If you're a cat owner, you know that your kitty can do plenty of delightful things that make you smile, from "chirping" at birds outside the window to pouncing on invisible mice. But there's one behavior that might make you grin more than anything else your cat does: making biscuits.
This quirky trait, also known as "kneading," is when cats alternate pushing their paws out and pulling them back in, usually into a soft surface. For some added cuteness, they may purr while making these movements. While it's obviously adorable (and looks a lot like a human kneading dough), you're probably wondering: Why do cats make biscuits?
Luckily, this common behavior is nothing to worry about. WideOpenPets.com spoke with Dr. Mikel (Maria) Delgado, a cat behavior expert with Rover, to find out exactly what your furry friend is doing and why.
"Kneading is a behavior that starts when cats are kittens," explains Dr. Delgado. "It's how they stimulate milk production from Mom when they are nursing."
Even though this behavior starts when they're born, Dr. Delgado says that adult cats often do this into adulthood, long after they stop nursing. "Some adult cats continue to knead, but not all cats will do it," she adds.
Why else might your cat be making biscuits? Read on to find out 10 reasons why cats knead.
1. When They Have Positive Feelings
It's often a very good sign when your cat starts kneading. Dr. Delgado says that kitties often do this behavior when they're in "positive situations where they feel relaxed and safe, such as when they are snuggling with humans or other cats." She lovingly refers to this safe place as "the mommy zone" for cats.
2. When Touching a Soft Surface
We as humans like certain things to the touch, like silk or grass under our feet, and cats can experience a similar feeling when their paws are against a soft surface. Dr. Delgado says that adult cats usually knead when their paws touch a particular type of surface, like a very soft blanket. This can also include an upholstered chair, carpet, or your pillow.
3. When They're Sleepy
Just like how you may stretch and yawn before heading to bed, cats may do the same thing: only for them, it looks like kneading. When a cat is feeling particularly relaxed or very sleepy, you may see them making biscuits. Don't be surprised if you see them counting ZZZ's soon after.
"As adults, [making biscuits] is likely a comforting behavior," Dr. Delgado says. And who doesn't want to feel comforted before drifting off to dreamland?
4. When Feeling Stressed
While Dr. Delgado says that kneading or making biscuits is often considered to be a positive behavior, there can be times that your cat is doing it to self-soothe. "It is possible that some cats might knead when they are stressed to comfort themselves," Dr. Delgado says. "But if your cat is otherwise comfortable, relaxed, and performing typical kitty behaviors, like playing, scratching, hanging out with you, eating, and using the litter box, we aren't too worried about excessive kneading."
5. When Making a Nest
You likely cozy up your bed before getting into it for the night. If you also have a dog, you know that they very frequently make "nests" in blankets before laying down for some shut-eye. Cats are no different. They can knead against blankets, pillows, and beds in an effort to make the area more comfortable before snuggling down in.
6. When Marking Territory
Although it simply looks as if your cat is doing something adorable (and they are in most instances!), there are times when making biscuits can be a way for cats to stake their claim on their territory. Since felines have scent glands in their paws, kneading can be a way for them to leave their scent, and their calling card, behind.
7. When Stretching Their Paws
When you've been typing for a while, you've probably stretched out your arms and moved your wrists and hands around in circles to loosen up tight muscles, right? Well, kneading can do the same for cats, keeping their paws limber and ready to play after a long nap.
8. When Going Into Heat
Sometimes, female cats will make biscuits as a signal to male cats that they're ready to mate. But they won't just be showing off their kneading behavior—they'll also be quite vocal with a lot of meowing, and will probably want to go outside a lot more than usual.
9. When Showing Affection
We mentioned that cats often knead against soft surfaces—and sometimes that includes you! If your cat kneads against you, another family member, or even another pet, like a fellow cat or a dog, it's considered a way of showing love and affection, according to Dr. Delgado. If all that love isn't feeling so great to you and it's even painful (although your kitty's heart is certainly in the right place!), Dr. Delgado recommends placing a soft blanket on your lap and keeping your cat's nails trimmed.
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