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Cats knead for various reasons, from instinctual behaviors to emotional expressions. This rhythmic motion, also known as "making biscuits," involves pressing their paws into soft surfaces like blankets, their owner's lap, or even other cats. Many cats start this behavior as tiny kittens, kneading their mother to stimulate milk production.

As they grow into adult cats, this natural behavior continues. Cats have scent glands in their paws, and kneading helps mark their territory. It's a comforting action, often seen when cats feel relaxed or prepare a sleeping spot.

Understanding why cats knead can deepen the bond between you and your feline friend. In this blog, we will explore why cats knead and the different meanings behind this behavior.

What is Cat Kneading?

Cat kneading, often called “making biscuits,” is a common behavior where cats press their paws alternately into a soft surface. This rhythmic motion resembles a baker kneading dough, where the term “making biscuits” comes from.

When cats knead, their front paws push into a soft surface. They often extend and retract their claws as they do this, adding to the kneading motion. This behavior can be accompanied by purring, showing that the cat feels relaxed and content.

You’ll often see cats kneading blankets, soft objects, or even their owners. Many cats enjoy kneading on soft, cushy surfaces like pillows or plush blankets. Some cats prefer kneading on their owner’s lap, which can signify affection and comfort. Whether it’s a blanket, a soft pillow, or your lap, cats find great pleasure in kneading these surfaces.

Reasons Why Cats Knead

Cats knead for various reasons, and it's a behavior that can be traced back to their early days as kittens. Here are some reasons why cats knead:

  1. Comfort and Security: Kittens knead their mother's belly to stimulate milk flow while nursing. This behavior can be associated with feelings of comfort and security as adults.
  2. Marking Territory: Cats have scent glands in their paws. When kneaded, they mark their territory with their scent, making the area feel familiar and safe.
  3. Preparing a Resting Spot: In the wild, cats knead to create a soft, comfortable spot to sleep or give birth. This behavior has carried over to domestic cats, who knead to fluff their bedding or a cozy spot.
  4. Stretching Muscles: Kneading is a way for cats to stretch their muscles, especially after a nap or inactivity.
  5. Showing Affection: Cats often knead on their owners as a sign of affection and bonding. It can be a way to show that they trust and feel comfortable around you.
  6. Instinctual Behavior: Kneading is an instinctive behavior cats have retained from their ancestors. It's a natural, ingrained habit that doesn't necessarily serve a specific purpose in domestic life but is a leftover from its wild counterparts.
  7. Stress Relief: Just like humans might fidget or perform repetitive actions when stressed, cats may knead to self-soothe and relieve stress or anxiety.
a orange cat affectionately kneading owners arm as he pets him.

Differences in Kneading Among Cats

Cat kneading can vary widely from one cat to another. Some cats knead vigorously with both paws, while others may use just one paw at a time. The duration and frequency of kneading sessions also differ. Some cats may knead daily, while others do it occasionally. The kneading intensity can vary, too, with some cats pressing firmly and others barely touching the surface.

Male Cats vs. Female Cats

While both male and female cats knead, there are no significant differences in the behavior based on gender. Both male and female cats knead for the same reasons, such as seeking comfort, showing affection, or marking their territory. The kneading behavior is more related to individual personality than gender.

Domestic Cats vs. Wild Cats

In domestic cats, kneading is often seen as a sign of comfort and relaxation. Domestic cats knead soft objects like blankets or their owner's lap. In contrast, wild cats may knead to create a soft nest for sleeping or to mark their territory. While the basic kneading motion remains the same, the context in which it occurs can differ. Wild cats might knead more for practical purposes, while domestic cats knead more for emotional reasons.

A black cat laying on a FAT CAT Kneading Mat

Should I Be Worried?

Before you get concerned, knowing that kneading is considered a natural behavior amongst cats is helpful. It shouldn't be a cause for worry if you notice your cat kneading for the right reasons. However, kneading can become quite a nuisance, especially if your cat has sharp claws. The last thing you want is to get your arms and legs scratched up while you're cuddling with your pet!

To remedy this, ensure that you keep your cat's nails trimmed at all times. Another thing you can do is always have a trusty towel or blanket around to help protect your lap from scratches. You can also train your cat to knead on a toy, like the FAT CAT Boogie Mats, which are made specifically for kneading (shown below)! These fun kneading cat mats are filled with organic catnip to attract your cat and save your furniture by giving your cat their own dedicated spot to knead. Other objects can also be useful, such as a blanket or pillow. 

Common Scenarios of Cat Kneading

Owner’s Lap

Cats kneel on their owner's lap as a sign of affection and comfort. When a cat kneads you, it shows it feels safe and content in your presence. This behavior likely stems from kittenhood when tiny kittens knead their mother to stimulate milk production. Adult cats continue this action when they feel relaxed and secure.

Soft Surfaces

Cats prefer kneading soft surfaces like blankets, cushions, and other plush objects. These soft objects mimic the comforting feel of their mother's fur and the cozy nests they create in the wild. Domestic cats often choose these surfaces to knead because they offer a sense of warmth and security.

Consistency

Cats are creatures of habit, and many cats knead in the same way and on the same surfaces consistently. You might notice your cat returning to the same blanket or cushion to knead. This consistency provides them with a safe and familiar routine, reinforcing their sense of comfort and well-being.

Embrace Your Cat's Comfort: Providing Premium Care to Your Fur Babies

Cats knead for several reasons, including comfort, marking territory, and preparing a cozy resting spot. This instinctual behavior is a delightful reminder of their kittenhood and offers a special way for cats to express affection and contentment.

Speaking of expressing affection, caring for our feline friends involves providing them with the best possible care. At Petmate, you can find premium pet supplies from trusted brands to ensure your cat's happiness and health.

Whether you're looking for a new kneading-friendly blanket or quality toys to keep them engaged, shopping at Petmate means you're getting products you and your cat will love. Visit us today and see how easy it is to find everything you need for your beloved pet in one place.

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