- Cats may knead because they want to use the scent acorns on their paws to mark their territory.
- It may also be a carryover from kittenhood — kittens knead their mother’s belly to stimulate milk.
- Kneading is also a method of stretching, and it could be a sign that your cat likes you.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
If you have a cat, chances are you’ve seen them making a rhythmic and repetitive motion with their paws on surfaces such as your pillows, the couch, and even you. This motion is known as kneading, which some cat parents lovingly refer to as “making biscuits” since the action resembles a person kneading dough.
This behavior is completely normal in cats. It’s an inborn behavior that kittens carry into their adulthood. And there are multiple reasons they’ll do it as adults — here are six.
1. To feel comfortable
Newborn kittens gently knead their mother’s belly to help stimulate the flow of milk, Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, a veterinary medical advisor for Rover, said.
This is an instinctual behavior, and some cats may even dribble when kneading — as if they’re drooling over the expectation of milk.
While grown cats don’t need to nurse, the action of kneading is likely associated with comforting feelings.
“It’s possible the positive and pleasurable association gets cemented from kittenhood, long after they’ve stopped suckling,” Greenstein said.
2. To mark their territory
Cats can be territorial creatures, and they may use kneading to help them claim their space.
Since cats have scent glands on their paws, kneading can be a way of marking their territory by transferring their scent onto whatever surface they’re kneading, Dr. Jennifer Freeman, a resident veterinarian and pet-care expert at PetSmart, said.
3. To make the bed
While kneading is tied to nursing, there may also be another instinct at play. They may knead at a surface before they get comfortable to go to sleep.
“Their feline ancestors needed to flatten out and pat down resting and sleeping areas to make them more comfortable and detect any unseen hazards before a cat nap, so kneading might also be a throwback from that ancient instinct,” Greenstein said.
4. To show they like you
In the same way that dogs lick you when they like you, cats can show their love in a unique way, too.
“It can be a compliment if a cat kneads on you, as it can mean that they are comfortable around you and they want to show their affection,” Freeman said.
In fact, the more your cat likes you, the harder they may knead.
5. To stretch
Just as humans need a good stretch from time to time, so do cats. When cats knead, they outstretch their arms.
“The alternating motion of extending their limbs during kneading might also be a feline version of ‘stretching their legs’ to wake up their muscles and stimulate circulation,” Greenstein said.
6. To show they’re going into heat
If your female cat is not spayed, kneading might be a sign that she is receptive to mating.
Greenstein says to keep an eye out if your unspayed cat is starting to act differently — behaviors such as being extra affectionate, rubbing up against people or surfaces, or making new vocalizations on top of kneading — especially if prospective mates are around.
There are various reasons your cat might be kneading, from showing you some love to going into heat.
All these causes for cats kneading are no need to worry, so you can sit back and enjoy watching your cat be super cute.