Making Biscuits: Why Do Cats Knead?
What makes cats knead? You know – that methodical, alternating paw mechanism that sends your feline into a purring, hypnotic state. Whether we’re getting ready for bed or watching tv on the couch, cats love to get cozy by “kneading.” Obviously, they find it comforting, but what causes them to do this?
Felines and Their Need to Knead
Although most cats knead, there’s still a bit of mystery as to why they do it. Kneading is essentially the motion cats make when applying pressure with their paws onto a soft object, such as a blanket or a lap. There are a number of theories for this behavior, including:
- A way to mark territory – Claiming or marking territory is instinctual for all felines. Since cats have scent glands in their paws, this would imply they’re simply marking what they perceive to be theirs (yes, this includes you!).
- Preparing a place to sleep – Similar to dogs who like to circle and cozy into a napping spot, cats also like to “prepare” their bed. In the wild, this is often done by patting down grass or other vegetation. At home, blankets, bedding, or your lap will suffice.
- Kneading as a feeding behavior – Cats begin kneading for a pragmatic reason: to start the flow of milk while nursing. If you ever see kittens with their mama, you’ll likely observe this behavior. When adult cats knead, they’re simply repeating a behavior associated with a positive outcome.
- Basic comfort – One of the more popular theories as to why cats knead is they simply find it soothing. Since purring often accompanies “making biscuits,” we connect this behavior with a happy cat. However, no one has figured out why cats purr, either…yet another mystery!
When Your Cat “Kneads” to Watch Those Claws!
Even though kneading is a sweet behavior, it can sometimes be painful. When kneading, the claws often come out – not especially pleasant when they dig into your skin.
Kneading can also damage upholstery, linens, clothing, and other items. To protect your belongings, try a few of these simple tips:
- Place a couple of thick, old towels or blankets between you and your kitty during lap time.
- Cover bedding or areas where your cat prefers to knead with old throws and other linens you can live without.
- Keep your pet well-groomed, including monthly nail trims.
- Discourage cats from kneading on children under 10 years of age, since a scratch can lead to infection or illness.
Whether the mystery of kneading is ever solved, it seems to make our feline friends happy – and that’s something everyone can appreciate. Not to mention, daily naps on your lap is one of the best ways to bond with your pet.
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