Cat Behavior: Why Do Cats Knead?

Cats have historically been mysterious creatures. They often exhibit behavior that can seem funny, odd and even confusing. A cat kneading is one of the most well-known, yet misunderstood, of these habits.ats kneading refers to the pushing motion they make with their paws against a soft surface. Often, this surface happens to be your lap.

So why do cats knead? There's not a definitive answer to this. But different theories have clued us into possible reasons for the behavior.

7 Reasons Why Cats Knead

If you're a cat owner, it's important that you know what's going on with your feline friend. Understanding their behavior will allow you to provide the best life for them.

Let's have a look at the many reasons for cats kneading, sometimes called "making biscuits." Some of these theories may surprise you.

1. Instinctual Behavior from Nursing

Cats start kneading at a very early age. As kittens, they knead their mothers to stimulate milk production while nursing. Pressing their paws around the mother's nipples will result in the flow of milk.

This is a very natural explanation for the behavior. But if kittens use kneading to stimulate milk production, it seems strange that they continue this behavior after becoming adults. And almost all cats do.

An old theory is that kneading is caused by a kitten being separated from its mother or weaned for nursing too early. However, it seems that most cats knead regardless of when they stopped nursing.

It may just be that your cat associates the behavior with the reward it once received as a kitten. This could be a residual, comforting sensation left over from kitty-hood.

2. Getting Ready for Bed

You may have noticed that cats kneading tends to happen right before they go to sleep. This may be another instinctual behavior passed down through generations of felines. It turns out your cat may just be getting ready for bed.

It's common for cats to knead soft material like blankets, clothing or their cat beds. They often seem to be forming the material into a comfortable shape to lie down on. This could be an inherent tradition left over from their wild ancestors.

In the wild, felines tend to form or knead grass and brush to create a softer area to rest their heads. This is similar to the theory that wild dogs and wolves spin in circles before lying down to flatten the grass around them.

3. Stretching Out

Let's face it. Cats are lazy. Most house cats spend much of the day napping by the window in the sun. But when they finally get up and about, they may want to stretch their muscles.

Cats kneading could be their way of stretching out and staying nimble after hours of sleep. Often they will knead the edge of a couch or chair and pull on it. This is similar to how humans stretch.

Everyone knows how it feels to finally get a chance to stretch your legs and back while on a long road trip. Your cat may be kneading for the same reason.

Pay attention to your cat's behavior right after they wake up. You're most likely going to see them reaching for the nearest piece upholstery. They're just stretching out.

4. Cats Need to Show Affection Too

Most of the time, the reason we notice our feline friends kneading is because it's taking place directly on your lap. This seems to be one of their favorite places to practice this odd behavior. It turns out this could be their way of saying they love us.

You may also notice that your cat purrs heavily while making biscuits on your lap. This simply means they are content. You have given them countless hours of affection, and now they are showing their appreciation by giving it back.

Unfortunately, this can be quite painful for us humans. But your cat doesn't realize they are hurting you with their claws. If it's becoming bothersome, keep your cat's claws trimmed and short or try putting a blanket on your lap.

Remember, this could be your cat's only way to show you affection. If you're lounging in front of the television, go ahead and let them knead away.

5. They Need Even More Attention

Most cat owners will relate to the following scenarios. You're working on your laptop, and your cat jumps in your lap as if trying to get between you and your work. Or, you're reading a book in bed, and your cat climbs on your lap and starts kneading away.

When a cat demands your attention, they want it right away. You may notice that when you're engaged with something else, your cat may try to distract you. They may be using kneading as a way of attracting your attention.

While this is harmless behavior, it can often be very distracting. Felines have no other way of communicating their need for attention, so go easy on them. You may have to brush them off politely, but you can bet they'll be back.

6. Marking Their Territory

You've probably long since noticed that you're often the subject of your cats kneading. If it's not you, it's usually their bed or favorite blanket. This could be a cat's straightforward way of marking their territory.

Cats have scent glands in their paws. When they knead, they are pushing their scent onto whatever it is they're kneading. These are often things they care very much about.

By kneading on your lap or their favorite blanket, they are marking what is theirs. If there are no other animals in your house, you may wonder why they need to do this. This could be yet another instinctual behavior that is completely unavoidable.

7. A Sign of Stress

For the most part, cats kneading is a very common and harmless activity. But if you start to notice your cat doing this obsessively, they may be under a certain amount of duress. It may be time for you to pay particular attention to them.

Because cats associate kneading with the comfort felt when nursing, they may overuse the behavior when they feel stressed. Kneading could be a way of calming them down.

Cats tend to react negatively to change. If things are hectic in your home due to an upcoming move or renovation, your cat may be under a large amount of stress. Kneading may be their way of comforting themselves when frightened.

How Should We Treat Our Cats Kneading?

For whatever reason our feline friends knead, it's obviously a part of their instinctual behavior. But sometimes we have to deter them from pressing us. If your cats rubbing becomes too much for you to handle, here are some appropriate ways to deal with it.

If you know your cat is going to want to sit on your lap, put a piece of clothing or blanket to protect against sharp claws.

  • If you know your cat is going to want to sit on your lap, put a piece of clothing or blanket to protect against sharp claws.
  • Trim your cat's claws regularly.
  • Many cats will direct their kneading to a scratching post or feline bed.
  • Use cat toys to distract them when they are kneading too much.

While this behavior may seem peculiar, it brings comfort to your cat. You should never discipline your cat because they are kneading. They are only doing what feels natural.

Declawing your cat should never be a response to the behavior. This is an excruciating procedure for cats and should never be considered simply because your cat is kneading. If you feel the habit is obsessive or out of control, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to discuss the issue.

Summary

Although there is not a definitive answer as to why cats knead, the many theories that exist can give us insight into our cat's behavior. By carefully observing your cat engaging in this behavior, you may start to form theories of your own.

Although there is not a definitive answer as to why cats knead, the many theories that exist can give us insight into our cat's behavior. By carefully observing your cat engaging in this behavior, you may start to form theories of your own.

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