Why cats “knead

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Chances are, if you have a cat, you’ve seen it perform the movement commonly known as kneading. In fact, cat owners enjoy it when their felines perform the act of “kneading”. This gesture, so named because of its resemblance to kneading dough, involves cats massaging a person’s belly or a surface with their front paws, maintaining a soothing rhythm. If you have ever witnessed a cat performing this gesture, you may have wondered about its motivation. In this article we tell about why cats knead.

Why cats knead

This behavior begins at an early age, when the kittens are in the suckling stage with their mother. Kneading is closely related to suckling, thus stimulating the release of oxytocin to facilitate the supply of breast milk.

Likewise, kneading serves as a means of tactile and pheromone communication between the kitten and its mother. Cats’ paw pads harbor scent glands that, when stimulated during kneading, release pheromones, essential for chemical communication.

These pheromones play a crucial role in connection, identification and health status, including a so-called “cat appeasing pheromone,” released by the sebaceous glands around the mammary glands, which also helps control aggression in mature cats.

Kneading in adult cats

The kneading habit persists in adult cats due to a phenomenon called neoteny, where juvenile traits continue into adulthood. This particular behavior may be a way of communicating connection or bonding with their environment, including humans in their social group.

While kneading usually indicates comfort, excessive or compulsive kneading may suggest stress or discomfort in the cat and may cause physical harm. Some breeds, such as Siamese and Burmese, are more prone to this. It is worth consulting your veterinarian on these occasions, who will be able to advise you on what to do.

Possible discomfort

In situations where the cat’s claws may cause discomfort, covering the area with a thick blanket may be a solution. Avoid reprimanding or pushing the cat away is important; instead, rewarding appropriate behavior with petting or rewards reinforces positive behavior. You can also give him a verbal cue and a reward to indicate that he is doing well. Your kitty will associate the gentle kneading with the positive reward.

However, it is important to know that not all cats manifest this behavior. Remember that just like people, each cat has its own way of expressing comfort or connection. If your cat does not practice kneading, there is no cause for concern, as this is a normal manifestation of its individuality.

Image courtesy of https://pixabay.com, all rights reserved.

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