Kneading, making biscuits, working overtime at the dough factory, whatever you decide to call it, this cat quirk is adorable yet somewhat strange. So why exactly do cats knead? And furthermore, is my cat’s kneading normal? And how can you make it not hurt!
Reasons for Kneading
- Instinct– Cats in the wild tamp down grass before they go to bed at night to make their sleeping area more comfortable. They walk in circles and knead the area to make it as soft as possible¹. Furthermore, kittens knead their mother’s while nursing to increase milk flow and to communicate with their mother’s that they are content¹. If you’ve ever noticed a cat with a blanket in their mouth while kneading, this innate kitten nursing behavior is why they are doing that. So instinct plays a big factor into why your feline friend kneads so much!
- Smell– Cats are smell-driven creatures. If your cat likes to rub up on all your furniture and even your leg, it’s just their way of saying, “I like you so you should smell like me!”². This is a cat’s way of marking their territory. When you sit down for your favorite TV show, and your cat hops up on your lap and starts making biscuits, it’s them getting their scent all over you because they like you and want you to smell like them. It’s comforting to them when the people they love smell like them.
- Stretching– Do you ever get in bed after a long day and stretch your legs and toes, and it’s the best feeling in the world? This is similar to cat’s kneading before they take a nap on your lap! All the stretching and extending of claws feels good for them and helps them to settle in and relax for a long cat nap².
- Reinforced— Whether you realize it or not, you probably reinforced this behavior! Because it’s universal knowledge that a cat making biscuits is the cutest thing in the world, your reassuring pets and soothing words while they are doing it tells your cat that you love when they do this! And since your cat loves you, they will keep doing this behavior so they can get this reaction out of you again².
How to Make Kneading More Comfortable for YOU!
If your cat uses their claws while kneading on your lap, this can seriously hurt. Stay up-to-date with their nail trimmings or have a designated “kneading” blanket so you can’t feel their claws while they make biscuits³. Never punish your cat for kneading– it’s instinct at the end of the day, so this will just leave them frustrated and confused. If you’d like your cat to get off of you, distract them with a toy or a laser toy!
Also consider these bSerene products to encourage your cat to knead on a pillow or their bed instead of your lap! Simply spray the item you would like your cat to knead and allow 15 minutes for it to dry before giving it to your cat. The pheromone-based spray will persuade them to use that item instead of your lap to knead. Now everyone is happy!
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¹ Llera, Ryan, BSc, DVM; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM. “Why Cats Turn Around Before Lying Down.” VCA Animal Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-cats-turn-around-before-lying-down#:~:text=Some%20cats%20knead%20the%20rug,included%20in%20the%20bedtime%20ritual. Know Your Pet.
² Radosta, Lisa, DVM, DACVB. “5 Reasons Cats Knead (and How to Keep It From Hurting!)” Daily Paws. 15 July 2022, https://www.dailypaws.com/cats-kittens/behavior/common-cat-behaviors/why-do-cats-knead. Common Cat Behaviors.
³ “Is My Cat’s Kneading Normal?” American Animal Hospital Association: The Standard of Veterinary Excellence. https://www.aaha.org/your-pet/pet-owner-education/ask-aaha/is-my-cats-kneading-normal/#:~:text=Kneading%20to%20convey%20comfort%20%E2%80%94%20Happy,create%20a%20soothing%2C%20calm%20mood. Ask AAHA: Answers from the experts