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Why do cats knead on their owners?

Have you ever heard someone say that their cat makes biscuits? I’m sure you’re thinking, oh, but what a convenient skill, and, wait a second, what?… Yes, just as you read it, all cats make biscuits, although not the kind you’re imagining. Another typical behavior of these little felines is also known as kneading. And why do cats knead on their owners?

If you have no idea what kneading is, or if you’re interested in knowing more about it, keep reading because I will explain everything you need to know about it.

What is kneading?

First, I will explain what the famous cat kneading is. Well, it is simply a repetitive, rhythmic, and very soft movement, in which the cat pushes its paws against a padded surface, alternating one paw after the other. This movement is very similar to the one we make when kneading dough, which is why we call it “kneading,” or, colloquially, making biscuits.

why do cats knead on their owners - what is kneading

Why do cats knead?

Before you think there is something wrong with your cat, let me tell you that cats start with this behavior from the first day of life, that is to say, in their neonatal period. At first, kneading is an automatic movement that the kitten performs when eating; kittens knead around their mother’s nipples, probably to latch on to something and, most importantly, to get more milk, as this gentle kneading stimulates the production of colostrum or maternal milk.

They continue to do so until about three weeks of age when the mother gradually refuses to feed her cats. From this point on, kittens keep kneading, but now on other surfaces, which raises the question, why do cats knead, and more importantly, why do they knead on their owners?

Why do cats knead on their owners? 5 main reasons

It’s not known for sure why cats knead, let alone why they knead their owners, but there are several theories, based on the usual behavior of cats and a bit of logic, that could explain this strange yet tender behavior, which let’s face it, many of us love.

1. Marking Their Territory

Marking territory is the motivation for many of the things cats do. Therefore it’s not hard to imagine that if a cat loves its owners, he will want to claim them as its property. But don’t blame your cat. The poor cat can’t help being possessive. It’s part of her wild nature. Even if your cat doesn’t have to make the slightest effort to get absolutely nothing, in its mind is still the idea of fighting for his survival. It’s him against the world.

Cats have several scent glands around their bodies, releasing pheromones, a chemical substance that contains vital information about the cat. Felines have scent glands on various parts of the head and face, the top of the tail, and the paws.

When a cat leaves its pheromones on a toy, for example, when another furry cat passes by, it will know that the previous cat has already used it, so it belongs to it, and that is what they do with its owners. Using the pheromones emanating from their paws, cats knead their humans to mark them so that other cats know that this person already has an owner (or a cat at home).

2. To relax and calm down

Imagine that you are kneading a big ball of warm, soft, and fluffy dough. For a moment, it seems that everything stops. There is no noise and nothing to worry about. What a relaxing feeling, right? Well, the same thing happens to your cat, kneading brings peace and tranquility, and that’s why they often tend to do it after a stressful experience or a big scare.

why do cats knead - to relax and calm down

The rhythmic movement and the softness of the fabric of your clothes, plus your presence, can soothe your cat a lot. If you think about it, kneading you when he is scared is a significant gesture of trust and love.

3. They’re stretching those muscles

There’s nothing like a good stretching session to keep your body healthy and flexible. Cats love to stretch and lie down in the strangest positions you’ve ever seen, so they knead to stretch their paws, legs, and lower back.

And if you’re wondering if they can knead on the couch, why do they do it on me? The answer is that it is comfortable for them to do it, especially if you wear a soft and warm fabric.

4. Getting ready to sleep

Have you ever seen your cat tidy its bed before sleeping? It’s like when we fluff the pillow before a good night’s sleep. Well, if your cat plans to sleep on your lap or lie on your stomach, she may instinctively begin to knead you as if it were her bed, seeking to make the space more comfortable, or in this case, your body.

Even if she’s not going to fluff you up, you can enjoy a relaxing massage while she does it; it’s a win-win situation. One of the reasons cats knead before sleeping is that feral cats often knead piles of dry leaves or pieces of cardboard where they lie down to sleep or even to give birth.

5. Call for attention

Cats are experts at getting our attention, so once they find a way that works for them, they will use it whenever they need it. When a cat gives us a massage, most think it is tender and relaxing. Our cat senses this, so if he ever wants to get your attention to get cuddles or perhaps more food, she may resort to giving you one of her famous massages to get it.

But don’t get me wrong, your cat isn’t selfish and manipulative all the time. It can also be that its massages are a way to show affection, especially if your cat does it while purring happily.

why do cats knead - call for attention

What can you do if you don’t enjoy kneading?

Most cats knead with their paws closed, but some knead with their paws extended, exposing their claws. When this happens, the kneading can be annoying or even painful. Understandably, you may prefer your cat not to do this, especially if your cat is in heat, as cats are known to knead more frequently at these stages.

To prevent your cat from kneading you, try redirecting her attention to a toy or making some noise that distracts her and allows you to move away without your cat feeling it as a rejection. Another tip is that when you notice that your cat sits on your lap and is about to knead you, pick her up and place her on her bed or on the couch to knead there.

It’s OK if you don’t like when your cat kneads you. However, don’t scold your cat because it is a natural behavior, and your cat will not be able to understand that it is wrong. It will only get scared and end up confused.

Why do cats knead on their owners? The bottom line

There you have it, five reasons why your cat may knead you. If you’re still wondering why cats knead on their owners, the answer is probably a combination of the above.

The important thing is that you understand that it is a natural behavior of the cat and that there is nothing wrong with it, so try to enjoy it and relax while your cat gives you a massage. And if you don’t like it, don’t worry. There are ways to prevent your cat from doing it.

Does your cat knead you? What do you think is the reason? Let us know in the comments!

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