Ever wondered: Why do cats knead? Why does your cat stomp on her favorite bed or blanket (or your leg or chest) with her front paws, as though making dough for biscuits? Ever wondered why doing so seems to make her high, intoxicated with sweet memories of springtime and youth? Here are five cool things about your cat and kneading, aka biscuit-making.
Note: This is to be read on a knead-to-know basis. (Warning: There will be puns.)
Cats can become so relaxed while kneading that they enter a trancelike state, complete with drooling and a thousand-mile stare. “Hey, Bubba Lee Kinsey, where’d you go?” I’ll say to say to my gray tabby when he really loses himself in the moment and achieves a Zen-like state of enlightenment, which can only be broken by the sound of my other cat eating something Bubba wants.
Your cat has been kneading since she was a kitten — in fact, she kneaded her mom’s belly to stimulate the flow of milk while she was nursing. This instinctive behavior is comforting to your kitty and can take her back to simpler times, much the way that eating a giant plate of macaroni and cheese and drinking some electric blue Kool-Aid can make you feel like a kid again (at least until you finish and realize your skinny jeans are, like, way tight now).
Kneading is called “biscuit-making” for a reason: Your cat is tenderizing your gamey flesh so you’ll make a meal fit for a queen. Not really! She’s just trying to soften your cold, cold heart — by way of your lap, of course.
One reason cats knead is to make a soft bed or clear a space to doze. Their ancestors did this with tall grass or leaves; they do it with your jeans. This can involve claws. Sometimes it hurts — but it’s always nice to know you’re kneaded. If kneading is painful, try redirecting your cat’s knead-iness to a pillow or a blanket, and keep her claws trimmed. Never punish your kitty for kneading, though, because the behavior is instinctive.
Your kitty has scent glands in her paws, so when she’s kneading you she’s also marking you as her own personal human. Yes, that’s right — your cat officially owns you. Stop acting like you didn’t already know.
Sometimes cats knead when they want something. Maybe you’re too involved with your computer monitor or that Law & Order marathon for their liking. Maybe they want treats, and they want them now. Maybe they just want scratches behind the ears in that special place only you can reach.
One thing is certain: When your cat combines kneading with solicitation purring, you’re really in trouble. If you haven’t heard of solicitation purring, odds are you’ve experienced it. Surprising no one, cats have developed and honed a purr that sounds vaguely like the cry of a human baby, and is specifically designed to manipulate us. It’s how your cat gets you to let her lick out your cereal bowl. And it works. Every time.
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