The act of kneading is performed by cats all over the world. This is noticeable when kittens are less than a day old. They can be seen kneading their mother’s belly as they nurse. When cats get older, some will still knead soft blankets, rugs, the couch, their owner, and sometimes the air. People who wonder why cats knead items on a regular basis will be happy to know that it is purely a form of contentment. It’s always nice to know that your cat is completely and utterly happy with their current situation.
The act of kneading is often a very rhythmic action between the left and right front paw. Cats alternate between feet, flexing toes on an outstretched paw and then curling them under as they draw them back. This process isn’t too painful when a human experiences it, unless there are claws involved.
The use of claws when kneading will vary between cats. Some find it necessary to knead with full-on claws, while others are very light on the claw usage. The best kind of kneading is more like a massage when performed by a clawless cat. This is almost therapeutic for both the cat and the human experiencing it.
Most cats purr audibly while kneading, no matter where the action is taking place. Sometimes there is even the closing of eyes during this purring and kneading process. This combination gives the visual display of a truly content being.
The look of sheer pleasure crosses their face, making even the orneriest cat seem quite docile. A cat can be so into the act of kneading that its surroundings seem to fade away. Interrupting a cat during his/her kneading time might render an angry look.
Some cats might knead when they find a certain type of material, such as a fuzzy blanket. There are other cats that will only knead something living, mostly their owner’s belly as the cat climbs up on it to go to sleep at night. Cats can also be found kneading random objects, such as a stuffed animal, the bathroom rug, a pile of dirty laundry, or even a pillow. Most kneading occurs on items that are somewhat soft.
There is one theory about kneading that feels the action goes way back to the ancestors of today’s domestic cat. The wild cats lived in the woods and had to pack down foliage for a bed or nesting site. This action can definitely be seen when a cat is kneading an area and then curls up to fall asleep in it. Very rarely does a cat knead an area or item and then simply wander off to do something completely different.
Why cats knead can be answered with; it is a precursor to sleep. Babies sometimes suck their thumb, snuggle with a stuffed animal, or clench a blanket as they ease into sleep. Cats purr to comfort themselves and then knead their area to make it ready for sleeping. It can also be compared to the way humans fluff their pillow at night. Beings each have their own style of falling asleep with ease.
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