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Why Does My Cat Knead With Her Paws?

There’s a behavior a lot of cats exhibit that their owners find endearing and fascinating. If your kitty’s nails haven’t been trimmed lately though, the behavior can also be a little on the painful side. The behavior I’m referring to is called kneading.

The behavior looks like 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?

It’s 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 to stimulate lactation and release the milk flow. Even after kittens have been weaned and have grown to adults, it’s common for them 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 emotional state as when she was nursing from her mother.

Cats have many unique and amusing behavioral traits, and kneading is just one of them. So even though these are some of the more popular ideas for why cats are thought to knead, it certainly doesn’t provide all of the possible reasons. For example, some cats knead just before they are about to take a nap. Whatever reason your cat kneads, the one thing all these ideas have in common is that kneading is natural, instinctual, and common cat behavior.

The Cat’s Expression During Kneading

While the cat is engaged in kneading behavior she’ll often have her eyes half-way closed and have an almost dreamy expression on her 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 expressions. Just remember to keep your cat’s nails trimmed and the kneading behavior will be pleasant for everyone. 

Cats have many unique and amusing behavioral traits, and kneading is just one of them. So even though these are some of the more popular ideas for why cats are thought to knead, it certainly doesn’t provide all of the possible reasons. For example, some cats knead just before they are about to take a nap. Whatever reason your cat kneads, the one thing all these ideas have in common is that kneading is natural, instinctual, and common cat behavior.

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