Why do cats knead?
Making biscuits, kneading dough, marching – whatever you call it, kneading is a classically quirky cat behaviour. And if your kitty didn’t look so cute doing it, you’d surely be annoyed when it started kneading your favourite sweater or pile of clean laundry. Of course, all of this begs the question: exactly why do cats knead?
It’s one of the most commonly asked cat queries, like “Why do cats purr?” “Why do cats meow?” “Why do cats knock things over?” and “Why do cats rub against you?” To solve the mystery of kitty kneading, we asked the experts why our feline friends love to press their paws into every soft surface they can find.
How cats knead
First off, not all cats knead, and they don’t all knead in the same way. Most cats use only their front paws, but some use all four, or even just their back legs. Some kitties bring their claws out, while others don’t. A cat kneading at your lap might hurt, but your kitty probably doesn’t have any bad intentions; it just likes how you sound when you squeak. (You know, like a mouse.)
In all seriousness, if your cat kneads, you’ve probably noticed how relaxed it seems when doing so – almost as if it’s in a trance. A kneading cat is a happy cat. But why do cats knead when the action doesn’t accomplish anything? After all, “making biscuits” doesn’t actually lead to fresh baked goods.
Does it last their lifetime?
Even when they’re too young for their eyes to open, cute kittens need to knead, says Katy Nelson, DVM, a veterinarian with Chewy. Nursing kitties push on their mother’s abdomen when suckling to help their mother’s glands release more milk. No one is totally sure why the habit lasts through adulthood, but there are a few theories as to why cats knead.
For one thing, your cat might find it soothing. Felines grow up associating kneading with the comfort of their mama, and though they most likely don’t think about food when they’re kneading as adults, they still find it relaxing, as evidenced by the purrs you’ll probably hear as they’re doing it.
“Like a kid sucking a thumb, it’s a calming thing,” says Dr Nelson. “A lot of cats have their eyes closed and look like they’re completely zenned out.” Maybe this is why cats sleep so much.
If you’re wondering what it means when a cat makes biscuits on you, know this: It’s a good sign. Kneading indicates a cat feels safe and happy around you – or maybe even considers you a mother figure!