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It’s almost like a state of feline nirvana: Your
cat curls up in your lap and rhythmically presses one paw, then the other, with eyes half closed and a trickle of drool running down her chin.
Kneading, or what many veterinarians call “making biscuits,” is an instinctive behavior that begins in kittens shortly after birth. Noted zoologist
Desmond Morris coined the phrase “milk treading” to describe the movement of a kitten’s paws against her mother's mammary glands to stimulate milk flow.
This behavior certainly serves a purpose for kittens, but why does it continue into adulthood? Animal behaviorists speculate that an adult
cat kneads to show contentment, to calm herself when she's feeling anxious or to mark a person or object with her scent from the sweat glands in her paws.
Kittens who are weaned too early may not only knead, but also attempt to suckle on human skin, earlobes, stuffed toys and even the family
dog. In extreme cases, some cats (usually
Siamese or Siamese-crosses) will
obsessively suck or chew on wool blankets or clothing while kneading — and even ingest parts of the object.
So if your little fluff ball is simply kneading you — and she appears to be in a state of contentment — sit back, relax and enjoy your kitty massage. And if she's overdoing it? Talk with your vet.
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