Have you ever observed your cat “walking” in one place, using alternate paws to press down while in a deep trance like state? This is called “kneading” and there are several reasons why cats engage in this seemingly weird behavior. Some cats like to knead on couches, blankets or beds while others like to knead on top of their owners. My friend’s cat would climb up on his shoulder and begin kneading. He thought that it was the cat’s way of giving him a shoulder massage but then he did some research and learned to real reason why cats knead.
Kneading, essentially, looks like walking in place or crushing grapes with your feet. A cat will perform this unusual behavior for various reasons. One of the most interesting and compelling explanations for kneading is actually evolutionary in nature. Kittens will gently use their paws to knead their mother’s teat in order to encourage milk flow. This action is then associated with the positive, reassuring and relaxing outcome of getting sustenance.
A cat may then go into a deeply relaxed and trance-like state. As the cat gets older, she may knead any soft surface and while doing so, enter the same “good place” that she experienced when she was a kitten. So you may hear her purr with contentment while she is involved in kneading. Another explanation is that cats knead in order to prepare a soft surface to eventually settle down upon. It also seems to feel good to them and it exercises their paws. If your cat still has sharp claws however, the kneading exercise can be painful if done upon your person.
Kneading is therapeutic for cats and they should be left alone while engaged in this behavior. Your cat just wants to relax and chill out and if she engages in kneading on your shoulder or lap, then she is extra comfortable with you and that is always a good thing. There are other reasons for kneading which are equally interesting. Check out some useful resources mentioned below.