Felines are full of unusual behaviors and odd habits. Cats hide in tiny corners, bat at curtains, stay glued to the front window for hours, and even take a munch on grass from time to time. Most humans are often puzzled at why cats do what they do, and what compels them to pick up their quirky little ways. One of these behaviors is kneading, when a cat will push her paws into a surface over and over in the same place. We know cats are not renowned for their bread-baking skills, so where does this instinct come from? Here are some of the reasons why cats knead their paws.

5 Reasons Why Cats Knead

It is instinctive. When kittens are young, they knead their mother to help increase the flow of milk while nursing. Cats do this when they are hungry or just drowsy, it is a form of cuddling. Since kneading begins for a cat at the very earliest stages of life, practicing it again reminds the cat of nursing.

It is comforting. Not only is kneading a comforting motion for cats, it is rather hypnotic. The rhythmic motions cause them to fall into a trance-like state staring off into the distance, rolling and zoning out in pure relaxation.

Kneading is how cats prepare a bed. Another reason why cats knead with their paws, is they are trying to create a place for them to nap. In the wild, large cats would knead down high grass to establish a bed of sorts for them to rest in, which is also why the kneading can be forceful, with the use of claws. This would break down any brush, twigs or reeds that would be unpleasant to lounge upon, so your cat might be trying to flatten the area just before he takes a snooze.

Kneading marks a cat’s territory. In the same way that a feline will rub her head against your hand, or her body along your pant leg, kneading is another way a cat will “make her mark” on her human or bed. Cats emit pheromones through the scent glands in their paws, and by kneading they are releasing this odor into whatever surface their paws are in contact with. This will let other animals know the space has been claimed and which cat has been there before.

The cat needs your attention. Cats are not above looking for affection and attention. Though this characteristic is usually associated with dogs, cats will parade around in front of their human to get the cuddles and petting they deserve. If you are focusing too much on your book, or watching a show on your couch, the kitty might decide it’s time to shake things up a bit and get you to connect. She may attempt to accomplish this by kneading your leg, lap, back or even your head if she is being playful enough!

When a cat kneads with her paws, rest assured that it is a natural behavior that is practiced by all cat breeds.