Surely you’ve seen your cat pick out several spots around the house and start kneading her paws a hundred times. (Perhaps she even kneaded on your flesh!) Cats can become very engrossed as if they have this deep-rooted call to knead. No wonder, kitty scratches her own bed, squeezes your couch cushions, or worse, grazes your lap. But why do they really do this?
The Common Reasons
1. Emotional security. A cat’s yearning to knead can be traced back to her kittenhood. In order for a kitten to get milk, she has to nurse the mother cat. Kneading her mom’s mammary glands stimulates the life-sustaining milk to flow more easily. The movements are automatic, and because the action earns a reward, the kitten eventually transfers the kneading behavior to other things and places in anticipation for more pleasant things to gain.
Because kneading primarily happens during times of happiness and gladness, the behavior is more of a bolstering response of a cat’s “inner” kitten. You’ll notice the kneading (or as I call it, “making biscuits”) stops if she becomes angry or frightened.
2. Territorial marking. While your cat may be rubbing to see that her chosen corner is as comfortable as possible, there actually is another reason for such kneading behavior. Cats generally have scent glands that can be found in their paw pads near their claw base, and every cat gives off its own distinctive smell. While humans cannot notice this unique feline scent, other cats and pets definitely can. This particular scent acts as a marker to indicate where kitty has been or what she chooses to claim as her own. Once your cat has found her place and now wishes to define the borders of her territory, she will most likely paw and maybe even run her claws across the spot or item as she leaves those signature marks.
Now that you know why kitty kneads with her paws, you must realize how special you actually are for her. The next time your little fluffy feline friend happily curls up in your leg or lap, just think how flattering it must be to be her chosen one. Not only that kitty has picked you to be the exact endearing spot where she would most like to be, she also has decided to let the whole animal realm know that you just belong to her.