🐱 Why Does My Cat Knead Me? 🐾

🐱 Why Does My Cat Knead Me? 🐾

If you're a cat owner, you've likely had the experience of your furry friend walking onto your lap, circling a few times, and then alternatingly pushing their front paws in and out on your legs, blanket, or whatever else they're standing on. This rhythmic movement of pushing in and out with their paws against a soft, pliable surface is what's known as "kneading" or "making biscuits". 🍞

Kneading is an instinctive behavior for cats that begins in kittenhood. When kittens are nursing, they knead their mother's belly to stimulate milk flow. The motion pushes against the mammary glands to help get that good kitty milk flowing for the kittens to feed.

As cats grow up, most continue kneading behaviors into adulthood even long after weaning. But why do adult cats knead if not to get milk? What purpose does kneading serve for grown cats? And why do some cats obsessively knead their owners most days?

Let's discuss the many reasons for feline kneading and what you can do if your cat's biscuit-making behavior is excessive.

Why Do Cats Knead?

There are a few key reasons cats demonstrate kneading behaviors:

1. Instinct from Kittenhood

As mentioned above, kittens knead their mother's belly to stimulate milk letdown during nursing. This is an instinctive behavior ingrained early on.

Even though adult cats no longer nurse, the kneading instinct remains left over from kittenhood. Kneading is a comforting, self-soothing behavior for many cats based on muscle memory from their early days being nurtured by momma cat. 😸

2. Comfort & Contentment

For most cats, kneading while purring demonstrates a happy, content kitty. Your cat is essentially telling you "I'm comfortable and I feel safe here with you."

By treading and pressing alternating paws against you, your cat is marking you with their scent glands. This satisfies their instinct to scent mark objects and places they like.

Kneading also often occurs in a cat's "happy place" like their owner's lap or favorite blanket or bed. It's one sign your cat feels secure and serene in your presence and home environment.

3. Stress Relief

Kneading can be a self-soothing mechanism for anxious or stressed out cats. The rhythmic pressing motions release endorphins to help kitty decompress.

Think of it like a cat massage - kneading works out your cat's tension much like kneading bread dough. A stressed cat may excessively knead you or household objects as a calming outlet for their nerves.

4. Claiming Ownership

As natural territorial creatures, cats use kneading to mark people, places, and objects as theirs. By alternating pressing their scented paw pads in and out, they transfer their scent claiming "I was here first."

Kneading helps satisfy your cat's instinct to scent mark important possessions. It also mingles your cat's scent with other household members' scents. This is a social bonding behavior for group living to mingle scents within cat groups.

5. Pre-nap Routine

Many cats will give a few good kneads before settling in for a cat nap, especially in soft bedding or on their owner's lap.

Kneading helps cats get comfy cozy for optimal napping. It fluffs and presses the surface for an ideal feline nest. Your cat's pre-nap kneading routine gets the area ready for a good, long cat snooze. 😴

6. Hunger Cues

Some cats knead when hungry or demanding food. It harkens back to kneading momma cat for milk.

An adult cat may knead you demandingly when it's breakfast or dinner time. Pay attention if kneading seems to correlate to when your cat wants fed.

7. Learned Behavior

If cats receive positive attention like pets and cuddles when they knead, it can reinforce the behavior. Your cat learns "When I knead I get praise and treats!" which perpetuates the kneading.

Additionally, if one cat in a multi-cat home kneads frequently, other cats can pick up on this behavior through mimicry. Don't be surprised if your kneady cat inspires others to start making biscuits too.

8. Declawing After-Effects

Sadly, some cats are still subjected to inhumane declawing procedures. This amputation surgery often leaves long-term negative impacts.

Declawed cats may compulsively knead for comfort from the traumatic paw alterations. Kneading stimulates leftover nerve endings and releases endorphins to self-soothe their aching paws. 😿

Is Excessive Kneading Normal?

Frequent kneading is common in happy, content kitties who associate kneading with your positive attention. However, non-stop intensive kneading can signify an underlying issue for cats.

Signs of excessive kneading in cats include:

·         Kneading for over 10 minutes multiple times daily

·         Pressing paws forcefully with claws extended

·         Kneading to the point of damaging objects or human skin

·         Appearing stressed or anxious after kneading episodes

·         Meowing insistently or biting while kneading

·         Signs of pain like limping or licking paws after prolonged kneading

Any destructive kneading or kneading that seems to worsen your cat's mood may require attention. Consult your veterinarian if your cat's kneading habits seem problematic.

When to See the Vet About Kneading

Most cats demonstrate normal kneading activity without health concerns. However, see your veterinarian promptly if your cat shows these signs:

·         Obsessive and excessive kneading that persists daily

·         Aggressive or overstimulated kneading episodes

·         Damage to household objects from forceful kneading

·         Wounds, limping, or swelling of paws after prolonged kneading

·         Excessive vocalizing or biting during kneading sessions

·         Elimination issues like inappropriate urination after bouts of kneading

·         New onset of kneading in a previously non-kneading senior cat

Any above changes in kneading habits, especially when paired with other symptoms, warrant a veterinary visit. Consulting your vet can rule out medical conditions like arthritis, injuries, hyperthyroidism, or neurological disorders.

