Cat Purring and Kneading Is a Sign of a Contented Cat!

If your cat is purring or kneading or doing both, this is the reason;

  • Kneading and purring is a memory of the reward of warm milk from mother to kitten.
  • Your cat purrs to show satisfaction for their conditions
  • The kneading helps to soften their sleeping quarters
  • The motions express trust
  • The frequency of the vibration of the purring  also promotes healing

Whatever the reason, we humans find it adorable and hard to resist. But do all (or most cats) knead and purr? And how do they make that cute purring sound?

Here is The ‘How’ in Your Cats Purr!

The experts describe the cat’s purr as a way for them to relax and repair their health.

A purr is caused within your cat by the very fast movements of the muscles of their larynx, also known as the voice box. The diaphragm muscles, which are at the base of the chest cavity, spring into action, moving about 20 -30 times per second. 

According to one expert, your cat’s purr has a frequency range between 20 to 140 Hz – a range that has proven to be medically therapeutic.

So not only is your cat’s purring super cute, it is healthy as studies have shown that cat owners are about 40% less inclined to have a heart attack than those people that aren’t blessed by a cat’s presence!!

When purring, your cat secretes a substance in the brain that causes pleasure – this substance is called endorphin. Times such as before eating, or falling asleep are enjoyable times for your cat, and as such, they purr their pleasure!

The Reasons Your Cat Kneads or Pummels You with Their Paws!

Apart from the kneading action being a cute cat habit and one we enjoy, there are many theories about why your cat kneads, and all are valid.

  • One theory is that the kitten learns to knead when feeding to stimulate the milk from their mother. The kneading produces vital milk that they need to survive.
  • Kneading is also a way of marking their territory (cats can be very territorial and consider everything around them as their property, including you!) Cats have scent glands within their paws, and by rubbing and kneading, they activate the scent glands to mark their territory.
  • Sometimes a cat will purr, stretch, and knead the air while lying on their side to indicate to a male the possibility of a mating opportunity.
  • Perhaps the kneading originates back to their wild ancestors who had to pad or knead down the grass or foliage to make a comfy nest to rest in.

All these theories are plausible, and all provide benefits to the cat through the action of kneading. Your cat loves purring and squishing you with their paws to demonstrate their love.

And yes, male cats knead just as much as female cats.

It is an Evolutionary Habit!

Since the time that the first cats padded onto the earth, kittens have known instinctively to seek out their mother as a means of survival. After they are born, they learn to knead and purr from their mother.

Both of these behavioural patterns are deeply connected to a kittens feeding process.  Kittens learn quickly that kneading around mum’s teat brings forth a flow of sweet warm milk that enables them to grow and satisfies their appetite.

The taste and comfort of suckling resulted in the purr of contentment to bond the kitten to the mother. The vibration of the purr lets mum know that kitty is still feeding and enjoying their ‘snack.’ Communication through purring also calms them down while feeding,

While your cat may be all grown up now, they still have the instinct to knead and purr when they are warm, well-fed, and comfortable.

Showing they are Satisfied and at Ease

The cat is an amazing animal; full of magic, superiority, and a little judgemental or so it seems. They seem to know who are the people that don’t like cats (yes, they do exist), and they are often wary of strangers.

But when the magic happens and that ball of fluff accepts you as their own, (cat’s own their people, just in case you didn’t know this), you will know it by the following.

  • Your cat will follow you around, meowing and talking to you.
  • The moment you sit down, they will land in your lap and allow you to adore them.
  • A few rubs, a pat or two, and then they will settle into your lap to begin kneading in earnest, and a rumbling, comforting purr will begin.

To be honest, the human companion seems to enjoy the purring and kneading as much as the cat does! The contentment seems to be shared between cat and owner, demonstrating the unique bond that people can form with cats, one that transcends species.

Although at times, the kneading can become a bit painful as they have those tiny little razors we call claws! Rather than growl at them for their natural behavior, just be prepared, slip a small pillow or blanket between you and those razor-sharp claws, sit back and enjoy the interaction.

The kneading is to soften their bed or ease into a cuddle

Another theory is that the wild cat learned to pummel and shape their bed into a comfy retreat. Cats love to sleep,  so kneading the grass, walking in circles, and pushing the hard grass stalks or a pile of leaves into a warm, cozy bed was vital for their comfort.

The modern cat continues to knead the bedding to shape it into a comfy resting nook, or they will turn around a few times while on your knee, they will paw and knead, and finally… when it is to their liking and only then, will they lie down and start kneading and pawing your lap to demonstrate to you that they are comfortable and contented.

Cats take their relaxation seriously, and they generally sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day. No two cats are the same, but they are the connoisseurs of comfort and sleep.

Fun Fact – cats can spend about 2/3rds of their lifetime snoozing, no wonder they like to be comfortable!

An expression of comfort and trust

Your cat communicates through their actions, such as purring or kneading. They often use purring and kneading to communicate with those close to them that they are happy, hungry, or if they are not feeling well or are a bit nervous.

  • The low frequency of purrs brings relaxation and shows contentment.
  • Purring and kneading helps to relieve anxiety and decreases high blood pressure.

The cat is a very intuitive animal, they bond to us, and we become part of their family. This acceptance by the cat has to be earned though, you cannot command a cat to like you or be their friend.

But once we have their trust, they give their all and will be your constant companion. A sure sign of their acceptance is when they willingly hop up on your knee, cuddle up and start kneading that is accompanied by a vigorous vibrating purr!

Purring also promotes healing when your cat is not feeling well

While cats normally purr and knead when they are happy and contented, there are times when they may use the purr or kneading motion if they are not well.

Remember that purring vibration is an ideal healing tool. Kneading is also a soothing action that can help them in times of pain.

These times include the following.

  • When they are injured and in pain. The vibrations and movements are calming and soothing which initiates healing.
  • They may make these sounds and motions if they are severely wounded.
  • A sick kitten may use these motions to indicate to their mother that they are not feeling well.
  • Your cat will use the purr when they are nervous, perhaps to calm themselves down.

Cats use these actions as a way to communicate what they are feeling.

Kneading and purring are tools to a healthier life that your cat uses to control their health, but their actions are also beneficial to the cat’s owner, as the purring sound, and the kneading motion are both calming to us and reassuring.

The Final Note.

Purring and kneading is an expression of your cats level of contentment. These actions are a form of communication between them and their owner.

They can self heal using the vibration purr, express contentment and joy, and also warn when they are anxious. When you have a cat, you quickly learn to read the signs that they send us.

There is nothing like the love of a cat, to have this magical creature land in your lap, cuddle up, and then proceed to massage and pummel us while purring like crazy.


Writer: Jean Brewer

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