It’s often thought that only kittens knead – the behavior where cats push their paws alternately into something soft like a pillow, sofa, your lap, or their mother.
However some adult cats regularly knead as well. One of my cats, an almost 10 year old female, is always kneading on her bedding; especially when she sees me and wants a cuddle!
This is thought to be a very relaxing behavior for cats and yes, it’s something that they born with as an instinct.
Kneading on their mother’s breasts brings about increased flow of milk to the nipple. So clearly, this is a behavior that very young kittens quickly learn is to their great benefit. And some cats just never grow out of it.
The good thing is about adult cats kneading, is that it’s usually a sign of contentment, relaxation and security. A cat who is anxious, nervous or stressed is unlikely to display kneading behavior. So it’s certainly nothing to worry about.
In fact, it’s almost something to feel proud about! If my 10 year old cat wants to knead, I feel that she’s a very happy cat, and I’m ecstatic that she’s so very relaxed that she reverts back to this kitten-like behavior when she sees me.
Kneading can become a bit of an issue if the claws start to come out, which is not usually the case in true kneading, but it’s something that some male cats in particular can sometimes progress to. The kneading starts to turn into a more aggressive, claws-out, digging into the skin type behavior.
It’s thought this is a mating-type behavioral instinct, but a neutered male cat is unlikely to display these problems unless it’s in a more playful fashion.