Physical contact is the protagonist of many of the expressions of affection of cats towards people and animals that belong to their closest circle. Far from their fame as independent and distant animals, kittens give us a multitude of displays of affection.
Rubbing its body, pushing with the back, tapping the head against the legs of its owner or performing circular dances around them are some of the examples of such expressions of love. There are several investigations that try to answer why cats knead. We develop them below.
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Theories about why cats knead
Kneading or making cookies, as it is also called, is one of those curious behaviors that many of our furry friends use. Ethologists affirm that it is more common in kittens that have been weaned early or that have been orphaned as babies.
In those weaned before 6 weeks of age, this kneading can be accompanied by sucking behaviors. If they do not remit by 2 years of age, they could translate into compulsive behaviors that a specialist should treat. Kneading is not manifested by wild cats, since they are not weaned or have close contact with humans.
The infant theory
One of the most established explanations in the scientific community that studies feline behavior is that kneading has to do with a behavior learned in their stage as puppies that they repeat in adulthood to show their affection or to give themselves pleasure when they feel relaxed and happy.
When they are newborns, they make rhythmic pressures on their mother’s abdomen by stretching the toes of the front legs and flexing them. Thus, they facilitate the exit of milk when breastfeeding and can breathe while feeding. They find this process pleasant and seem to go into a kind of trance by squinting their eyes .
That your pussycat makes cookies on your abdomen when you caress it is a clear indication that it loves you . You will notice that this kneading is accompanied by continuous purring. Let’s say he’s equating you to his mother when he was a baby and she fed him and kept him clean and warm. If you correspond with more pampering, you will reinforce this behavior.
The theory of marking
Related to the previous hypothesis is the theory of marking. According to the ethologist Manuela Wedl, when kneading you or doing it on your clothes, your pet would be impregnating you with its olfactory traces to identify you as part of its family group. Just like when he rubs his head or his back against your legs , he is expressing his closeness to you.
Felines have scent glands on their faces, paw pads, and genitalia. By kneading you, he is sending a message (or warning) to the rest of the animals . You are his property, which can be interpreted as another way of showing his affection for you.
The welfare theory
Another reason why cats knead, according to research carried out by the University of Florida, is linked to their self-satisfaction. When they are calm and comfortable, they tend to knead because this in turn provides them with greater satisfaction . It is very common when bedtime approaches.
Have you not observed that your kitten kneads soft surfaces such as clothes, bedspreads, blankets or cushions and then snuggles up? This is a behavior that they have inherited from their ancestors when they cupped the grass with their feet before sleeping to make it more comfortable and fluffy.
The theory of nail sharpening
Nail care is another possible explanation for cat kneading. These need to sharpen and keep your nails healthy by nailing them alternately on rope, wicker, wood or on softer surfaces. Consequently, remember to provide at least one scraper to prevent scratching your furniture.
The kneading in the cats
As we have mentioned, kneading is usually done with the front legs, but there are other situations in which the females practice it with the hind legs. We refer to discharge. When cats are ready for mating, they tend to rhythmically flex their hind legs, tilting their tails and leaning on their forelegs .
In short, although there are several causes that can trigger a feline to love the one that refers to its particular way of expressing the love it feels towards the people and animals with which it lives, is the one that gains the most force. Therefore, every time your kitten gives you this endearing show of affection, do not hesitate to reciprocate.