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Some answers about kneading, stomping, and other odd behavior

Dear Sinéad, Siouxsie and Thomas:
I would like some advice regarding "kneading." For as long as I can remember, my cat, Spud, has enjoyed kneading me when he jumps up on me. This is fine. I don't have a problem with this and I don't even mind when he gets his claws out because I know that he is happy and that makes me happy. However, after a while (20 -30 seconds), his body will jerk a few times and I have to think "Is he enjoying this TOO much" -- if you catch my drift!! Yes, it seems my cat is having an orgasm. There, I've said it! At this stage I usually shoo him off with some measure of disgust. Is this in fact what he is doing or is this some common behavior that I am not aware of? I would really appreciate any advice you could give me.

Thanks for your time.
~Steve

I'm a senior with a large black male (fixed) domestic longhair. He's a well behaved, rather quiet 7-8-year-old, but can run and jump if the situation requires. The odd thing that I've never seen before is his nightly stomping routine. As I get ready for bed, he will jump on the bed and begin a stomping drill on my pajamas, which were thrown down in a heap. With back slightly arched, his back feet stomp the pajamas as if he were in a trance. Now, is he trying to flatten the lump for a bed or just marking a territory?

Curious,
~Bud

Sinéad: Well, Steve, it's hard to say for sure whether or not your cat is having an orgasm. But some careful examination should reveal the truth.

Siouxsie: Like all mammals, male cats show pretty obvious evidence when they're sexually stimulated. If you see that your kitty has an erection before his body jerks, then the odds are that there's some sort of sexual stimulation going on.

Thomas: As a boy cat myself, I'd have to say that it's pretty unlikely that your cat would have an orgasm from kneading your lap. Usually we boy cats stimulate ourselves by licking the penis and scrotum, not clawing our humans' pants. But there's no accounting for taste, I suppose.

Sinéad: Steve, you don't mention if your cat is neutered or not. Unneutered cats are much more likely to exercise sexual behavior than neutered ones -- since it is mostly the hormones produced by the male cat's testicles that cause the sex drive to happen -- but as Thomas said, even neutered cats sometimes find that licking themselves feels kind of good.

Siouxsie: Kneading is really a sign of true love and feeling safe with you. It's a behavior common to kittens, because kittens knead their mother's nipples to bring down the milk they need to drink before they're weaned.

Thomas: Many cats get a sort of goofy and euphoric expression on their face while they're kneading. Some cats even drool! Me, I just knead and purr.

Sinéad: Even if your cat is having an orgasm, Steve, it's important for you to be kind to him. Don't throw him off your lap in disgust. Your kitty doesn't know why you're doing this, and it just confuses him. Cats don't have the kind of shame and hang-ups about sexuality that many humans have, so he doesn't have a clue why you eject him after he kneads you for a while.

Siouxsie: If you know that he's going to do this jerking thing about 30 seconds into his kneading session, and you find it really disturbing, the best tactic is to gently distract him with a toy before he reaches that point. Or just let him do it. There doesn't seem to be any harm in it, as far as we can see.

Thomas: We wrote another column recently about how you can gently distract your cat from kneading you. You might find some good distraction techniques there.

Sinéad: In order to keep your pants and blankets -- and your skin -- from getting shredded while your boy kneads you, we'd suggest keeping his nails trimmed. Buy a good-quality trimmer and ask your vet or a groomer how to go about trimming your cat's claws. Good luck, Steve, and we hope this helps.

Siouxsie: Now to Bud's question. I know all about stomping, Bud, because I like to do the stomp dance myself!

Thomas: That's right. Sometimes Siouxsie will go up to a pillow Mama put on the floor and stomp it with her back legs. At first Mama was afraid she might be gearing up to spray or urinate on the pillow, but she watched and waited, and it turned out it's just something Siouxsie likes to do.

Sinéad: Many cats will knead and stomp with all four of their paws when they're settling down into bed. I do this quite a bit myself. Before I curl up in my bed (which Mama sometimes has the nerve to call her bed), I'll dance and stomp around in a circle to make a little nest for myself.

Siouxsie: Sometimes I do that kind of stomping, too. I especially like to make nests in Mama's pajamas, just like your kitty, because the smell of Mama makes me feel happy and good.

Thomas: The stomp-dance can be good for marking territory, too. We cats have scent glands in our paw pads, so when we stomp and claw on things, we do leave a bit of our own special smell on them.

Sinéad: So, Bud, the answer to your question is Yes. Your kitty is putting his smell on your pajamas, and he's making a nice, comfortable nest for himself.

Siouxsie: It's perfectly normal behavior and nothing to be worried about. Unless, that is, your kitty is clawing your pajamas to shreds, in which case you might want to put something else that has your scent on it for him to knead and stomp. Speaking personally, I love the stuff humans call Polar Fleece. Mama has a few Polar Fleece throw blankets, and I love curling up and nesting in those more than anything else in the world, except maybe Mama's down pillows!

Thomas: Polar Fleece blankets are good. And cheap, if you go to the right place to get them.

Sinéad: So, Bud, we hope that answers your question. Purrs and headbonks to both you and Steve.

Got a question? Need some advice? E-mail us at advice@paws-and-effect.com. None of the material in this column is meant to be a substitute for regular veterinary care.