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Why Do Cats Massage Other Cats? Feline Behavior Explained

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

two domestic cats sleep together on the sofa

Cats are born with a natural instinct to massage, known as kneading or “making biscuits.” Kittens do it to their moms to stimulate milk production, and adult cats do it to each other for comfort, social bonding, and even play.

So yes, a cat massaging another cat is perfectly normal. In fact, if you have multiple cats at home, this is one behavior you want to see and encourage. It’s a clear sign that your cats are content and that they’re getting along.

But in general, cat massages are quite fascinating behavior! Keep reading for a closer look at the unique ways that cats show love and affection.

How Do Cats Learn to Knead?

Kneading is an instinctive behavior in cats. For kittens, it’s a survival tool. Kneading their mother’s teats encourages milk to flow, therefore helping them get the nourishment they need.1

While it doesn’t serve the same purpose in adult cats, it still plays an important role in their social and emotional lives.

cat lying on passenger seat in a car while kneading owner's hand
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Top 5 Reasons Why Adult Cats Knead Each Other

Adult cats never outgrow the instinct to knead. They associate the behavior with safety and relaxation, and it naturally manifests when they’re feeling those emotions. Beyond that, cats massage other cats for a variety of reasons:

1. They’re Marking Their Territory

Cats have scent glands in those cute toe beans, aka their paw pads.2 The act of kneading activates those glands, allowing cats to spread their individual smells around. Doing this to another cat is a way of claiming them as family or territory.

Two cats playing
Image Credit: Adina Voicu, Pixabay

2. They’re Ready to Mate

Another theory about why cats knead, specifically female cats, is that they’re trying to attract a mate. Female cats in heat have been known to knead their surroundings as part of their mating ritual.3


3. They’re Stretching

Kneading is also a way for cats to stretch their bodies and help limber up stiff muscles. Massaging engages various muscle groups, such as their toes, claws, and paws. It also allows them to stretch their backs and necks if they’ve been sleeping in one position for too long.

two cuddly cats
Image Credit: Pixabay

4. They’re Feeling Happy and Content

Sometimes, it’s less about the other cat and more about how your cat is feeling in the moment. Strong positive feelings, such as happiness and contentment, can activate the kneading instinct in cats. And if another cat happens to be there, great! They just became the recipient of a free massage!


5. They Think of the Other Cat as Family

Kneading may be a common feline behavior, but it’s still pretty intimate. So, when cats massage each other, it’s often a sign of closeness and affection. It can be likened to humans cuddling or holding hands. If you own several cats, consider yourself lucky if you catch them kneading each other. You’ve done a fantastic job of creating a peaceful, loving home and your cats appreciate it.

two white cats on the grass
Image Credit: Piqsels

Conclusion

To sum it up, cats massaging other cats is totally normal. It’s an instinctive behavior that cats have had since they were kittens, and it serves many purposes throughout their lives. Whether they’re marking their territory, stretching their muscles, or showing affection to another cat, it’s always a sure sign that a cat feels happy, safe, and content where they are.


Featured Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

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