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C2009-41

Dear Christopher Cat

Why do cats knead with their paws?

Christopher Responds

Now that I’m an adult cat, I knead when I’m relaxed and happy. But the behavior started when I was very young, and for a different reason.

As a kitten, I instinctively knew to massage my feline mother’s mammary gland with my paws while I nursed. When I kneaded the mammary gland I was suckling, it yielded more milk, a reward that encouraged me to continue the behavior.

Evolutionary biologists say that eons ago, when the first kittens kneaded while nursing, they drank more milk, grew bigger and stronger, and as adults produced more kittens than their counterparts who did not knead.

So the kneading gene established itself within many cat family lines, giving them an inherited advantage.

As an adult, I continue to knead because I’m genetically programmed to do so, even though the behavior no longer produces any obvious benefit -– except that it makes Mom smile.

While I knead, I purr and drool and sometimes get my claws stuck in Mom’s clothing. If your cat is like me, keep a towel handy to pad your lap. If her claws are long, trim them. For instructions, click here.

And remember, when your cat kneads, she’s telling you she feels safe and content -– and that she loves you.

 

 

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