This is one of the most pleasurable feelings in the world, when your cat, settling for a nap – one more – begins to knead you with its paws. But why do cats do this kind of thing?
The action of kneading begins with the birth of kittens: one of its functions is to stimulate the production of milk in the mammary glands of their mother. This action is usually accompanied by a purr followed by a nap – two behaviors that are also observed in kittens during and after breastfeeding. But this kind of attitude is also observed in adulthood. But your cat is not necessarily trying to increase your milk output or imagining you as a kind of adoptive mom.
There are other instincts in play when your cat “massages” you to take a nap. In the wild, adult cats use their paws and claws to trample and soften a small area to sleep. The wild ancestors of domestic cats liked to lie down on surfaces soft and comfortable enough to sleep or give birth to their young. Kneading the tall grass or the leaves, the cat then creates a small cocoon, checking in passing the possible presence of unwanted visitors hidden under the foliage.
And, since cats also have odoriferous glands in their paws, they also probably indulge in a bit of territorialism, marking you as their property. But that you already knew, right? It is important to note that despite popular belief, kneading is not a sign of a cat that has been weaned too soon – most of them seem to do so. If a kitten has been separated from its mother before being weaned, it will try to suck on other things, such as blankets, and parts of the human body such as the lobes of your ears.
Whether your pet crushes you to make a small cozy bed, or tries to mark you as his property, a cat that kneads you means that it is comfortable, and that you are appreciated. Take it as a compliment!