There are a variety of theories about why cats knead—both front paws pushing at your leg, your arm, your face. One thing is for sure. If you have a cat who loves to push/pull on your body parts, you need to keep his nails clipped! Male cats can get a little rough about this.
When kittens are nursing, kneading Mama Cat helps produce more breakfast, lunch and dinner for the kittens. The memory of comfort and care stays with the kitten as he grows. He pokes and prods you as a form of affection.
If your cat is not spayed, kneading can be a sign that a heat cycle is about to start. Kneading, especially if you’re getting poked with sharp nails, is part of the mating ritual.
While dogs turn around in circles three times before laying down, cats often knead themselves a comfortable place on a lap, cushion or couch, but then cat-like, don’t lie down there. Only the cat knows why.
A stressed cat does not knead. Seeing your cat start the push/pull stretch lets you know he is comfortable and calm. Cats also have scent glands in their paws. Kneading lets them subtly mark you and their favorite spot on the couch so other cats know, “This is MINE.” Try to take it as a compliment.
Cats nap a lot. Kneading can be both a way to stretch and flex muscles or as a self-soothing, -rocking-myself-to-sleep action, depending on whether they are waking up or ready to nap. It can also be a way to keep you seated instead of disturbing them by getting a soft drink and chips during the commercial.
Kneading could just be a cat’s way of cracking his knuckles so to speak. Whatever reason your cat has, the main thing to keep in mind is this—he only does it when he’s comfortable, calm and being affectionate. It is a compliment.
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