Despite what many people think, cats can truly be affectionate animals. Of course, there will always be some cats who are more independent than others, and there will be some cats who need more attention than others. With that being said, if you have a more affectionate cat, you might notice that it expresses its affection in a number of ways.
One of the most curious ways that a cat shows its affection is through kneading. This action is named after the way that people knead bread.
Simply put, it seems as if a cat is kneading whatever the focus of its attention is on. For example, this could be your hair. If you are not familiar with the way that cats knead and that they even knead at all, this can be a strange sensation and you may not know what to think of it.
Understanding why cats knead, and why they may choose to knead your hair, is an important step to understanding the bond between you and your cat and knowing how your cat feels about you.
When all is said and done, if your cat feels comfortable enough to knead your hair, you should know that you are doing something right, as this is one of the strongest signs of affection that a cat can offer, aside from showing you its stomach.
Why Do Cats Knead?
It is believed that the kneading motion that cats do stems from the way that kittens knead their mothers for milk when they are incredibly young. They learn to associate the kneading motion with happiness, comfort, and safety.
As cats communicate almost entirely through nonverbal cues, they will knead each other to communicate these same emotions. As people, it can be harder to understand this.
There are a few distinct reasons why your cat may be kneading in the first place, aside from kneading its mother for milk. Not all cats retain the desire to knead, so you may not see it in some cats, but if you are lucky, you may catch your cat kneading something in certain situations.
Cats will knead each other to show affection, trust, and that they feel safe with each other. In human actions, it can be considered the equivalent of a hug when a cat kneads another cat. This doesn’t happen often with cats that are not related or haven’t grown up together, but if you have multiple cats, you may find one communicating this to the other.
Additionally, cats also have scent glands in their feet. When they knead something, whether it is bedding, the dog, or your hair, it is putting its scent onto that thing. In a sense, this can be considered claiming ownership of that thing in a more loving and affectionate manner.
If a cat is kneading your hair, there’s a chance it is trying to say “you are mine,” and thinking of your hair as the same thing as another cat’s stomach, as both are soft to a cat’s paws.
Cats will also sometimes knead their bedding. Similar to the way that dogs will spin in a circle before settling themselves down, cats will knead their bedding as they relax themselves and get ready to sleep the day away.
Some behavioral experts believe that this behavior comes from their ancestral need to set up a “bed” in the wild by kneading down tall grass and making sure that there are no snakes or predators underneath them.
Finally, unspayed female cats will usually knead shortly before they start going into heat. As a part of cat’s nonverbal communication, this is the cat’s way of letting male cats in the area know that your cat will shortly be ready for their special attention. If this behavior is unwanted, you should consider spaying your female cat.
Why Do Cats Choose Your Hair Specifically?
While cats will knead bedding and other cats, it may seem like a strange choice for them to choose your hair specifically. However, when you think about how cats communicate, it may begin to make sense. From a cat’s perspective, humans are strange, almost entirely furless creatures. The only place on a person that has a considerable amount of “fur” is the head. To a cat, this may seem like the only respectful place to knead you.
As mentioned earlier, cats will knead each other as a sign of trust and affection. Because your hair is the most similar part of your body to another cat’s fur, your cat may believe that this is the only “right” place to knead you to show you that it loves and cares about you. While it may be painful and annoying, you may want to let your cat knead your hair just a little bit, as this is the best way your cat can tell you that it loves you.
Additionally, your cat may simultaneously be marking you as your cat’s. Because cats have scent glands in their paws, kneading your hair is the best way for cats to spread that scent onto you.
Cats are small creatures and can only rub against your legs and hands. To a cat, your head is going to be unmarked territory that they need to claim as their own so that any passing animals know that you are already taken by your cats.