Behavior
I love cats making biscuits.

Cats Making Biscuits: All About Cat Kneading

What’s up with cats making biscuits (a.k.a. kneading)? We discuss why cats knead, what to do if it’s painful ... and why cats shouldn’t ACTUALLY make (or eat!) biscuits.

Angie Bailey  |  Apr 18th 2018


Do you have a kneady cat? Most of us do, and the act of “making biscuits” is actually a completely normal feline behavior. Also known as kneading, cats making biscuits is the rhythmic back-and-forth of paws pressing against a soft object like a blanket, sweater or human lap. The action looks like a fuzzy little baker kneading dough — hence the cats making biscuits description. Most of us think of a cat engaged in the activity only with his two front paws, but some kitties are talented “bakers” and use all four! Occasionally the kneading turns into a full-fledged dance of sorts.

There are a few possible explanations for what’s going on with cats making biscuits:

  1. During early kittenhood, babies knead their mothers to stimulate milk production. Because there’s such comfort in that memory, adult cats may instinctually “go there,” even though they are way beyond weaned. Hey, if something feels nice, why not milk it for all it’s worth?
  2. Back in the olden days, our cats’ ancestors would create a soft place to sleep in the wild. This “nesting” is done by flattening the grasses around them. This could be why we see our cats “making biscuits” as they’re settling down for some shut-eye.
  3. Cats leave their scents on things (and people) they consider “theirs.” Dr. Julia Donnelly of Aspen Grove Veterinary Care says, “Later in life, kneading can also be used to mark territory by allowing the release of pheromones that are stored inside special scent glands located in the paws.” In fact, the paw pads are the only part of a cat’s body that sweats. Some believe that when a cat is kneading on their human, it’s his way of saying, “you’re mine!”
  4. Some experts believe that when a female cat is in heat (or estrus), she kneads and purrs. This is one way of letting males know she’s ready to mate.
  5. We know that stretching and staying limber is healthy for our bodies, and cats know that, too. The action of kneading is a great stretch and cats may be doing it for just that reason. There’s probably a “biscuit-maker pose” in the Cat Yoga dictionary.

When cats making biscuits turns painful

While kneading, cats sometimes keep their claws retracted and other times (yowie!) they don’t. Don’t ever punish your cat for kneading, even if his claws are digging right into your tender flesh. Instead, place a blanket or towel between you and the paws or shift the kitty to a different location with a soft object on which to knead.

You can also reduce the pain that might accompany cats making biscuits by keeping your cat’s nails trimmed.

Some final thoughts on cats making biscuits

Because cats have got the kneading motion down pat, they probably could actually whip up a mean batch of biscuits, right? 

Here’s the thing: even though our favorite felines seem to have mad biscuit-making skills, it doesn’t mean they should eat biscuits intended for humans. You keep the biscuits (yum) and offer your cat a tasty kitty treat instead. Now everyone’s happy!

Tell us: Does your cat make biscuits or knead? What do you call this behavior?

Thumbnail: Photography © FatCamera | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Read more about cat kneading on Catster.com:

  1. Why Do Cats Knead? Explaining Cat Kneading, a Quirky Cat Behavior
  2. 5 Fun Reasons Cats Knead
  3. Do You Have a “Kneady” Cat? And Do You Call It Kneading?