How to Reduce Excessive Kneading

For most cats, moderate kneading is normal and healthy. But cats who compulsively knead to the point of hurting themselves or destroying your furniture and clothes require intervention. Here are some tips to curb excessive kneading:

Redirect Kneading Urges

Place appropriate kneading surfaces around your home like plush cat beds, blankets, soft toys, scratching posts, and cardboard scratchers. Encourage your cat to knead these acceptable items instead of your couch.

Trim Claws

Keeping your cat's claws neatly trimmed reduces damage from kneading. Ask your vet for claw trimming tips or use soft claw caps. Claw trims also minimize painful snags when obsessively kneading.

Increase Playtime

Bored, under-stimulated cats may excessively knead to occupy themselves. Make sure your cat gets daily interactive playtime to work out energy and instincts. Tossing toys, playing hide-and-seek, and using wand toys prevents boredom.

Use Synthetic Feline Pheromones

Plug-in diffusers like Feliway release synthetic pheromones that provide a sense of comfort and security for cats. Pheromones signaling a soothing environment can reduce kneading from stress or anxiety.

Try Calming Supplements

Veterinarian-approved calming supplements like Solliquin can curb compulsive behaviors like excessive kneading. These supplements promote relaxation and help anxious cats self-regulate emotions.

Behavior Modification

If your cat obsessively kneads certain objects like your couch, use deterrents to make the surface less appealing. Aluminum foil, double-sided tape, sandpaper, citrus scents, and upside down vinyl carpet runners discourage cats from touching objects.

Be sure to redirect kneading to appropriate cat-friendly spots so the urge itself is not stifled. Allowing healthy kneading outlets remains important for your cat's wellbeing.

Working with a veterinary behaviorist can also help modify destructive kneading using reward-based training and environmental changes. Do not punish or startle cats exhibiting normal kneading behavior.

When to Consider Medical Treatment

For cats with diagnosable compulsive disorders causing relentless kneading, medications may provide relief.

·         Anti-anxiety medications like Prozac can reduce obsessive kneading driven by stress. Always consult your veterinarian before starting any medication.

·         Pain medications can help if arthritis or injuries underlie kneading. Your vet can prescribe cat-safe NSAIDs or opioids if kneading seems driven by physical discomfort.

·         Medications like Amitriptyline block nerve signals to decrease neuropathic pain and tactile sensitivity in declawed or amputated cats.

Do not give human medications to cats without veterinary guidance. Many human drugs are toxic to cats at even small dosages. Work with your vet for prescription behavioral and pain medications customized to your cat.

When to Consider Environmental Changes

If your living environment causes stress for a kneady cat, adjusting surroundings can help. Consider:

·         More perches and cat trees to access high-up retreat spots

·         Secluded hiding places and covered beds for napping security

·         Access to outdoor spaces like cat patios for change of scenery

·         Keeping litter boxes extremely clean; adding more boxes

·         Using Feliway pheromone diffusers

·         Limiting loud noises or children's roughhousing around your cat

·         Keeping food/water bowls separate from litter boxes

·         Making sure another animal or new person isn't intimidating your cat

·         Adding a second litter box in multi-cat households

·         Providing vertical territory for cats through catifying your home

Any sources of stress, chaos, bullying, or perceived threats in a home can drive a cat to excessively knead. Optimizing their daily environment helps calm kneading cats.

When to Try Alternative Therapies

Gentle alternative options may ease kneading urges in anxious felines. Consider:

·         Acupuncture or acupressure sessions - these Chinese medicine techniques balance energy and reduce stress.

·         Massage therapy - knead your cat how they like to be kneaded to relax muscles.

·         Jackson Galaxy's Spirit Essences - these flower essence remedies address emotional imbalances.

·         Daily Spirit Essences massage with cat-safe essential oils like lavender and chamomile.

·         Calming treats like Zylkene with natural milk proteins to promote tranquility.

Always check with your veterinarian before starting supplements, remedies, or massage for your kneading cat. Integrative medicine can safely enhance your cat's quality of life when combined with standard veterinary care. 👍

The Takeaway: Kneading is Normal Cat Behavior

Kneading is an instinctive feline behavior serving several purposes. Light, occasional kneading demonstrates a happy, contented cat. As long as your kitty's biscuit-making isn't destructive or excessive, view it as a positive sign of your bond.

Redirect any problem kneading urges onto appropriate surfaces. Seek veterinary advice if kneading ever seems abnormal or correlated with other symptoms. With simple management, you and your kneady cat can enjoy a long, purr-filled relationship marked by kitty biscuits galore! 😻