To Knead Or Not To Knead; Why Does My Cat Knead?

A cat's paws kneading

Anyone who has ever met a cat knows they have personalities of their own with unique behaviors that sometimes only make sense to other felines. While many people associate a satisfied purr with feelings of kitty content, there is another easy way to spot if your favorite feline is living her best life. When your cat starts to knead the furniture, his favorite blanket, or even your body, you can be sure he is in top spirits.

Cats are incredible and quirky creatures, and kneading, or making biscuits, is one of their most endearing traits. Even if you could spend hours watching your cat knead, you might still be wondering what is behind this unusual behavior. Thankfully, the team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital is here to shed some light on why cats knead.

Why Do Cats Need To Knead?

Most cats knead, but not all cats do it in the same way or with the same frequency. Cats don’t typically stick to one surface when kneading, either. In fact, you will often find them using whatever surface is close when they need to express their content. From furniture to a kitty sibling, anything is fair game when it comes to making the biscuits.

While most cat experts agree that kneading usually is a physical display of happiness, there are are other, more targeted, explanations as well:

  • Natural Instincts. When kittens are nursing from their mothers, they will knead, or paw, at the teat area to get the milk flowing. This pleasant memory is imprinted into the cat and recreated later in life through the motion of kneading when they are feeling completely at ease.
  • Cozy Behavior. It is no secret that cats like to be comfortable. In the wild, they achieve this comfort by moving around leaves, debris, pine needles, and other materials to make a warm nest. When they knead in your house, they’re looking to achieve the same result, they are just starting out with more comfortable materials.
  • Territory Markings. Like many other species, cats like to mark their territory to let others know to back off. They do this by scent marking with their paws and claws. Although your cat might have a very peaceful look on his face as he kneads, his intentions might be a little more “this is mine” than “I love my life.”
  • Showing Love. Cats might seem standoffish, but we know they love us. Kneading is their way of saying, I love you the best.
  • Showing Romantic Love. If a female cat hasn’t been spayed, she will knead as she goes into heat. This kneading is a way to signal to males that she is ready to mate.

Kneading can also signal that something is wrong with your kitty. Cats sometimes knead if they are ill, are losing cognitive abilities due to age, or have anxiety. If the kneading becomes chronic, call us for an examination to ensure your kitty is in good health.

Using The Claws

In an effort to win your love, your cat will make their kneading even more intense by using their claws as well as their paws!  

If your cat likes to knead with claws out, both your body and your furniture might have some physical evidence of this sweet, yet painful habit. Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed will help you avoid this issue so you and your cat can both enjoy when he feels the need to knead.

At Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital, we think making biscuits is one of the cutest behaviors our feline friends engage in. If you have any questions about why cats knead or any of their quirky behaviors, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us.