There’s a behavior many cats exhibit that kitty parents find endearing and fascinating. If kitty’s nails haven’t been trimmed lately though, the behavior can also be a bit on the painful side. The behavior I’m referring to is called kneading.
The behavior looks like this: the cat stands or sits on a soft surface and alternates flexing and stretching his front paws in a steady pattern.
Where Does Kneading Behavior in Cats Come From?
Kneading behavior is a holdover from when cats were kittens. It originates when kittens are nursing on the mother. During nursing, kittens instinctively flex and relax their paws (known as the milk tread) to stimulate lactation and release the milk flow. Even after kittens have been weaned and have grown into adulthood, it’s common for many cats to continue the kneading behavior.
Kneading is often triggered when a cat is on a soft surface such as a bed or blanket or on the lap of a familiar human. Being on that soft surface can put the cat in the same content emotional state as when he was nursing from the queen.
The Cat’s Expression During Kneading
While the cat is engaged in kneading behavior he’ll often have his eyes half-way closed and have an almost dreamy expression on his face. Many cats also purr while kneading. In some cases, cats even start drooling as they allow their jaws to become so relaxed.
Cats show contentment and affection in many different ways and kneading is just one of those tender expressions. Just remember to keep your cat’s nails trimmed and the kneading behavior will be pleasant for everyone.
Please note that Pam is unable to answer questions posted in the comment section. If you have a question about your cat’s behavior, you can find information in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s health, please contact your veterinarian.