Kneading (or “making biscuits” as some say) is the motion that domesticated cats make by pushing their paws in and out and switching between the left and right paw against a soft surface such as a blanket or your lap. Some cats keep their claws retracted, while others will push them out when kneading. While this odd behavior is undeniably cute and worthy of a spot on your Instagram story, you might be wondering why they knead in the first place. Even people who study cat behavior ask the same question and don’t have a solid concrete answer. However, there are a number of theories out there. Grab your feline pal and keep reading to learn some of the most popular hypotheses out there.
A Leftover Behavior as a Kitten
Many people believe that kneading is an instinctive trait for kittens. Newborn kittens naturally knead their mother’s belly to stimulate the production of milk. So why do they continue to knead whenever they turn into full-grown felines? It might be because they associate kneading with the comforts of nursing. The next time your precious kitty starts making biscuits on your lap, remember it could be their way of showing their affection towards you.
Getting Ready for Bed
Another reason why cats tend to knead is because they might be getting prepared for a comfortable catnap. This possibly traces back to the roots of their wild ancestors, where they would pat and knead tall grass or shredded leaves to create a soft spot for sleeping. And we all know cats love to prep their next napping zone, so think of that when you see your feline fluffing the comforter on your bed before they take a snooze.
Marking Their Territory
Cats are very territorial creatures, and kneading is one way they can designate their turf. There are scent glands on the soft pads on the bottom of their paws. Kneading onto a surface, such as your lap, helps activate these scent glands. In essence, this is your cat’s claiming you as their own.
Cats are natural stretchers and love getting the kinks out of their body after a nice catnap. Kneading is just one way your furry friend can stay loose throughout the day.
When They’re Going into Estrus
Some female cats will knead constantly whenever they’re experiencing estrus – also known as going into heat. They might use kneading as a way to signal male attention and let them know they’re ready for mating. It’s difficult to discourage the natural behaviors of the estrus cycle, so the best way to alleviate these symptoms is to have your cat spayed.