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Why Do Cats Knead?

Kneading is one of the most lovely behaviors cats may manifest! It can be simply described as an alternate and rhythmic movement of the front paws against a soft and squishy surface. Cats knead on different surfaces like beds, soft blankets, and sometimes even on people… But why is it a thing? Why do cats knead?

There are plenty of funny nicknames for kneading: “making biscuits”, “happy paws”, “muffin-making”, “kneading dough”, “playing the piano” or “mashing potatoes”. While doing it, cats might purr, present a zoned-out expression on their faces, or even start drooling. These are all signs that they are perfectly happy and relaxed. In this particular situation, purring is obviously linked to a positive emotion, but that’s not always the case. Find out more on “Why do cats purr?”

Aside from showing their contentment, there are a few other reasons why cats love “making biscuits”:

A funny way to say “I love you”

If you’ve ever wondered how to tell if your cat loves you, kneading in your lap is a great indicator that they do! It means they are in an easy-breezy mood, and it can also be a sort of compliment. Some cats knead on their owner’s lap after a rather satisfying petting session, a praise or a tasty meal. This may be a way of “petting” their humans back and saying thank you!

Traces of kitten behavior

Cats begin to knead in early stages. A nursing kitten will instinctively knead around their mother’s nipples while suckling, to stimulate milk production. Because kneading stems from feeding, it’s not uncommon for adult cats to drool or suckle on blankets while squishing them with their paws.

Nest preparation

When cats used to live in the wild, they did not have fluffy beds to rest on. They had to look for tall grass fields and knead on the turf, if they wanted to make a cozy and secret place where they could sleep. 

Despite domestication, this natural behavior still runs on our kittens’ bloodstream. No wonder they knead on our laps, to make them even more comfortable for a good snooze!

Mark territory

Cats have scent glands scattered all over their bodies, from their cheeks to their tails, and even in the bottom of their paws. This has led some experts to believe that when cats knead, they are marking their territory as well. You may not be able to scent the marking signs, but other cats surely will. Fascinating, right?

Why do cats knead? – conclusion

The reasons behind kneading are still a bit of a mystery, but one thing is for sure: it’s an awfully adorable behavior! Not all cats do it though, so talk yourself out of the idea that there is something wrong with your tiny tiger if they do not follow the pattern. In case of doubt or concern, don’t be shy and contact the Maven vet team! 🙂

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