If you are a cat parent, you probably enjoy and appreciate the many behaviors and traits of the feline way. Cats are not only entertaining, but some of their behaviors are so intriguing that you can be left wondering- why do they do that? Amongst those many traits is the act of kneading. When a cat kneads, you will notice that they use their paws to in a rhythmic pushing movement. Some cats may extend their nails as they push then retract them as they pull back. Other cats may not use their claws at all.
Although their techniques may vary, kneading is notoriously done on a soft and pliable surface such as a blanket, pillow another feline or even on a human. The motion resembles a baker that is kneading dough. Cat kneading is almost always accompanied by purring and/or drooling and they tend to go into a calm and trance-like state.
Cats enjoy kneading for a number of reasons. It is without a doubt an instinctive trait. From the start, kittens tend to knead their mother’s tummy while they snuggle or nurse. It was commonly believed that only cats who were separated from their mother too young tend to knead. However, it has since been observed that nearly all adult cats knead regardless of how early they were weaned from their mother.
It is believed that it is a comforting behavior when a feline is feeling relaxed and possibly preparing for a catnap. Kneading can date back to the days of the wild felines when they would flatten or smooth out an area to rest. It has also been discovered that cats have scent glands within the soft pads on the bottom of their paws. Kneading helps to excrete some of that scent onto the surface of whatever it is they are working on.
Kneading is a comforting and peaceful behavior for a feline. Therefore, if you have a cat that kneads your lap, it is a sure sign that he/she is comfortable, secure and claiming you as their own. It is virtually harmless and you can help prevent damage to the kneaded areas by ensuring your cat’s nails remain trimmed. Kneading is by no means an intentionally destructive behavior. It is purely instinctual and a cat should not be punished or shunned when kneading. If it is bothersome or uncomfortable, you can try and distract your feline with a head rub or toy. But otherwise, the behavior is usually quick and harmless.
So when your cat decides to “make some biscuits,” feel free to sit back and admire the beauty of the feline way. Observing the instinctual behavior of our pets can be a great reflection on the truly spectacular ways our domesticated friends have evolved.
If for any reason your cat seems stressed, uncomfortable or restless while kneading, consider visiting your vet to ensure proper health and well being.