Why do Cats Knead ?
I am sure you all know the feeling when your beloved feline decides that it’s time for you to experience pain. Yes, it’s that ‘welcome’ sensation of a cat kneading on your lap. Alternatively this may be the digging his or her claws into your thighs. Sometimes we get really lucky and it’s our abdomen that is gifted with that special treatment.
Hard to believe I know, but occasionally Vanessa and I get the kneading treatment when on a Family or Cat Photography session around the suburbs of Melbourne.
Ok – it hurts a little .. and sometimes it hurts a lot! But just think how honoured we should feel! We are allowed to share in that uniquely intimate moment with our cat :o)
Kneading is a repeated combination of alternate flexing, contracting and relaxing of the front paws. This can go on for several minutes at a time. Both Males and Females have this tendency to knead. However it tends to diminish after the ages of around 7 to 8 years old. This behaviour is most common in younger males. When in heat, Female cats can also have this tendency, although this is not an immediate sign that ‘girlie’ is ready to mate!
Sometimes this is called “milk-treading”. It can be triggered by the simple act of sitting down quietly in front of the TV. Every kitten has been conditioned to come forward to suckle their mothers’ milk, as soon as mums body relaxes on her side. It is a primitive instinct to increase milk-flow by gentle stimulation of the mother’s stomach. It is however very effective. There is no doubt that as they mature, cats take this trip down memory-lane only when they feel safe and welcome.
Sometimes, there are also simple territorial reasons for this behaviour. Scent glands are strategically located to the side of the front paws. Through kneading, we are becoming part of our felines ‘territory’ through repeated scent markings.
If ever there was an incentive for us to keep his or her claws well-trimmed – this is it! Of course the ‘foolish’ purchase of an expensive leather sofa during kitten-hood should also trigger the use of the clipping scissors :o)
In an ‘emergency’, a thick blanket placed over our laps can be helpful. This is of course most viable in Winter!!
Here are some playful cats and kittens that we have recently portrayed:
For more information on this wonderful feline habit of kneading, have a read here
Kneading – Cat Photography Melbourne