Why Do Cats Knead?

why do cats knead with their claws

If your cat is in the kitchen whipping up some baked goods, stop reading and call your vet immediately (or maybe Bravo, because you need your own reality show). However, if your cat seems to be kneading her paws into a soft surface (blankets, other cats, your lap), keep going to find out what’s up. Here’s why your cat is kneading—or as some call it, making biscuits.

What Is Cat Kneading?

You’ll know it when you see it, but imagine a cat with outstretched arms, scrunching up one paw, then the other, over and over. It’s called kneading because it looks like she’s kneading bread—cute! Some cats, according to cat behavior site Catster, retract their claws when they knead, while others go full-on talons out.

Typically a cat kneads—or “makes biscuits,” as some folks call it—into soft surfaces like pillows, beds and rugs. It’s not uncommon to hear purring while this happens.

Why Do Cats Knead?

1. Because they’re comfortable

Let’s agree we may never know why cats do anything. They are fickle, and that’s why we love ’em! Catster’s experts hypothesize, however, that since baby kittens knead their mother’s bellies during feeding time to ensure they get as much milk as possible, adult felines knead instinctually when they seek comfort or care.

It’s worth noting some cats, like this editor's gray tabby, gray tabby, will lick or suck whatever is near while they knead, which lends credence to this theory. On the other hand, some cats, like my black shorthair, who kneads only when he’s being scratched or pet and keeps his mouth shut the whole time, may simply feel utterly content or safe in their surroundings. More often than not, it’s a good bet your cat is just returning the love.

Sometimes, making biscuits could be an extension of a really good stretch. Watch your cat the next time she does a big downward dog, yoga-style stretch. Chances are, she’ll segue into kneading or scratching whatever surface she’s on.

2. To mark their territories

It’s also possible cats knead to mark their territories. PetMD notes paw pads excrete a kitty’s unique scent, which means kneading could be a great way to make everything she touches smell like her. This theory doesn’t resonate as much based on my cats’ behaviors, but all felines operate differently.

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Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...