When a cat pushes its paws, kitty enthusiasts can never get enough of this adorable behavior. Also known as ‘making biscuits or preparing bread,’ you might have also noticed your feline pal pushing her feet onto the floor, blankets, or your lap as if she is massaging it.

But why does this happen? Should you be worried? Let us see what the science and theories have to say about cats pushing their paws.

What Does It Mean When a Cat Pushes Its Paws?

All cat behavioralists agree that kittens start pushing their paws as soon as they are born. This is in their instinct: before they open their eyes, they start kneading their mother’s belly to stimulate milk production through repetitive pushes. This goes on until the kitten weaning process is completed.

Ideally, the purpose of cat kneading ends here, but there are several other reasons why these little creatures continue to push their paws throughout their lives.

1. She Is Requiting Your Love

This happens when cats knead their owners, most often by laying on their chests. If your cat pushes her paws on you, know that it is a sign of affection. Kneading is one of the cats’ ways of showing their owners they love them. Though it is a bit hurtful, especially if your cat lies between your legs, you must understand that it is just a sign of feline love, and she does not intend to injure you.

However, you can ease the situation by trimming the nails or by putting a soft blanket or a pillow between you and your cat whenever she approaches to knead you.

2. She Is Stretching

Orange tabby cat stretching
Photo by Victor Serban on Unsplash Photo by Victor Serban on Unsplash

When a cat stretches, she may push her paws in quick bursts. It occurs when a cat rises from her nap or to ease muscle soreness. But there is an element of love in stretching, too: though your cat might not stretch or knead on your body this time, stretching in front of you means she feels safe, secure, and comfortable around you.

It may also mean she is greeting you and ‘banging’ her paws into the floor to desperately seek your attention.

3. She Is Marking Her Territory

Like in cheeks, lips, flanks, forehead, sides of the rectum, and on the tail, cats have scent glands under their paw pads, too (but they are not easily visible). Being territorial creatures, cats often mark their locations, and they can also do this by transferring their scent through their paws.

Consequently, you may find your ‘kitty-pie’ pushing her paws on different places – including your body to mark– trying to convey that you belong to her.  

4. She is Looking for a Mate

According to PetMD, when a female cat kneads, it is to show the male that she is in heat and is seeking potential mates. Along with this behavior, she will also become more vocal – there might be excessive meowing and purring – and restless, may wag her tail, and groom herself excessively, such as by licking her paws.

If you want to eliminate this behavior in your female cat, you can neuter or spay her. This will also reduce the chances of unwanted pregnancy in cats, and you won’t have to think about spaying a pregnant cat.

5. She is Getting Comfortable

Before they were domesticated, cats in the wild used to drop different types of grass and foliage and knead them by gently pushing their paws to make a soft and comfortable bed out of them. Even today, stray pregnant cats make comfortable nesting spots, where they could go into labor and deliver their litter of kittens by kneading things like blankets, straws, leaves, and foliage (whatever they can find).

This habit, however, persists even in our pet cats. You might have often seen your cat kneading on her bed or anywhere she intends to lie down.

6. She Remembers Her Mom

As described earlier, kittens are born with an instinct to knead their moms’ bellies for milk production. This behavior could have ended when a kitten grows, but it does not. Several vets and feline experts contend that cats might mimic such behavior as a throwback to the happy days of their kittenhood.

It is also possible that a cat might do so when she anticipates milk. She can live her life with old memories of how she pushed her paws on her mom and was rewarded with a milky treat afterward.

7. She Is Stressed

Just like being happy can cause kneading behavior in cats, stress can also plunge them into such activities. An anxious and disturbed cat may find pushing her paws soothing and relaxing. The signs that a cat is kneading for soothing purposes include dilated pupils, flat ears, hiding, and aggression.

Should You Worry About Your Cat Pushing Her Paws?

Cat kneading is natural, and there is nothing to worry about. But you should be careful of the following points to avoid any mishap.

Conclusion: What Does It Mean When a Cat Pushes Its Paws?

Cats push their paws (knead) for various reasons. Originally, kittens knead their mother’s bellies to stimulate milk production. Cats may push their paws on your lap either to mark you as their property or to show love to you. Cats also knead when in heat to attract potential mates.  

This is normal behavior, but kitty owners need to take certain measures to protect themselves and their belongings from cat nails exposed when they knead.

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