Most people that have a cat have asked themselves this age old question. The truth is, cats are pretty intricately designed. They have a lot of behaviors, traits and characteristics that differentiate them from the other domestic animals. Kneading is a common cat behavior that dates back to, well, forever really. Kneading is when your cat makes a motion of pushing in and out using their paws. Some cats don’t ever put their claws out when they knead, while others extend their claws (and yes, this can be pretty painful).
More About Kneading
A lot of people refer to kneading as making biscuits, because the motion is very similar to the motion that you use when you are kneading the dough to make biscuits. Typically, cats will knead soft surfaces. They sometimes choose blankets, pillows, other types of bedding or furniture, other animals, or maybe even on your lap! Sometimes, cats go into a trance type state when they are kneading, because they are so relaxed.
So Why All the Kneading?
Now that you know more about kneading, it is time to learn more about why it happens. Explanations to this behavior can vary greatly, but all in all, it comes down to instincts. Newborns must knead their mother in order to stimulate milk flow for them to nurse. Some people say that adult cats that knead must have been weaned too early, but there really isn’t sufficient research to back this up. All cats usually knead, and more often than not it is because it provides them with comfort.
Another common theory as to why cats knead dates all the way back to when cats in the wild would have to pat down tall brush and grass to make a bed for themselves. This behavior is still common before a cat settles down for a nap. Just keep a watch on your cat before they lay down to nap. They will probably knead before they do so. This is much like how dogs turn in circles before they lay down. They used to have to do it to flatten tall grass with their tail. Some behaviors simply stick over the years!
Anatomical explanations to kneading are also something to consider. All cats are designed with scent glands in the pads of their paws. When they knead, it leaves behind their scent. They may use kneading as a form of marking their territory. This is extremely common in multi-cat homes. If your cat is kneading you, they are likely claiming you as their ‘people’.