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Do All Cats Knead? Is Cat Kneading Normal?

Whether you think it’s adorable or find it utterly annoying, you’ve likely caught your cat kneading at some point. This behavior usually takes place on a soft blanket or your lap, and cat fanatics often refer to it as “making biscuits.”

What is cat kneading, and why do our feline friends do it? While not all cats knead, it is a very common behavior for young and adult felines. Some cats knead while being petted, and others do it for no clear reason at all. Each cat has their own techniques and reasons. Here are a few reasons why your cat might be “making biscuits”.

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What Is Cat Kneading?

It is more common for cats to knead than it is for them to not. Either way, this isn’t something that all cats do. Those that do participate in this behavior usually move their paws in a pushing motion—first moving the left paw and then the right. Some felines prefer to purr really loudly during this process, and others are quieter. You might even notice that some cats suckle on a blanket or piece of fabric while doing this. Don’t be worried if your cat appears to be in a trance-like state. This is just their way of showing that they’re completely relaxed.

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Why Do Cats Knead?

cat stretching
Image Credit: kevin burt, Pixabay

Kneading is completely normal behavior for all cat breeds regardless of their age. Some stop when they mature, but others continue well into their golden years. Kneading is an instinctive trait for cats. It appears to be soothing for them, but there are other theories that attempt to explain this feline behavior.

1. Kneading During Nursing

Some experts believe that kneading is a leftover behavior that comes from kittenhood. Kittens usually knead during nursing to help get more milk out. Many people guess that this motion gives cats a feeling of comfort. That’s why you can sometimes see this behavior being more prevalent in cats that were separated from their mothers too early.

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2. Kneading for Comfort

Cat lovers and experts assume that happy cats will knead to show their pleasure. If your cat starts this behavior whenever you pet or snuggle them, it’s just their way of telling you that they are happy and comfortable with you. Your cat might knead on your lap, belly, neck, or any other place that they can be in contact with you.

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3. Kneading to Mark Territory

cat claws when kneading
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

One of the biggest ways that felines communicate is through scent. Cats have scent glands located in their paws. When cats scratch or knead on a surface, they are leaving their scent behind and letting other animals know they were there. It could just be your cat’s way of claiming you as their own.

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4. Kneading for Rest

Have you ever seen a dog turn in circles over and over again until they finally settle down in one spot? One prediction is that cat kneading works in a similar way. Kneading might help create a soft, comfy sleeping place for cats. Their wild ancestors would knead tall grasses into plush piles before laying on them to rest, so this could be an instinctual behavior for domesticated cats as well.

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Tips to Help Stop Your Cat’s Kneading

a kitten kneading on her mother
Image Credit: Tania Van den Berghen, Pixabay

Kneading can be cute, but it can also be uncomfortable if they choose to do it on you. Not only can they put a good amount of pressure on their paws, but some cats extend their claws while doing so. It doesn’t only hurt you, but it can damage your blankets and furniture as well. If you want to stop the kneading, there are a few things you can try.

  • Keep your cat’s claws trimmed to prevent the sharp hooks from cutting you and your furniture.
  • Encourage your cat to knead in a different location. You can lure them to a specific location with pheromone sprays or catnip.
  • Redirect their attention with treats and toys. Cats can be trained and teaching them a different behavior in place of the old one is certainly possible.
  • Consider buying them a kneading-only blanket. Thick blankets will work best for this, and the soft texture will encourage them to use it. Whenever they start the behavior, move them onto the blanket and pet them to teach them that kneading should only happen on that specific blanket.
  • Do not punish your cat for kneading. Even if you find it annoying, kneading is a natural behavior, and punishment will more than likely lead to a negative response where they lash out. Instead, stick to redirection and distraction techniques so that you don’t diminish your pet’s trust.

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Final Thoughts

Whether you love it or hate it, kneading is a common behavior that most cats enjoy doing. It isn’t anything bad, so they shouldn’t be punished for it. Still, it’s understandable why you don’t like the behavior. Instead of declawing your cat or punishing them, take some time to understand why this behavior is so common and try out one of our tips for getting them to stop.

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Featured Image Credit: FrimuFilms, Shutterstock

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