sometimes, you will just feel a cat's paw pressing against you.

Why Do Cats Knead You?

Believe it or not, no one really knows why cats knead their owners and other people. Is it a sign of affection? Or some kind of instinctual behavior? There are a few theories - some may be valid and some have been disproved.

Taken Away Too Soon

One of the theories that have been proven to be false is that cats knead because they were weaned too early or taken away from their mothers too soon. You can probably imagine why this one gained ground because cats knead at their mother's nipples when they are nursing. However, it was shown that cats that stayed at the normal natural time with their mother still perform this kneading behavior.

 Your Cat Loves You

Of course, your cat loves you, but kneading is a gesture of love and this theory seems to hold a little weight to it. Since the pads of your cat’s paws contain scent glands, it is a form of marking their spot and if they love you, they may just be marking you as well - telling the rest of the world to back off. Your cat is claiming you as their person and that kind of affection cannot be replaced.

It's an Ancient Practice

Sure, both male and female cats have been kneading since there were cats in the world so this theory makes sense but it doesn't explain the reason for it. It only explains that "hey, cats have always done this and always will." 

A Rewards Program

We all love rewards and cat behavior is no different. Cats learn to knead as early as a kitten and as mentioned before, they get milk this way. This type of kneading garners them the reward that may have carried over into adulthood. By the time they are an adult cat, the very act of kneading is embedded into their brains that knead equals reward.

Just Enjoy It

Since there is no quantifiable reason why cats knead. Cat parents, there is nothing wrong with just enjoying it. Some people do not like the cat claws that inevitably sometimes come with the kneading but you can make sure his nails are trimmed and place something in between you like a knead blanket if it gets too intense. 

Your pet’s safety is the most important. As a cat parent, make sure not to punish your cat for this kneading behavior. For one, he is expressing love as far as we know and secondly, he doesn't realize he is hurting you. While those cat nails can be a bit scary, a thick blanket and understanding of your feline friend’s affection will make the biggest difference. 

Does your cat knead you? Tell us all about it in the comments.

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