Cat Tips

Cat Kneading: Why Do Cats Knead

Why do cats knead? What does kneading mean? When your cat starts to purr on your lap and soften its place before settling down, you may notice that they exhibit signs of feeling secure.

What does cat kneading look like?

When you see a cat take their front paws and push them back and forth on a soft object, they are ‘kneading,’ also referred to as ‘making biscuits.’

This is why some people refer to the act as making biscuits or kitty muffins because the act looks like kneading dough. Cats knead on all sorts of things. From their bed, to blankets, sofas, or other well-padded soft surfaces, cat kneading takes place anywhere, including pet parents and other feline friends.

Kneading begins when cats are kittens; that does not mean it will stop in adulthood. Many cats continue to knead as adults.

Cat Kneading: Why do cats knead?

Many cats begin kneading as kittens during the nursing phase and can continue throughout their entire lives for comfort and to mark their territory. There are some theories that believe the motion of kneading originated as a way for kittens to help reach their mother’s milk (since milk production is necessary to their survival.)

Some attachment theorists think that cats who knead as adults were separated from their mothers too early. This cat behavior soothes them when they feel anxious.

Here are four reasons why cats knead:

  1. Love and comfort

  2. Territorial action

  3. Mating action

  4. Self-soothing

A sign of love and comfort

Many scientists believe kneading is a sign of comfort and a way for your cat to show love to their humans. Many cats will purr while kneading, indicating contentment.

Some cats will even knead their humans’ laps. If your cat is kneading your lap, take it as a compliment!

Happiness and feeling at ease is the most widely believed explanation for why cats knead.

ALSO READ: Is Your Cat Happy?

A territorial action

Other scientists believe that felines knead to mark their territory or make a place more comfortable for them. For example, a cat kneading a blanket might indicate the cat is establishing the blanket as theirs.

Think about dogs who turn around in circles before lying down. Cats may knead as a similar, instinctual action to make a place “cozier” before lying down.

The action of kneading may also help cats mark their territory with their scent, telling other cats to stay away from their area. According to Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates, “Cats are territorial, and kneading may be a way to activate scent marking. Cats have scent glands on their paw pads, and kneading activates the glands.”

Cats knead for mating action

If your female cat is unspayed, kneading can be a sign of her excitement to mate. Kneading may also spread her scent around more, possibly drawing more potential mates to her.

If you notice your female (or male) cat’s kneading behavior changing outside their regular patterns, it may be a good idea to get them checked out. Consider a cat insurance plan that has preventive care options no matter if you have a kitten or adult cat, and stay prepared for any outcome!

ALSO READ: Cat Scratching Everything?

Kneading is self-soothing

Some cat lovers note that cat kneading is more frequent in skittish felines in comparison to other calm or confident cats. As a result, some people have theorized that kneading may be a way to self-soothe and unwind, which may be more beneficial for skittish animals.

We may never know the exact reason why felines knead as they are mysterious animals, but it’s probably a compliment if your cat is kneading your lap! It’s important to never punish your cat for showing this behavior, it isn’t meant to be destructive and can hurt your cat’s trust if you scold them for kneading.

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