Known as “making biscuits” or “kneading dough”, when a cat starts kneading it is always a good sign, as any cat owner knows. But however adorable it may be, what is cat kneading and why do they do it? Here is everything you need to know about this adorable kitty habit:
What Is Cat Kneading?
You’ve all seen it, you’ve all felt it. Kneading is when a cat pushed in and out its front paws on various objects like blankets or pillows, on other animals or on humans. The kneading usually alternates between the left and right paw and it is accompanied by purring.
When a cat kneads, it is expressing a sense of calm and trust. Cats knead on objects or people they like, trust, and feel comfortable around, so it is always a compliment. Even when their claws sting you while they make biscuits on your legs or belly, remember that your cat is showing you a great deal of affection.When a cat kneads, it is expressing a sense of calm and trust. Cats knead on objects or people they like, trust, and feel comfortable around, so it is always a compliment. Click To Tweet
Why Do Cats Knead – The Main Theories
A definitive reason for cats kneading has yet to be found, but there are three solid theories that could explain this odd behavior. Each of them describes a source for kneading and sheds a little bit more light into the matter.
Theory no. 1 – Cats knead to mark their territory
Cats are territorial animals and marking their grounds as clearly as possible has always been a priority for them. Cats have scent glands in their paws and when they start kneading, they are planting their scent all around the area they want to mark.
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Whether they are kneading on their favorite blanket or making biscuits on their favorite human, they want to assert that no other cat is allowed to step in. This theory would explain why cats always knead on the objects they like the most.Whether they are kneading on their favorite blanket or making biscuits on their favorite human, they want to assert that no other cat is allowed to step in. Click To Tweet
Theory no. 2 – Cat kneading comes from kitten behavior
The second theory says that kneading is neotenic behavior, which means a juvenile trait that is maintained in adulthood. Kittens knead on their mothers’ bellies to stimulate milk production. The process of feeding is an extremely positive experience for them because it stops the feeling of hunger, it welcomes the pleasure of drinking the delicious milk, and it also keeps them close to their mothers, which is something they crave for at that age.
The cumulated effect of all of these things makes kittens very happy and during all of this time, they knead. This is how they get to associate this behavior with positive feelings, and, therefore, begin doing it when they are comfortable, when they feel safe, and when they want to show affection.
An argument for this theory is the fact that cats also suckle the objects they are kneading on. This proves that there is a direct link between the feeding pattern observed in kittens and the kneading process observed in both kittens and adult cats.
Take a look at this video to see our lovely Ragdoll Charlie demonstrating cat kneading at its finest.
Theory no. 3 – Cats kneading means settling down
The third theory trying to explain cat kneading says that the behavior is inherited from their ancestors, the wild cats. When they found a good place for settling down or giving birth, wild cats would start patting down the foliage and grass to create a soft space.
This theory also shows that it is a behavior that cats display when they feel comfortable in a certain place or around a certain object. Since wild cats had no regular contact with humans, it is unknown whether they would have extended this type of behavior to them.
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What Does Kneading Mean?
What all the three theories presented above have in common is the purpose of kneading and how it can be interpreted. Whether it is neotenic behavior, a pattern inherited from their ancestors, or a way to mark their territory, kneading is a manifestation of positive behavior.Kneading is a manifestation of positive behavior. Click To Tweet
Your cat is trying to tell you that it trusts you, that it is comfortable being around you, and that it has a great deal of affection for you. Pet your cat as it is kneading to extend the delight even further and enjoy the moment along with your kitty!
Can There Be Too Much Kneading?
Kneading is positive behavior, absolutely, but if your cat is kneading more than usual, you may want to keep an eye out on what is happening to her. A common situation is for cats to make biscuits on their masters, even excessively, if they have been alone all day.
If this is the case, your cat may be telling you that it is extremely happy that you are finally back and what you can do is to show her that you are just as happy to be there with her. This calls for more quality time for you and your cat because it might be feeling neglected.
Can Cats Be Trained Not to Knead?
Some cat owners do not take kneading as a compliment because it feels like pins and needles when their cats make biscuits on them. And so, they usually want to train their cats not to do this anymore. Training a cat not to knead on them is certainly possible, but is it really the right choice?
Kneading is an excellent bonding moment between cats and their masters and it would be a pity to miss out on it. Trimming down the cat’s nails should make the experience pain-free and it promises to bring a lot of joy to both you and your cat.
As you can see, when your cat makes biscuits on you, it is communicating with you. Next time it happens, take it all in and enjoy this amazing experience with your kitty!