In cats, kneading is the rhythmic pushing of the cat’s paws toward and away from an object. But why do cats knead?

A cat’s kneading is frequently referred to as “making biscuits,” owing to the manner in which breadmakers rhythmically knead dough. Cats frequently make biscuits on everyday household items, linens and blankets, and even on your own clothing.

While kneading, some cats will extend their claws, while others will not.

Why Do Cats Knead?

There are numerous reasons why cats knead, but the primary reason is that it is an instinctive trait they inherit during their kittenhood. When kittens nurse from their mothers, they paw at their mothers’ tummies in order to stimulate milk flow from their udders.

This is why some cats may dribble or suckle at a squishy object like a blanket or cushion while they are doing it, as they are anticipating the milk that used to accompany the movement.

While it may seem strange that cats continue to knead as they age, the Blue Cross reports that this is actually a huge compliment to you, as it indicates that they feel happy, secure, and comforted with you, just as they did with their mother!

Constructing a nest

Another explanation for cats kneading is that it is a behavior inherited from their wild ancestors. Wild cats paw at piles of leaves or tall grass in order to create a nest in which they and their young can relax and sleep. They’re not only constructing a soft nest – similar to how we fluff pillows – but they’re also scanning the foliage for predators, prey, or dangerous things. Thus, when your house cat does this to your lap, it is possible that it is an ingrained habit from their wild history!

Defining boundaries

A possible explanation for why cats knead is that they are attempting to mark their territory, as their paws contain scent glands that secrete pheromones. By pressing their paws in and out, they stimulate these scent glands, which they may be doing on your lap to identify you as theirs and warn other cats to back off.

Entering the heat

When female cats are in heat, they may also knead (also known as oestrus). According to PetMD, when female cats do this, they demonstrate to male cats that they are ready to mate. Additionally, they may exhibit other behaviors such as being excessively vocal, showing more affection than usual, and begging to go outside.

If these behaviors are associated with oestrus, neutering or spaying may alleviate them. Additionally, neutering can help prevent unwanted pregnancies and certain diseases.

Why Does Your Cat Knead on You?

Your cat is probably content if it is kneading.

According to a 2018 study, kneading is a “communicative behavior” in which cats deposit pheromones — chemicals that communicate with and elicit responses in other cats — onto objects.

Kneading is a natural behavior for cats. Kneading is a pleasurable experience for cats.

Is Cat Kneading a Common Activity?

Experts say that a cat kneading objects is completely natural and instinctive. Kneading is a behavior that indicates cats are safe and happy.

While many cats knead as kittens, but not all cats continue to knead into adulthood. Therefore, if your feline does not knead nearly as much — or at all — that is perfectly acceptable.

Cats making biscuits should not be a problem in general, though it may be more of an issue if your cat is kneading directly onto your body. Nonetheless, you should refrain from punishing your cats for producing biscuits.

However, you may want to keep an eye on the area where your cat is kneading: According to some research, kneading helps cats maintain their claws and paws.

How Should I React if My Cat Kneads on Me?

Many cat owners are perfectly content to allow their cat to knead freely, even on their own bodies or clothing. However, you do not want to get scratched accidentally.

Meanwhile, a 2017 study indicates that cat kneading may transmit infections to owners — even when they are fully clothed. It describes a woman who suffered “trauma-induced cutaneous punctures” as a result of her cat’s paws kneading on her clothed abdomen. 

Even if your cat does not intend to harm you, they may knead your preferred fabrics, causing them to get damaged.

Fortunately, there are a few simple solutions to this potential issue. Some of the suggestions are listed below:

  • Consider the time and place in which this behavior occurs. For instance, does your cat typically knead when you pet them on the couch — or when they have access to a particular object, such as a blanket?
  • Consider how you could prevent this behavior from happening in the future. Regular nail trimming or the use of plastic nail guards can help prevent injury to yourself or household objects while your cat makes biscuits. Consider storing your specialized blankets in a secure location when not in use.
  • Consider how you can ‘arm’ yourself in order to reroute this behavior: Place thick, soft blankets or pillows between you and your feline to act as a “protective barrier,” or redirect their kneading to another object. Additionally, you can divert their attention by encouraging them to play with a toy or eat a treat.
  • Consider “punishment alternatives” such as calmly removing yourself — or another object that your cat is kneading — from its reach.

However, kneading is a generally benign feline response, and it is best to allow cats to express themselves.