The Mercury News

What's the reason behind kitten's bedtime kneading?

- Animal Life runs on Mondays. Contact Joan Morris at AskJoanMor­ris@

DEAR JOAN >> I adopted my cat, Chong, when he was 3 months old. He is now 10 months old. I have had cats all my life.

Chong has been neutered, has a chip and has all of his shots. The one thing

I can't figure out is when we go to bed, he has a cushion he sleeps on and a fluffy pillow, but instead of sleeping on them, he kneads them. His body gets stiff and tight, including his tail.

I never have seen that with my other cats. Is there a reason for this?

— Phil Wilson,


DEAR PHIL >> This actually is common behavior in cats and nothing to worry about. Kneading cushions, blankets, pillows and, on occasion, humans is a sign of contentmen­t and happiness. Cats find it relaxing, and Chong is simply winding down and getting ready for a nice nap. Kneading is an instinct from birth. Kittens gently knead their mothers to help with the flow of milk. If kittens are taken from their mothers early, they often suckle on the things they are kneading. You often see this behavior at bedtime, too, as the cat plumps up and softens its bed.

Kneading is harmless, and as it's comforting, it shouldn't be discourage­d unless the cat is causing damage. In that case, the cat should be redirected to more appropriat­e objects.

DEAR JOAN >> A few days ago, there were a huge number of bird feathers all over my front porch.

I initially thought a neighborho­od cat may have attacked a bird. When I went outside to clean up the feathers, I expected to find a bird carcass somewhere nearby, but I didn't see one. Now I'm wondering whether a bird may have molted. What do you think happened? — Linda B., Oakland

DEAR LINDA >> I think your first instinct was correct. Some unfortunat­e bird met its demise at the paws or talons of a predator, such as a cat or raptor. The carcass was carried away by the original slayer or by a scavenger, leaving the feathers behind.

While we are nearing the molting season, birds shed their feathers gradually, a few at a time, until they have replaced almost all their feathers. If they shed them in larger numbers, they'd be left naked and exposed to the elements.


Last week, I wrote about training techniques to stop dogs from noshing off counters and tables, and received a lot of letters from readers who have had the same problem.

Gwynne and Sabrina both had success using snap traps as a scare tactic. Gwynne used mouse traps, set and placed upside down on counters, so that the dog hears the snap but doesn't get caught in the trap. Sabrina and her husband used a product called Snappy Trainers that snap but don't catch anything. Sabrina says her dog became so wary of the snappers that she didn't even have to set them. The sight of them alone keeps her pup away.

Vicki M. suggested signing up for master classes from celebrated dog trainer Brandon McMillan, the host of a TV show called “Lucky Dog.”

I appreciate readers sharing what worked for them.

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