Skip to the content

Kansas State University

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
  1. K-State Home >
  2. News Services >
  3. May news releases

Source: Dr. Susan Nelson, 785-532-5690,
Web site:
News release prepared by: Nellie Ryan, 785-532-6415,

Monday, May 11, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Cats are known for some quirky behaviors like purring or kneading their paws. According to a Kansas State University veterinarian, these behaviors can tell you things about your feline.

Cats purr, but why? The primary reason is because they are content, and this behavior starts as a kitten, said Dr. Susan Nelson, a veterinarian at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Purring is a kitten's first form of communication," Nelson said. "They can purr at just 2 days old. This lets their mother know that they are content."

Nelson also said there are theories that purring releases an endorphin that helps with pain, which is why many cats will purr while giving birth or when injured. Other studies have been published that relate the sound frequency of purrs to promoting bone healing and repair, she said.

Cats also are known for kneading their paws. This behavior starts as a kitten as well. Kittens knead their mothers to stimulate milk production. Nelson said that kneading also can be a sign of contentment as it is a self-soothing behavior, which reminds cats of their mothers.

Going crazy over catnip is another common behavior for cats. However, the ability to respond to the chemical, nepatalactone, in catnip is an inherited trait, and up to 30 percent of cats will not respond to it, Nelson said. In general, cats less than 3 months old are not responsive to catnip because the gene does not kick in until they are older, she said.

Nelson encourages owners to pay close attention to their cats' behaviors. Looking for anything new or out of the ordinary is important because it could be a medical condition that requires veterinary care.