Whether you are a new or veteran cat parent to a young or old kitty, there is a good chance you have witnessed or experienced kneading. Some cat parents have also noticed their kitties sucking on soft fabrics. Both these behaviors are instinctive and have their roots in kittenhood.
Kneading is the act of a cat pressing his paws into a soft surface in an alternating motion. While it is certainly common among cats, not all cats do it. Additionally, not all cats knead the same way. Some use all four paws instead of only their front ones. Others knead with their claws out instead of sheathed.
Causes of Kneading
When kittens nurse, they instinctively knead on each side of the nipple in order to stimulate milk production. When cats knead a warm, soft surface, such as laundry or bedding fresh from the dryer, it is because they associate the soft warmth with the comfort of nursing. If your cat kneads your lap when you pet him, it is his way of returning affection and saying that he loves you too. According to PetMD, kneading can also be a cat's way of marking the surface he kneads as his. This is because the kneading action activates scent glands located inside the soft pads on the bottoms of his paws.
Sucking, or Wool Sucking
The act of a kitten or cat sucking on fabric of some kind is actually known as wool sucking. Some cats will choose clothing, bedding or another fabric item belonging to the person to whom they are most attached or bonded.
Causes of Wool Sucking
Kittens and cats who engage in wool sucking tend to be those who were weaned prematurely. They may suck on soft fabrics to soothe stress or anxiety or to relieve boredom. Additionally, if your cat sucks on your clothing while on your lap or bedding while on your bed, he is expressing affection for you. Basically, you have become his parent in his world. Wool sucking is far less common than kneading and tends to occur mainly in both purebred Siamese cats and Siamese mixes. This suggests that genetics may influence this behavior as well, according to Cat World.
Leslie Carver has been a professional author since 2009. Her work appears on multiple websites. She has an associate's degree in English with progress toward her bachelor's at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been awarded an Outstanding Student Award in English and twice nominated for creative writing awards.