How many of you cat owners are constantly scratching your head in wonder when it comes to your cat’s behavior? It’s no secret that cats do some wonky things! While we may never know the reason your cat likes to, nay, MUST knock full glasses of water off the counter, here is one mystery we can solve: Why do cats knead (or make biscuits)???
For those of you new to, or not yet a part of, the feline world, kneading is an extremely common behavior in cats. It is essentially the motion of pushing in and out with the paws (either with claws retracted or not), often on a soft surface. It is often accompanied by motor purring, or even drooling as a kitty kneads itself into a contented trance.
If you have had the privilege of seeing a nursing mother with kittens, or even bottle-feeding neonatal orphaned kittens, you have seen that this behavior is actually instinctual. Nursing kittens knead their mother’s belly to stimulate the flow of milk. Orphaned kittens likely also participate in this behavior instinctually, even though the behavior for them is not directly correlated to the production of milk.
Another aspect of the kneading behavior is related to marking. Cats have scent glands in their paw pads (more affectionately known as toe beans), and thus release their scent markers onto the surface they are kneading. In this sense, kneading is basically a gentler version of scratching! So, when your cat kneads on you he may be saying “I’m super cozy and relaxed right now” or he may be saying “I own you,” or both.
This behavior is demonstrated by some cats more than others – just as humans have different ways of comforting and expressing themselves, so do cats. If your kitty is a constant kneader, it may be a good idea to keep their nails short to avoid excess scratching. Also be sure to provide a variety of scratching surfaces for them, so they can exercise their kneads (and needs). At the very least, this behavior is downright adorable…be sure to snap a video of your kneading kitty and send it our way!