Kneading is one of the most delightful things a cat does – it sure beats them pushing your cup off the counter while looking you dead in the eye. You know what I’m talking about.
But this behavior puzzles many cat owners! Why is my cat making biscuits? The reasons cats knead their paws on everything can range from instinct to contentment or preparing for birth.
Fortunately, your cat’s actions are both endearing and totally normal. Whether they knead on you, the carpet, or random objects, we’ve put together a list of reasons why they do it so you can better understand your cat.
What is kneading, and how does it work?
Kneading is a rhythmic motion that cats make with their front paws, alternating between left and right. They push down with their claws, then retract them as if they were kneading dough – hence the name ‘making biscuits.’ Many cats will also purr, drool, or vocalize while kneading.
Kneading is primarily an instinctive behavior learned as young kittens. When they nurse from their mother, they would knead her belly to stimulate milk production. This also creates a bond between the mother and the kittens, as well as a sense of comfort and security.
As your kitten grows up, they often continue to knead for various reasons listed below.
To show pleasure or contentment
One of the most common reasons why cats knead is to express their happiness and satisfaction. When they knead something or someone they like, they are saying, “I love you” or “You’re mine.” They may also be seeking attention or affection from their human or animal companions.
To create a soothing, calm mood
Another reason why cats knead is to relax and relieve stress. Kneading can be a form of self-soothing, as it reminds them of their kittenhood and their mother’s care. It can also release endorphins, which are natural chemicals that make them feel good.
To mark their territory using the scent glands on their paws
Cats are very territorial animals, and they use various methods to claim their space and belongings. One of them is kneading, which leaves behind their scent on the surface they are kneading. Cats have scent glands on their paws, as well as other parts of their body, such as their cheeks and forehead. By kneading, they are sending a message to other cats that this is their spot.
They will also rub their face on objects and people as a form of scent marking as well.
As a method of stretching
Cats love to stretch their muscles and joints, especially after a long nap. Kneading can be a way of stretching their front legs, shoulders, and chest. It can also improve their blood circulation and keep them flexible and agile.
As a sign that your cat likes you
If your cat kneads you, it means that they trust you and feel comfortable with you. They may also be trying to get closer to you or cuddle with you. Kneading can be a sign of gratitude or appreciation for your care and companionship.
A Habit From Kittenhood
As mentioned earlier, kneading is a behavior that cats learn as kittens when they nurse from their mother. Even though adult cats don’t need to nurse anymore, they may still retain this habit as a way of remembering their early life experiences.
Instincts From Wild Ancestors
Another possible explanation for why cats knead is that it is an inherited trait from their wild ancestors. Before domestication, cats had to survive in the wild by hunting and hiding from predators.
They had to make temporary nests in grass or foliage by treading them down with their paws. This made the nest more comfortable and secure for resting or giving birth.
As Preparation for Mating
Female cats in heat may knead more than usual to signal their readiness for mating. They may also roll around on the floor, rub against objects, or vocalize loudly. Male cats may also knead female cats during mating to hold them in place.
To cope with pain or discomfort
Sometimes, cats may knead because they are in pain or discomfort. For example, if they have arthritis, dental problems, or skin issues, they may knead to ease the pain or itchiness. They may also knead to distract themselves from the unpleasant sensation.
To adjust the temperature
Cats are very sensitive to temperature changes, and they may knead to warm up or cool down. For instance, if they are cold, they may knead a blanket or a pillow to make it warmer and cozier. If they are hot, they may knead a cool surface, such as a tile floor or a metal bowl, to lower their body temperature.
To express their mood or personality
Finally, cats may knead simply because they feel like it or because it reflects their mood or personality. Some cats may knead more than others, depending on their temperament, breed, or environment. Some cats may knead when they are bored, curious, playful, or hungry. Some cats may knead only certain objects, such as their favorite toy, blanket, or human.
How to make kneading more comfortable for you and your cat
Kneading is a natural and normal behavior for cats, and you shouldn’t try to stop it or punish your cat for doing it.
However, you can take some steps to make it more comfortable for both of you. Here are some tips:
- Keep your cat’s claws trimmed short and smooth to prevent scratching or damage to your skin or furniture.
- Provide your cat with a soft and cozy surface to knead, such as a blanket, a pillow, or a cat bed.
- If your cat kneads you, you can gently redirect them to another spot or object if you don’t want them to knead you.
- If your cat kneads excessively or compulsively, you may want to consult your vet to rule out any medical or behavioral issues.
- If your cat kneads because they are stressed or anxious, you may want to provide them with more enrichment, stimulation, and attention to help them relax and feel secure.
- If your cat kneads because they are in heat, you may want to consider spaying or neutering them to prevent unwanted pregnancies and health problems.