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24–27 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Kitten

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Cat-speak Dictionary: Rubbing, Nose-taps, and Kneading

If you have more than one cat, you've probably noticed that even if they “talk” to you, they rarely meow at each other. Cats' bodies communicate more about their emotional and physical state than any mere vocalizations could, and if you really want to be able to understand your kitten's attempts to talk with you, you need to learn what her body language means.

  • Nose-taps: The nose-tap is the most common form of communication between cats that are friends. When cats share a nose-to-nose greeting, they're depositing their scents on each other and checking out where the other has been. You can simulate the nose tap by holding out one finger for your kitten to touch and sniff. In fact, this is considered a polite greeting by cats of all ages. If you visit a friend who has a cat, try putting out one finger at cat nose level and see what happens.

  • Rubbing: Rubbing can indicate either friendliness or stress. When your kitten rubs you with her head and cheeks, that means she's happy and comfortable. She has scent glands in her head and cheeks, and when she deposits the scent from those glands on you, it's a mark of happiness and a way to claim you as part of her family. Cats also have scent glands near their tails and by their anuses and rubbing with the “back of the cat” glands indicates more stress or a need to assert their territory by marking you with the "Back Off! That's Mine" signal.

  • Kneading: Kneading, or the rhythmic stretching of the front paws, is a gesture that harks back to your kitten's infancy. When she was nursing, she kneaded her mother's mammary glands to stimulate the flow of milk. If you've ever seen a litter of purring, kneading kittens lined up at Mama's milk bar, you've seen the ultimate expression of feline delight. Some people say that kittens who knead were weaned too early, but this is not necessarily true. Just about every cat kneads when they're ecstatic. When your kitten is kneading in your lap, she's feeling the same bliss she felt back in the earliest days of her life. Unfortunately, since we have thin clothes and tender skin, kneading can be quite painful for us. If your kitten is leaving puncture marks all over you with her kneading, try putting a towel or an extra layer of blanket under her front paws.

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