Cats kneading is an adorable behavior. Often called “making biscuits”, you may have seen your cat alternate their paws rhythmically on a soft surface. Cats love to knead on their humans, blankets, pillows, and furniture.

You may be wondering why they do this and the reasoning behind the behavior. Almost every cat does this, but not all in the same way. Some will use two paws, all four paws, some with claws in, and some with claws out.

While it’s an instinctive trait in cats, we don’t know exactly why they do it, but we do have a few theories.

Why Do Cats Knead?

1. They are content.

When cats knead, it’s not unusual that they seem relaxed and in an almost trance-like state. Think about it… when your cat kneads, it’s probably about to curl up next to you and doze off for a catnap.

Most likely, a cat’s kneading on you is to show you gratitude and contentment. She may be thanking you for the comfort, food, and affection.

Unfortunately, the happier and more content the cat is, the harder they are likely to knead, which can cause quite a bit of discomfort for you.

To avoid the piercing of long claws, have claws regularly trimmed during vet visits (especially if they are an indoor cat). You can also cover your lap with a blanket or pillow as a buffer between the claws and your lap.

2. They are marking territory.

Cats are territorial creatures. Kneading on their owners could be a sign that they are “claiming” you.

Cats have scent glands in their paws, which are activated by scratching or kneading. By pushing their paws in and out, the scent glands are activated and the scent is released. While we can’t detect these scents with our noses, other animals can sense it and recognize the territory has been marked or visited by your cat.

3. They are stretching.

After a long day of catnapping, we might feel a little stiff, too. Another theory of kneading is that cats are staying limber until the next napping session.

Think about it… when our shoulders are sore, stretching or pulling against something feels good.

When cats sink their claws or paws into something, it works out any kinks they may feel from their extended lounging sessions.

4. They are tapping into their ancestral roots.

Another theory of cat kneading is strictly biological.

Tracing the behavior back to their ancestors, kneading a surface is another way of making their bed. Feral cats would knead grass to create a soft sleeping spot or a place to hide their young. This behavior is much like a dog turning in circles before lying down.

Kneading is also a calming activity for cats and kittens. If your cat is stressed or anxious, sinking its claws into something could be a form of relaxing and releasing tension.

A cat’s kneading is a perfectly normal activity and one of the most recognizable traits of these creatures. If you’re concerned about your cat’s behavior, reach out to someone at our office to schedule an appointment.

If you have questions or concerns about your cat’s behavior, please feel free to contact our office.