What Is Cat Kneading and Why Do They Do It?

Kneading is a common behavior for cats. It is something a cat does from the time it is a kitten and through adulthood. They knead as they are nursing from their mother.

Cat kneading is when your cat flexes their paw and rhythmically moves their feet. It is an action of love and affection toward you most of the time. They are expressing their happiness and pleasure from being petted and loved.

cat kneading

Your cat is demonstrating to you they love you back. Kneading is rarely a cause for concern. Please read this article and discover what cat kneading is and why they do it.

What Is Cat Kneading?

Cat kneading is often referred to as “making biscuits.” Other common expressions for cat kneading are “muffin making” and “making dough.” This motion occurs when your cat clenches their paws and moves their feet in a recurring pattern, flexing one paw at a time, and it looks like they are kneading dough.

They will often do this while they purr contentedly and slowly blink their eyes at you. When you are holding a cat that is kneading, it is a great stress reliever for both you and your cat. Kneading is a typical cat behavior they formed when they were babies.

Why Do Cats Knead?

There are many reasons why cats knead. They often knead to express their happiness or when they are creating a safe space for themselves. Here are the following reasons why cats knead:

Learned Behavior from Kittenhood

Kittens knead on their mothers shortly after birth when they are nursing. It helps them find their mother’s nipples, encourages milk production, and promotes hormone production, oxytocin. This hormone retains the bond of baby kitten and mother.

Older cats will still knead due to the recollection of their mother feeding them. Cats will sometimes drool when kneading because they suckled food from their mother, giving them comfort and satisfaction.

They Are Demonstrating Affection

If you have your precious fur baby on your lap and they are purring and kneading, it means that they are showing you affection. It is your cat’s way of expressing feelings of comfort and love toward you. Cats will knead as a way of “petting” their human in return for giving them love and affection.

They Are Getting Comfortable

Cats appreciate a clean and comfortable bed just like humans do. When you see your cat kneading and “making muffins” on a soft blanket, they are preparing it for a pleasant, cozy slumber. They use their little paws to pat down the blanket.

When cats do this, they crave warmth and security. Your cat’s ancestors used to knead the grass to make it safe to sleep.

They Are Going Into Heat

If your cat is not spayed, they could be kneading because they are in heat. They will use their blanket for releasing and distributing their scent to attract male suitors. This scent signifies that mating season has started.

It is advised that you spay and neuter your cat at the tender age of six months. This procedure will help to decrease the overpopulation and homelessness of cats.

Marking Their Territory

Cats tend to protect what they perceive as “theirs” by marking their territory. You may see this a lot in a multi-cat household in which they feel it is necessary to claim something as their own.

They activate scent glands by kneading their paws. They will knead their paws on the surface of an object like a small toy or a stuffed animal to declare that the item belongs to them.

Stretching Their Little Kitty Muscles

Cats will often knead as a way of stretching their muscles. Cats like to be limber, so they make it a point to stretch all the time. Whenever they wake up from sleeping, they stretch themselves out.

They will gently push their front paws in and out and stretch their little kitty muscles.

Your Cat May Be Sick or Have an Illness

Pet parents typically know when something is off with their pet, but it is tricky to determine illness just because your cat is constantly kneading to comfort themselves. However, it can be one of several signs that your cat could be sick, but most of the time, this is not the reason for kneading.

Your Cat May Be Lonely

Kneading can sometimes be a sign that your cat is lonely. You will need to determine since you know your cat best.

If you see your cat is kneading a lot after a significant change or an unexpected event, like the death of another pet in the family, it could mean that your cat is expressing loneliness. Spend additional time with them and give them some well-deserved cuddles and attention.

What Do I Do if My Cat’s Kneading is Hurting Me?

If your cat’s kneading is hurting you, there are a few things you need to consider. First of all, never punish your cat for this natural behavior, as they are unaware that their claws are digging into you and hurting you.

If your cat’s kneading is painful, try placing a thick, soft object, such as a blanket, in between you and your fur baby. This way, they are not digging directly into your skin. You may also want to keep your cat’s nails neatly trimmed.

Another option is nail caps, which you can safely place on your cat’s nails to keep them from scratching you. They are little pieces of plastic that you put over your cat’s natural nails. If you want them to be fashionable, you can even make their nails the color of a rainbow!

These nail caps are safe for you to use on your cat. The only caveat is that you absolutely should not use them on outside cats if they need to defend themselves.

Cat Kneading is Part of Being a Cat

There are many different reasons why cats knead. Most of the time, they are showing affection for you, or it is simply an inherited behavior from their kittenhood. Kneading is rarely something to be concerned about. Your fur baby is just “making biscuits.”

If you ever have any questions or concerns about your cat’s health and well-being, don’t hesitate to give us a call!