Why do Cats Knead? What Does Kneading Mean?

Why do Cats Knead? What Does Kneading Mean?

Author WCF Staff


Cats are wonderful creatures that often exhibit behavior we don’t understand. One of these behaviors is “making biscuits.” Unfortunately, cats aren’t that good at baking, and the term “making biscuits” actually refers to kneading. If you are a cat lover, you probably already noticed this behavior. Many of us want to know “Why do cats knead?” so we decided to look into it. Here’s what you should know about cat kneading.

What is kneading?

Kneading is best described as the rhythmic pushing of the paws towards and away from an intended object. The term kneading is often called “making biscuits” because cats look like they’re kneading dough. They seem to be fairly interested in kneading soft objects, and cat owners want to know why they do it.

cat paws

Why do cats knead?

It would be pretty cool if you could just ask your cat why they do what they do. Unfortunately, our beloved felines can’t speak yet (maybe they can, but they simply decided they don’t want to talk to us), so we need to guess the exact reason they knead. There are several theories about kneading. Here are a few possible reasons cats knead.

1. Leftover nursing behavior

The first examples of kneading can be seen in nursing kittens. Kittens used to do that while nursing to stimulate the mother’s milk flow. Cat behaviorists believe kneading gives adult cats the comfort they associate with their kittenhood.

2. Creating and conveying comfort

Adult cats knead, and one theory says they knead to show pleasure. This behavior can be seen while the cat is petted or when they’re getting ready to snuggle into their favorite napping spot. It is also believed stressed cats knead to soothe and calm themselves.

cat paw

3. Making a resting place

Owners often see cats kneading before they lay down for a nap. In the wild, wild cats used to knead tall grass into soft pillows. One kneading theory says this behavior is instinctual with domesticated cats. They don’t really need to knead, but they do it anyway.

4. Territory marking

It is possible that cats knead to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands on their paws, and by kneading, they leave their scent and mark a specific territory as theirs. They are strongly driven by scent communication, so this is an easy way to mark something.

5. Stretching

Have you ever woken up from a nap, and your joints or shoulders hurt? Well, your cat might have the same issue. They might alleviate some of the leftover pain from the nap. They start kneading to limber up and stretch their sore limbs.

paws of cats

Why do cats knead their owners?

Many cat owners noticed their cats were kneading them. This can be confusing and somewhat painful. Unexperienced cat owners might get the urge to punish their cats for that behavior because kneading can be pretty painful. However, kneading is your cat’s way of telling you they love you. Unfortunately, kneading, like getting licked by your cat, can be pretty painful. Plus, the more your cat enjoys, the deeper they’ll dig their sharp nails into you.

This can be very painful, but owners should never punish their cats for kneading them. It is their way of expressing love, and they have no idea you are actually in pain. Instead, you can keep your cat’s nails trimmed, use nail guards, or keep something soft between yourself and the cat. The experience will be more pleasurable for both of you, and you will avoid getting scratched.

Is it possible to prevent cats from kneading?

There is nothing wrong with kneading. In fact, it is a natural behavior that can be absolutely adorable to see. However, if a cat kneads with its claws out, that cute kneading can quickly become a routine for destruction. Cats can destroy furniture, blankets, pillows, pants and seriously irritate dogs by kneading. Luckily, there are ways you can redirect your cat’s kneading. Here’s how you can do it.

1. No punishments

The first rule of training a cat is not to use punishment as a training method. Kneading is natural, and if you punish the cat for it, they might lash out and react aggressively.

cat grooming itself

2. Nail trimming

If you love your cat’s kneading and don’t want them to stop exhibiting the behavior, you should trim their nails. The kneading will not be so painful, and you both can enjoy the bonding kneading provides.

3. Pick a kneading spot

Some cats really love kneading, and you can encourage them to practice that behavior on something you choose for it. You can get things just for the cat and their kneading. Spray those things with pheromone-based sprays to encourage kneading objects.

4. Train different behavior

Despite what many dog owners think, cats are trainable. They might never perform tricks like a Border Collie, but they can be taught to change one behavior for another. When your cat starts kneading, you can give them the command to sit or play with a toy. Make sure you reward the wanted behavior.

World Cat Finder Team

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