Why Do Cats Push With Their Paws When They Are Getting Cozy?

You’ve likely seen your cat doing this cute thing, but why do cats push with their paws and what on earth does it mean?

why do cats push with their paws
Rich Moore / Flickr

There comes a point when every cat lover notices this bizarre little quirk about their cat. You probably first saw your kitty do this when they were sitting on your lap. Rather than just curling up into a ball, sometimes, these sweet little creatures will ‘knead’ or push down on your with their paws. This is by no means an aggressive move as I’m sure you will already have realized. Still, what’s the deal and why do cats push with their paws?

They learn this habit as kittens

So, where does this whole ‘kneading’ thing come from? Well, when your cat was just a little kitten, they will have picked up this trait. The fact of the matter is that when cats are nursing from their moms (you know, when they are drinking their mom’s milk!), they knead at the same time. There’s actually a highly scientific reason behind this behavior. You see, the sensation helps the mother to have a steady flow of milk for her young. Essentially, what the kittens are doing is massaging the area to help the milk come out of the teat.

If you happen to have had a cat with a litter of kittens, you may have noticed them doing this. Honestly, it’s really very sweet to see firsthand. All the little cats gather around their mother and copy this very same ‘kneading’ action. What’s rather surprising is the fact that man cats take this behavior well into their adult years too.

It’s a sign of affection and comfort

So, what does it mean when a cat does this as an adult? Why do cats push with their paws when they are sitting on our laps? Well, you will love the answer to these questions. In short, cats knead when they are happy or content. So, when your cat crawls up onto your lap and gets all cozy, the chances are that they are very pleased to be with you. It’s one of the many ways that they show you a little affection.

The moment your cat begins to knead your knees, you should actually feel very honored. They feel comforted by you just like they did by their mother! In a way, they are remembering how it was to be a kitten and mimicking the things that they did back then. Of course, we don’t provide our cats with milk (because that would be gross) but we do give them a sense of well-being and calm. That is much like what their mother would have given them when they were very young.

Suckling and kneading at the same time

Sometimes, you will notice that kneading doesn’t just happen on it’s own. Oh no, it’s all too often accompanied by its partner in crime; suckling. Most of the time, your cat will find a favorite blanket or cushion that they like to knead and suckle at the same time.

Note: Not all cats do this so don’t panic if you’ve never seen your kitty give it a whirl!

When you first see your cat doing this it may look kind of strange. They will be holding some material in their mouth, pushing down with their paws, and sucking away. Sure, it might seem strange to see a fully-grown cat doing this, but it’s very common. Here, your kitty is simulating what they would have done when they were just little kittens. As we’ve already mentioned, this is exactly how your cat would have nursed from its mom as a young animal. Oftentimes, you will find that cats do this for comfort or just out of habit.

As you probably know by now, many people take thumb-sucking into their adult lives. Well, your cat choosing to suckle and knead on things is actually no different to that. They are simply expressing a habit that they learned when they were younger. While some cats stop doing it after they are kittens, many never do.

What if your cat doesn’t knead?

If you’ve never noticed your cat kneading or pushing down on you, don’t panic. Cats, much like people, are totally individual. The likelihood is that some kitties will never develop this habit and that’s perfectly okay. It doesn’t mean that they are not happy around you or even comfortable in your home.

Oh no, cats have loads of ways of showing that they love you, and so you really should not read too much into it!

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