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Why Do Cats Massage Other Cats? 6 Reasons & Meanings

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 OK to let the activity continue.

Click below to jump ahead:

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The 6 Reasons Why Cats Knead Each Other

1. Marking

Cats have scent glands in their paws, and as they stretch their paws, it releases pheromone-filled sweat. They then rub the pheromones on the other cat or any other surface they knead. It can be a sign of marking their territory. This is more likely if a male cat is kneading a female cat and as a means of deterring other cats.

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2. Milking

Young 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.

mother and kitten
Image Credit: vargazs, Pixabay
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3. Affection

Generally, a cat has to be entirely comfortable to knead a person or another cat. It is displaying its affection for the other cat, and you are unlikely to see a cat kneading a cat that it dislikes or is scared of.

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4. Nesting

In the wild, cats would sleep in nests, and they would soften the nest and make it comfortable to lay on by kneading it. Although this type of kneading is more commonly seen on blankets, cushions, or your lap, it could be a throwback to nesting if one of your cats is kneading another.

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

It is common for a cat to be purring and squinting its 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, it could just be showing how content it is.

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6. Heat

A female cat may knead a male cat or soft items around the male cat when going into heat. At this time, your female cat will likely want to spend more time outdoors, may be more vocal, and may show other signs of being ready to mate, such as lifting its tail to a male cat.

Cat in heat lying down
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

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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. It may also occur with two similarly aged cats that you adopted or brought in at the same time, even if they are not from the same litter of kittens.

It might seem sweet that your cats are so close, but it is considered a serious behavioral issue. It can lead to considerable stress and anxiety if the two are separated. Kneading may be a symptom of littermate syndrome, but it is far more likely to be a sign of contentment or happiness and does not necessarily indicate that the two cats are too closely bonded.

Should You Stop the Behavior?

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. Stopping the kneading is stopping your cat from doing something that comes naturally to it.

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. If the play fighting does get too rough, avoid yelling or getting between the two cats but use a toy or affection to get your cat’s attention.

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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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 that your cat is coming into heat.

Unless the kneading is causing the recipient cat pain or discomfort, you shouldn’t need to discourage the behavior.

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Featured Image Credit: AdinaVoicu, Pixabay