It’s the age-old question. And the cats aren’t talking. So the theories as to ‘why’ continue.
There’s a good chance that kneading cats are just content, says veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker of Mercola’s Healthy Pets. That’s why kneading cats often purr and close their eyes while they’re performing the repetitive, back-and-forth motion. Cats also may use the rhythmic behavior to calm themselves when they are nervous or stressed.
What about when your cat kneads you? When cats knead humans, some animal behaviorists believe they are marking their people with the sweat glands in their paws. The same could be said for any other thing a cat kneads, like a blanket or a bed. The cat is letting other cats know that these items belong to him and are part of his territory.
Unspayed female cats often knead right before going into heat. The motion may be a signal to male cats that she is ready to mate.
Kneading behaviors may also trace back to cats’ ancient feline ancestors, which had to make comfortable resting spots in tall grass or leaves. In order to tamp down the grass, those early cats likely kneaded and prodded the foliage while also using their paws to poke around for anything dangerous lurking in the grass, reports PetMD.