Why do cats knead with their paws?

During cuddly moments, some cats adopt a somewhat particular behavior: they knead with their front paws their human, the blanket or the cushion on which they are. They are also said to patounent. But not all cats knead the same way. Some come out and retract their claws (and in this case it can hurt…) and others even use all four paws at the same time. Where does this behavior come from? Is this normal? 

1. An instinctive reflex

It is at birth that little kittens learn kneading. Indeed, to get the milk out of their mother’s udders, they have to knead them. If they do not acquire this reflex immediately, they will not be able to eat and will therefore be doomed. It is therefore above all a survival instinct.

However, once the kittens have matured and no longer need to suckle for food, this behavior should normally stop. However, it can persist in kittens weaned too early from their mother, that is to say before the age of 10 weeks. In this case, they also tend to suckle, especially clothes.

2. Mark your territory

Another reason a cat may cuddle its human or other soft surfaces is the need to mark its territory. Indeed, the cat is a territorial animal that needs to feel safe where it lives.

However, one of the means of protecting its territory is to disperse its pheromones everywhere. To release these very particular hormones, all it has to do is activate the glands located under their chin and between their pads by rubbing their head, scratching or kneading anything that passes under their paw (yes, including you).

3. Find THE right place for a nap

The kneading reflex in cats can also be traced back to the days when wild cats kneaded tall grass or leaves to flatten them into soft, comfortable bedding for sleeping or whelping.

So, this could explain why cats always engage in this behavior before settling down for a nap.

4. A parade of love

We can also notice that cats tend to increase the frequency of their kneading just before having their heat. This behavior allows them to signal to males that they are ready to mate. This is a kind of love parade.

5. Express well-being

Kneading their human like bread dough can also be a way for the cat to express their well-being, just as it does with purring. Kneading is then a relaxing activity that helps the cat to reduce their anxiety and brings them a feeling of happiness and serenity. Especially since by kneading like this, it stretches. This can make them feel a sense of muscle relief and prevent their limbs from becoming too stiff after their nap.

And if, even as an adult, it does not stop this behavior, it may simply be because of the positive psychological benefit it brings them.

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