Saturday, 12 July 2014

Why Do Cats Give Massages?

Cats Kneading
We have all watched those cute videos of cats massaging their humans, dogs, other cats and kittens, and even chairs, couches, and cushions. Some of us get to witness it live. But have you ever wondered what that peculiar behaviour is about?

Alright, so this massaging motion using the front paws is called kneading. It is a natural and instinctive trait in felines. Not all cats knead, but it’s a common behaviour which starts at a young age and stays through adulthood. The motion is dubbed “making biscuits” because it resembles kneading dough.

Some cats knead by retracting their claws as they rhythmically alternate between the paws, while others extend them. Cats may sometimes appear to be in a kind of trance mid doing it; many purr with eyes closed, some even drool.

 I have experienced the drooling part after bonding with my sister's cat, though this was when I was the one massaging her while she was lying on my chest and peacefully purring. 

The reason why it is believed that such massaging motion is instinctive is that newborn kittens know how to knead mama’s belly with their tiny front paws as they nurse. They do so to stimulate a flow of milk through her nipples. It starts shortly after birth and they keep doing it even when older. That, it seems, is because it remains associated with the rewarding comfort of nursing as an emotional security. Although cats separated from their mothers will still knead as adults.

Despite the availability of few theories, no one is exactly sure why cats make biscuits.

Some say it may be an indication that the female is willing and ready to mate, and that she’ll be going into heat (Estrus) soon. Others say it’s a sign of stress or anxiety and they do it to calm themselves. 

It is also believed that some cats knead to get attention or to show contentment.

Another theory highlights the fact that all cats are territorial beings. Hence the behaviour remains from the times when cats were wild. They had used similar motions then to pat down grass and leaves in order to make beds for sleeping or for giving birth. It is known that cats have scent glands in the soft pads on the bottom of their paws; so kneading works like some kind of scent-marking to a territory or belonging.

It could also be because it’s comforting for them to do it on soft and flexible surfaces. Or, simply, they may just be massaging out of love. 

Meaow that you know the possible reasons for such behaviour, if there is kneading and the kitty-cats look happy, then let them be. You can even enjoy it with them in case they’re doing it to you or just by watching. But if they are overdoing it, then you should probably try to find out why.

Stay curious. Also learn how cats are genetically wilder than dogs on this recent article: Why Cats Are Not Dogs

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