Millie a petite white and black cat arrived with her face pressed against her basket eager to get out and explore. Hopping out of her carrier her tail pointed skyward, Millie trots over to have a sniff and say hello. A confident kitty she is soon investigating my apartment while her owner Jane looks on proudly.
‘I've known Millie since she was a kitten,’ said Jane ‘ I adopted her a few years ago and she usually goes everywhere with me.’ Jane gathered Milly in her arms for one last cuddle before leaving to marry her fiancé Neil. Taking Jane’s departure in her stride Millie continued to explore. Whilst I unpacked her overnight bag she hopped on and off of furniture as she made her way around the front room.
As soon as I sat down Millie made a beeline for me and landed silently in my lap. She walked her front legs up my chest, and whilst looking intently into my eyes started kneading her paws determinedly.
There are many theories that try to explain the compulsion in some cats to knead anything soft. Some say its behaviour carried over from kittens whom while suckling their mothers stimulate milk flow by kneading her underbelly. Others posit that it's behaviour inherited by cats from their wild ancestors who would pad down grasses and foliage with their paws to make a soft bed. Or that they are marking territory by transferring scent from the glands in their paws to whatever they are kneading.
Many of the cats I've looked after like to knead, especially before napping, but none with the dedication of Millie. Millie kneads her little paws with the concentration of an athlete training for the olympic final of the Great British Bake Off. When I sit down to work she charges across the room and springboards off of an armchair, skidding across my desk. Halting in front of me she places her paws on my chest, narrows her eyes and purring contentedly, begins to knead. Later she relaxes on the floor stretching each leg in turn and bending her head forward until it touches her toes, licking them clean.
It's soon time for bed and as I open the front room door Millie springs into action and races passed me into the bedroom. I am like the tortoise and Millie is the hare, only in this version of the fable the tortoise is unaware there is a race on and the hare sprints past to claim the trophy. When I arrive in the bedroom Millie is already doing her stretches on the bed limbering up for her next event. She waits patiently for me to climb into bed and is soon standing on my chest working her paws methodically into my pyjama’s. I am her human running machine as she pads on the spot training for her next big race. In her element, Millie decides to try out a few new moves variating from her usual padding on the spot and working her way up to my head and nuzzling my neck. I drift off to the rhythm of her paws and wake to find her kneading the top of my head. After 20 minutes of plucking her off and placing her on the floor or the other side of the bed, only for her to appear, paws at the ready a few minutes later, I finally realise the only way I will get any sleep is to confine Millie to the front room. She is not bothered by this and seems content to have gotten away with so much uninterrupted kneading. I leave her licking her paws in readiness for her next marathon session.
I toss and turn all night feeling guilty at having abandoned the super sweet Millie and at 5am I open the front room door. She races past me and springs onto the bed. Resigned to my fate, I lie down with a sigh as Millie climbs aboard, and purring contentedly she starts off with a gentle kneading of my tummy.