This curious behavior is also known as “making biscuits.” Why? Because the way the cat pushes its paws back and forth resembles the way a baker prepares dough! For those who witness their cat’s eyes glaze over or when a pet even drools, it can be alarming. However, rest assured that when your feline friend kneads something, the habit is natural and comforting to them. Let’s look at the top reasons why your cat switches into cookie mode!
1. A Comforting Habit
As we just mentioned, cats rhythmically paw at something because it probably feels good. This is how they calm themselves when they need comfort or when they already feel at ease, like after a good meal or enjoying the safety of resting on their owner’s lap. They’ll show their contentment by whipping up a few biscuits!
2. A Leftover From Kittenhood
All kittens instinctively knead their mother’s bosom, so to speak, in order to stimulate the flow of milk. Kittens might then come to associate the stepping motion with the comforting combination of tasty milk and a full tummy. For some adults, this could be the reason why they continue to knead – because they enjoyed it so much as babies. This might also solve the question of why they mostly knead soft objects – because it echos the experience of stepping against their mother’s body.
3. I’m a Wild Thing
Kneading in cats is mostly a mystery. But here’s another interesting theory. This one suggests that the habit is actually an ancient instinct. Indeed, wild cats are known to knead a grassy area as a form of “nesting” when they need to sleep. This behavior might’ve survived, like a faint echo, in our domestic pets. It’s noteworthy to mention that when house cats make biscuits, they are often settling down to rest. So, it’s not implausible to consider that there might be a link between our pets’ kneading and their ancestors’ habit of pressing down a spot to snooze!
4. I Own This Human
There are scent glands under your pet’s paws. Felines use these glands to mark their territory. This led some animal experts to suggest that kneading is another way that cats mark their domain and if true, it’s interesting to see what cats consider as “theirs” by seeing what they like to massage – your bed, other cats in the house, and even your lap!
5. A Show of Affection
When a cat goes to work on another cat, its favorite toy, or you, then it could be showing affection. However, this can be a painful experience! A lot of cats use their claws to make biscuits on their owners! You can always place a folded blanket on your lap to avoid a painful bonding moment with your feline friend.
6. Feline Yoga
Most kneading happens when the cat is resting or standing upright. But every so often, a cat will knead the surface while stretching forward or backward. This behavior is generally thought to be motivated by the cat’s need to stretch its muscles after a long nap. In this case, it’s not necessarily a show of affection or comfort-seeking.
7. Nail Maintenance
One explanation for kneading is often overlooked. This theory suggests that, since a cat’s claws need to stay in top condition, perhaps kneading is a type of “feline pedicure”. To be fair, they aren’t trimming their claws when they softly paw your lap or a stuffed toy. But some cats do use their nails to knead at hard objects with gusto – for example, their scratch poles. While not proven as true, it remains an interesting suggestion for what is clearly a multipurpose kitty dance!
Q: Can you stop your cat from kneading?
Most experts agree that you cannot prevent a cat from making biscuits. It’s a natural and deeply engrained behavior for them. It shows that they are happy.
Q: Is kneading caused by weaning a kitten too early?
This used to be a popular explanation for why an adult cat continues to knead like a nursing kitten. However, researchers have discovered in the meantime that the weaning age, whether it’s early or late, has no impact on this behavior.
Q: Why is my female cat kneading the air?
This could be a sign that she is ready to mate. If a female cat displays this behavior, along with other signs like being overly vocal and insisting on going outside, then she might be in heat.
Q: Can I punish my cat for kneading?
No, it’s unfair to punish a cat for natural behavior. Rather try to provide them with things that they can knead. For example, to stop this behavior from damaging your duvet, cover it with a thick blanket that your cat is allowed to knead.
Q: Do all cats knead the same way?
No. Some cats purr while they knead while others do not. Some use their claws, others do not. Cats also prefer to use just their paws or their lower legs while other felines energetically knead with their entire front legs.
Q: Why does my cat knead me and then bite me?
This behavior is essentially two sides of the same coin! Both are a sign that your cat is feeling safe and affectionate towards you, especially when the bites are soft.