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Cat paws kneading making biscuits

The essentials

  • Cats have a need – a need to knead — The behavior involves pushing their front paws against a surface, such as a blanket, another pet, or even their human companions.
  • A kitten may knead because they’re hungry — Kittens first learn to knead to help stimulate their mother’s milk production (human babies and toddlers display similar behaviors when nursing).
  • Kneading may be comforting — Even after a kitten weans, an older kitten or adult cat may continue to “make biscuits” on soft objects like a bed or their owners — and you should always take it as a compliment.

When we talk about cats making biscuits, we aren’t talking about a treat or something that goes in a bread basket. Instead, the term refers to a common feline behavior involving a rhythmic pushing of their paws. Cats may even knead their owners. While it may be perplexing, kneading is common and instinctual. But why do cats make biscuits?

Good question and one many cat lovers have. The answer depends on a variety of factors – mainly the cat.

What are cat biscuits? 

“Making biscuits” is an alternative term for kneading, a normal feline behavior. A cat will move their paw pads in an up-and-down motion against something, such as a cat or a common household object like a blanket, alternating their feet . The action of kneading in cats looks similar to a human kneading dough, hence the term “making biscuits.”

Cat kneading usually begins in newborn kittens. These baby cats are trying to stimulate a mother’s teat and milk production. However,  the behavior may continue for the remainder of a cat’s life. There are several reasons and theories around why cats continue to knead, ranging from evolutionary behavior to sweet reasons (they’re telling you they love you).

Reasons why cats knead

The answer to “Why do cats make biscuits” is varied for a good reason: cats have different personalities. One feline’s reason for kneading pillows or people may differ from another’s. Here are some possible reasons a cat is making biscuits.

It reminds cats of kittenhood

Kneading may remind them of nursing and kittenhood, even after a cat weans. A newborn kitten kneads a female cat’s mammary glands to aid milk production and transfer. A kitty doesn’t need a female cat, like their birth mother, to display this behavior. Instead, you may notice your cat making biscuits on your lap or seat cushions. For these cats, making biscuits can be a source of comfort or a way to self-soothe.

It’s a sign your cat is content

Sometimes, cats have a reputation for being grumpy or aloof. However, felines can be content and happy. Kneading can be a sign that they’re calm. Alternatively, a stressed cat may display this behavior when trying to become calmer.

It’s a way to mark territory

Another possible answer: your cat is attempting to mark territory. Cats are naturally territorial creatures — a trait passed down from their wild ancestors. Wild cats use various behaviors like scratching and kneading to mark territory with their scent.

Before becoming domesticated, felines lived in the wild and were both predators and prey. Cats have scent glands in their face and paws. When cats knead, they release strong-scented pheromones that signal to other animals that they’ve claimed something. Therefore, if your feline friend is kneading you, they may be marking you as theirs. Another cat may make biscuits on soft surfaces in your home that they covet.

It’s a nesting behavior

When a cat feels safe and secure, they can rest comfortably. Therefore, another possible explanation for a cat “making biscuits” may be that they are nesting. During this process, a kitty may compile soft objects like pillows and blankets and “make biscuits” while getting as comfortable as possible.

Benefits of a cat making biscuits

Cat kneading is normal behavior. If you’re a cat lover, chances are you’ve seen a feline friend or two display it. The behavior also may have numerous benefits for a cat, depending on the reason for doing it.

Stress relief

Babies and toddlers may suck their thumbs — or even knead at a lactating parent’s breast — for stress relief. Kneading is a cat’s version of this behavior. Kneading a soft object, beloved human, or fur sibling involves a  rhythmic motion. It can be incredibly soothing for their happy paws (and mind), thereby calming a stressed cat.

Muscle development and improved flexibility

The kneading action allows cats to move their muscles. As a cat makes biscuits, they stretch and extend the muscles on their feet, which can help with development and may even boost flexibility.

Bonding behavior

Some cats make biscuits as a sign of affection for their pet parents. Nursing was likely a bonding experience between your cat and their birth mother. Now, kneading you serves a similar purpose. A content cat kneading for bonding purposes may also purr. If your cat kneads you during a happy time during their day, you can take it as a huge compliment.

What should you do about your cat making biscuits? 

Generally, cat owners don’t need to take any action because the behavior is normal and harmless (but you should always consult a vet if you are concerned).

If your cat is kneading you or common household objects like leather furniture, you’ll want to keep those sharp claws short. You can also put a soft blanket between you and your cat as a small barrier to reduce how much of the kitty’s kneading behavior you feel.

If kneading bothers you or you’d rather a cat not knead the sofa, you might redirect them to a fun toy.

Frequently asked questions

Why do cats make biscuits on blankets?

Kneading is an instinctual behavior. Cats make biscuits for multiple reasons, such as showing affection, self-soothing in stressful moments, or marking territory.

Is it normal for my cat to make biscuits on me?

Yes. Your cat may knead you as a sign of affection — take it as a compliment if your cat makes biscuits in your lap.

Why do cats knead their owners?

Cats may knead their owners as a way to bond, show they are content, or calm down during a stressful moment. The behavior is common.

Why do some cats make biscuits and others don’t?

Every cat is different. Some cats may make biscuits to mark territory, soothe, or show love, while others may display these feelings in other ways.

What does it mean when a cat “makes biscuits?”

Making biscuits is a common feline behavior involving rhythmically moving paws up and down, alternating feet. Newborn kittens display this behavior when nursing, while adult cats may use it as a source of comfort or to mark territory.