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Why Do Cats Massage Other Cats? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons & Meanings

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

two cats playing

Why Do Cats Massage Other Cats? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons & Meanings

VET APPROVED

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Kneading, which is often called “making biscuits” because the motion somewhat resembles kneading dough, is a common feline activity. Cats may knead their owners, soft cushions, and their belongings, and if you have multiple cats in your house, you may also notice one kneading the other. They may even take turns kneading one another.

The reason for kneading varies, and you will need to consider the context and your cat’s behavior other than the kneading to determine the exact reason why.

Below are six possible reasons your cat might be kneading another cat and whether you should be concerned by the activity. But generally, unless it is causing the other cat any harm or discomfort, it is generally okay to let the activity continue.

cat paw divider

The 4 Reasons Why Cats Knead Each Other

1. Marking

Cats have scent glands in their paws, and as they scratch surfaces, they deposit their scent onto them. They then rub the scent on the other cat or any other surface they knead. It can be a sign of marking their territory. However, generally speaking, the odds of a cat marking each other this way are extremely low. In fact, it is most often associated with milking, which we’ll discuss next.


2. Milking

oung kittens knead their mothers to stimulate milk production so that they get more milk when feeding. Your cat may be kneading as a throwback to their younger years and as an instinctive reaction. In this case, the kneading is often accompanied by suckling, and while this activity is more likely when kneading blankets or your sweater, it can involve another cat. This activity is most common on kittens that were weaned too early (either due to being displaced from their mother or the loss of a mother). It is also more common in all male litters.

mother and kitten
Image Credit: vargazs, Pixabay

3. Affection

Generally, a cat has to be entirely comfortable to knead a person or another cat. The cat would be displaying their affection for the other cat, and you are unlikely to see a cat kneading a cat that they dislike or are scared of.

Silver Siberian cat grooming her kitten
Image Credit: Massimo Cattaneo, Shutterstock

4. Contentment

It is a common sign for a cat to be purring and squinting their eyes while kneading, and these are all signs of contentment and happiness. It’s why your cat is more likely to knead your lap after a meal and while getting a good scratch behind the ears. If your cat is kneading another cat, they could just be showing how content they are.

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Is Kneading a Sign of Littermate Syndrome?

Littermate syndrome occurs when two siblings from the same litter become overly dependent on one another. This condition is normally only recognized in puppies. Fortunately, this is not a recognized condition in cats or kittens.

Should You Stop the Kneading?

Generally, there is no reason to stop the kneading from taking place unless it is causing pain to the cat on the receiving end. It is thought to be an affectionate activity, and it is certainly a natural activity. You should only intervene if it seems to bother one of your cats.

cat sleeping in owner's arms
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

Should I Let My Cats Play Fight?

Cats play fight to hone their hunting and other natural instincts. It is a natural activity and one that should not be discouraged unless the play gets rough. Play fights among cats rarely get serious, but if they do, you should let them settle down a bit before you separate them. If you immediately jump in between a fight, one or both of your cats may end up attacking you.

Why Do Cats Headbutt?

Like kneading, headbutting is a natural feline interaction. Cats headbutt their owners to show affection and proximity. They also headbutt to mark territory. It is a form of social bonding and should be considered a positive action rather than a negative one.

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Conclusion

Cat kneading is a natural behavior. It can be unpleasant if your cat gets carried away when kneading you, but it is most often a sign of affection. Similarly, when a cat kneads another cat, it is usually a sign of affection or contentment, although it may also be a sign of early weaning in some cats.


Featured Image Credit: AdinaVoicu, Pixabay

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