Making the Biscuits: Why Do Cats Knead?

Cat paws knead a blanket.

If you are proudly owned by a fabulous feline, one of the best ways to know you’re keeping them happy is that tell-tale purr. But it’s when that contented kneading begins that you know your feline overlord is truly blissed out.

Cats certainly have their quirks, but making biscuits (kneading) is chief among them. Thankfully, the team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital is here to offer up an explanation as to why cats knead.

So, Why Do Cats Knead?

Kneading is a common (and happy) behavior in most cats, though not all cats do it in the same way or with the same frequency. Likewise, you’ll notice that your kitty doesn’t limit its making of the biscuits to just your lap. Furniture, beds, pillows, and other cushy things are fair game, as well. 

While most cat ladies and gentlemen agree that kneading is generally a sign of happiness, there are are other, more targeted, explanations as well:

  • It’s instinct, baby! Kittens nurse their mothers, and the need to knead, or paw at the teat area to get milk flowing, is instinctual. This pleasant memory is replicated later in life through the motion of kneading. It typically means your kitty is feeling safe and secure.
  • Let’s get cozy. In the wild, cats will forage and move around leaves, debris, pine needles, and other materials to make a warm nest; they’re just doing the same thing now, but with floofy blankets and perhaps a cardboard box.
  • This is mine now. Cats will scent mark with their paws and claws through kneading, as well. This can act as a benign communication, but can indicate a warning or No Trespassing sign to other animals.
  • All the loves. It’s their way of saying, I love you the best.
  • If they haven’t been spayed, it’s the signal to mate. Female cats which haven’t been spayed will knead while going into heat. This kneading is a way to signal to males that she is ready to mate.

Kneading can also become a compulsion in cats who are ill, have problems with cognition due to old age, or have anxiety. If the kneading becomes chronic, call us for an examination to ensure your kitty is in good health.

Kitty Got Claws!

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

If your cat likes to knead with their claws out, you’ll not only feel it, but visibly see it on clothing and upholstery. The best way to keep everything in check is to keep your cat’s nails trimmed. You can also place a big towel, old sweater, or blanket between your cat’s paws and your clothing or skin. If the kneading is bothersome, that’s okay. Distract your furry one with a fun feather wand or catnip mouse. 

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.