Why Do Cats Knead Or “Make Biscuits” On You? – Forbes Advisor

Why Do Cats Knead Or “Make Biscuits” On You? – Forbes Advisor

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Your cat is pawing at you. If you’ve ever felt like a human ball of dough—only existing to provide a soft spot for your cat to knead and massage—then you’ve probably wondered why. Experts say the answer is simple: Cats were born to knead.

Cats knead or “make biscuits” by “flexing and extending their paws against a surface, such as your lap, a blanket or your body,” says Dr. Alejandro Caos, DVM, a general practitioner veterinarian with The Vets, a nationwide on-demand veterinary service.

This is a completely natural behavior, which is often “a positive and endearing action,” according to Caos. “It’s a way for them to express comfort, mark their territory and show their affection.”

While kneading is not typically a sign that you need to go to the vet, you may consider a trip if your cat is hurting you while kneading or won’t stop kneading on the furniture. Check with your pet insurance beforehand to see if this type of visit’s cost would be covered.

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Why Do Cats Knead?

Kneading is “a normal and instinctual behavior that is generally harmless,” Caos says.

Cats have various personalities and behaviors, and they will knead for many different reasons. The behavior starts when they are kittens, who knead on their mothers while nursing to stimulate milk flow. Adult cats “make biscuits” because it’s soothing, helps them stretch and marks their territory.

Cats Knead To Soothe Themselves

Kneading is comforting to cats and can be a sign of contentment and relaxation, according to Caos. “It’s a behavior that often occurs when they are in a calm and comfortable environment, and they associate it with a sense of security and well-being,” Caos says.

The actual act of kneading—its rhythmic motion—can be soothing for cats, “similar to how humans may enjoy kneading dough when baking,” Caos explained. “It helps them release tension and feel more at ease.”

Cats Knead To Mark Their Territory

Sometimes, cats will knead because they want to assert their dominance and mark their territory. “Cats have scent glands in their paw pads, and kneading can help them leave their scent and mark their territory,” explains Caos. “This behavior is a way for cats to claim an area or object as their own.”

If a cat is kneading on you, it could be signaling that you’re part of its family. “By kneading on you, they are marking you as part of their territory […] and establishing a sense of ownership,” Caos says.

Cats Knead To Show Affection

Can you feel the love? If your cat is kneading on you, it could be because they are showing you affection or that they feel “comfortable and safe with you,” according to Caos.

“When they knead on you, they may be showing their love and forming a closer bond with you,” Caos says.

This behavior “indicates a strong connection” between a cat and an owner, which is a good thing—and proves cats really do like their owners.

Cats Knead To Stretch

Kneading can be a way for your cat to stretch out its legs. “It helps them flex and extend their claws, as well as work the muscles in their legs and shoulders,” Caos says.

Cats Knead Because It’s Instinctual

Cats will knead simply because it’s what cats do; the behavior is purely instinctual and starts when they are kittens.

During nursing, kittens push against their mother’s mammary glands to help access milk more easily, according to Caos. The behavior can continue into adulthood, despite no longer nursing.

Untamed cats will knead out in nature, a habit that has persisted in pet cats. “Kneading is an instinctual behavior that stems from a cat’s wild ancestors who would knead grass or foliage to create a soft and comfortable spot for resting or giving birth,” Caos says.

How To Stop a Cat From Kneading on Your Furniture

It’s natural for cats to knead, and when they do, it’s almost always done for a positive reason. However, kneading on furniture can lead to damage.

Caos shared several ways to help stop your cat from kneading (and potentially destroying) your furniture, which includes things like finding replacement places to knead and keeping your cat entertained so they are less tempted to knead where they shouldn’t.

Provide Appropriate Alternatives

If you find that your cat can’t resist kneading your couch, Caos recommends stocking up on plenty of alternative places for them to exhibit the behavior.

“Give your cat designated kneading surfaces, such as a soft blanket, a cat bed, or a scratching post covered with a similar texture,” Caos says. Then, gently encourage your cat to use these feline-friendly items by placing them near the furniture they usually knead on.

Use Deterrents

If the alternative kneading areas don’t work, try putting deterrents on your furniture, like anti-scratch spray.

Another idea? Putting double-sided tape or aluminum foil on the places your cat likes to knead, as “cats generally dislike the texture and will be less likely to knead there,” Caos says.

Focus On Enrichment

A bored cat is a destructive cat. If you find your pet likes to knead on furniture, check to make sure they are being entertained and challenged enough every day. You can do this by playing with them, offering them puzzles or other interactive activities and spending time with them in a way that is mentally and physically stimulating. Plus, the fun activities will redirect their kneading behavior.

Reward Desired Behavior

When your cat uses the alternative kneading surfaces, be sure to reward them—incentivizing good behavior will help reinforce it, making it easier for them to do it again in the future.

Positive reinforcements of desired behavior can look like praise, treats or playtime, according to Caos. Consider giving them a high-reward treat, like bits of their favorite wet food, to clearly communicate that they’ve done a job well done.

Consult a Veterinarian or Behaviorist

If you can’t get your cat to stop kneading, or if it’s causing damage or discomfort, Caos recommends seeking professional advice from a veterinarian or behaviorist. These experts can evaluate your pet and provide specific recommendations to help curb your cat’s unwanted behavior, based on the cat’s individual needs and circumstances.

“Remember, patience and consistency are key when modifying your cat’s behavior,” Caos says.

Although kneading is generally harmless, in some cases, it may become uncomfortable, overly aggressive, painful, excessive or be accompanied by other signs of distress or aggression. This could be a warning sign of underlying issues such as pain or anxiety. Caos advises concerned cat parents to consult with a veterinarian if they’re unsure of their cat’s behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Do Cats Knead on You?

“Some cats knead when they are feeling particularly affectionate towards their owners or other animals,” says Dr. Alejandro Caos, DVM, a general practitioner veterinarian with The Vets, a nationwide on-demand veterinary service. “It may be a way for them to bond and show their love.”

Cats may also knead on you to stretch out their legs, mark their territory and soothe themselves, among other reasons.

Why Do Cats Knead Blankets and Other Soft Objects?

Cats might “make biscuits” on soft surfaces like blankets as a way “to create a cozy and comfortable spot,” according to Caos. Since kneading is associated with contentment and relaxation, soft objects may feel extra cozy to your cat.

Is Cat Kneading Normal Behavior?

Kneading is instinctual behavior for cats, who knead their mother’s mammary glands to stimulate milk flow when they are kittens. This behavior is then carried into adulthood as a soothing practice, although it can vary in frequency and intensity among individual cats, according to Caos.

“Kneading is generally seen as a positive behavior that is associated with contentment, relaxation and bonding,” Caos says. “However, if the kneading becomes excessive, painful or destructive, it may be necessary to redirect the behavior or seek advice from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.”

Can Neutered or Spayed Cats Still Knead?

Yes, neutered or spayed cats can still knead, according to Caos.

“Kneading behavior is not solely influenced by reproductive status,” he explained, adding that cats primarily knead as a natural instinct that began as kittens. “While intact (non-neutered) cats may exhibit more intense or frequent kneading behavior due to hormonal influences, neutered or spayed cats can still engage in kneading as it is ingrained in their natural behavior.”

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