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All about cat kneading

Cat kneading

Cats make wonderful companions, but they also do strange things we don’t always understand. You may notice your cat “making biscuits” or kneading on your lap or a blanket. This behavior is completely normal in cats. It’s an inborn behavior that kittens carry into their adulthood. So, why do cats knead? 

Table of contents 

What is kneading? 

If you are a cat owner or have spent any time around cats, you have probably witnessed kneading. Also known as “making biscuits,” kneading is when cats push their paws down on a soft surface, alternating each one in a rhythmic pattern—like a baker kneading dough before putting it into the oven. 

It may appear to be a strange habit, but kneading is a very common and normal behavior of cats of all ages. Some cats use their claws when kneading, others don’t. Some felines knead the laps of their humans while others may paw at pillows, couch cushions, or any soft surface. 

Why do cats knead? 

There’s no confirmed reason why cats knead, but there are some theories behind this feline activity: 

Getting comfortable – Similar to dogs turning in circles before lying down, kneading may help cats create a safe and comfortable sleeping place. In the wild, your cat’s feline ancestors needed to flatten out resting areas to make them more comfortable and detect any unseen hazards before a nap, so the American Animal Hospital Association notes that kneading may be an ancient instinct. Once they’ve made themselves comfortable, they can rest easy (a cat’s favorite pastime!). 

Showing affection – If your cat is curled up and kneading your lap while you’re petting them, they are returning the affection and telling you they you right back. It can be a compliment if a cat kneads on you, as it can mean that they trust and are comfortable around you. And you have most likely reinforced this behavior by either giving them pets or moving them aside. This positive association of “make biscuits on human’s lap, get attention” has trained your cat to repeat the behavior.   

Stretching – Cats spend so much time napping, they need to stretch their legs every now and then. Kneading their paws is one of the many ways cats keep themselves limber until the next nap. The alternating motion of extending their limbs during kneading is a feline version of waking up their muscles and stimulating circulation. 

Marking territory – Cats are territorial creatures and are strongly driven by scent-related communication. They rely on scent markers to claim territory and leave messages for other cats and have scent glands in their paws to leave their smell wherever they go. By kneading their paws on the surface of something (yes, including you), they’re activating the scent glands in their soft paw pads, thereby marking that item as theirs. 

Calming – Kneading appears to be relaxing and soothing for cats. Many will purr contentedly or zone out. This is an instinctive behavior leftover from kittenhood, as young cats knead their mothers to stimulate milk production. Adult cats likely associate the motion of kneading with the rewarding comfort of nursing and continue the practice on pillows and blankets throughout their lives. 

Kneading can be a useful self-soothing tool for cats when they are experiencing stress. Stressed cats may knead as a way to calm themselves. If your cat is stressed and kneading in order to self-soothe, you may also notice tail flicking and tucking, dilated pupils, hiding, or increased respiratory rate. 

How can ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA help stressed cats? 

Stress can negatively impact the physical and mental health of your feline friend. And seeing them stressed or fearful isn’t pleasant for you, either! Many things can cause stress for cats, such as a new member of the household or a change in schedule. 

Fortunately, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA feline oil and feline paste can help relax your stressed cat and support an adjustment to household changes and overstimulation. In addressing your cat’s stress, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can lead to improved overall well-being and help them manage their fear-based response.   

As always, consult your veterinarian about any mental or physical health issues your cat may be experiencing. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD can help your feline friend have the best quality of life, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help.     

What to do when your cat’s kneading is problematic 

Kneading is a normal, natural behavior for cats, so for your feline friend’s own health and safety, there is no reason to stop them from kneading. However, kneading can be destructive to your home, painful for you if they’re clawing at your lap, or just plain annoying if they are kneading nonstop. 

To prevent disruptive or destructive kneading, cat parents should: 

  • Keep nails trimmed short – Regularly trimming your cat’s claws will keep both your lap and furniture free from scratch marks. According to pet expert Dr. Marty Becker, clipping their nails can also prevent painful broken claws. Get your feline friend familiar with the clippers early and use positive reinforcement with treats to make grooming an enjoyable experience for everyone. 
  • Cover up – Put a thick blanket over your lap when your cat wants to knead on you. Placing a thick, soft barrier between your cat and your lap will help make this bonding time more comfortable and pleasant for you both. 
  • Designate kneading spots – If the kneading on your lap or furniture becomes harmful, encourage your cat to move their biscuit making to an appropriate surface like a blanket or their own pet bed. When your cat starts to knead in an undesirable location, interrupt and redirect them by gently coaxing them to a “safe” place with treats or a toy. Use positive reinforcement training by rewarding them with treats, verbal, or physical praise when they make biscuits on the wanted surface. 

It’s important to never punish your cat for kneading. Making biscuits is a natural behavior for them and they don’t realize that they are either hurting you or shredding your couch cushion. Always use positive reinforcement methods when addressing an unwanted behavior. 

Bottom line on making biscuits 

Watch your cat carefully when they knead and pay attention to the context. This might give you more insight into why they’re kneading. If your cat is kneading as a way to self-soothe because they are experiencing stress, it is important to address this stress as soon as possible. You may want to clip their nails and designate “safe” kneading places in your house, but making biscuits is a natural and otherwise harmless behavior that makes our feline family members happy.