She’s So Kneady! Why Does My Cat Knead?

We’ve all seen cats “making biscuits” on the internet, but what does this behavior actually mean?

When cats knead their paws—moving them very much like humans kneading bread—they are performing an instinctive act that’s been with them since, well, birth. Kittens first start this kneading motion when at the milk bar nursing off of their mom, and the habit carries through well beyond weaning to adult and even senior years. 

But why?

Cats knead to express they are happy. 

When accompanied by purrs, the act of a cat kneading can simply mean that she or he is happy! Many cats start to knead when being pet, when they see a treat is nearby, or simply when their favorite human enters the room. Take it as a compliment!

Cats knead to get comfortable. 

If a cat starts to knead a bed, pillow, or blanket, it’s a sure sign that he or she is just trying to settle in for a long nap. The cat could be adjusting their bedding to that just right place, or they could be winding themselves down for sleep, similar to how humans have their own nightly routines to get ready for bed. 

Cats knead to show that they love you. 

A lot of cats will knead on their human. This is a sure way to know that your cat loves you! Cats make this kneading motion as a way of bonding with those they care about, and when they choose you for it, are saying that they trust you and want to be near you. 

Cats knead to soothe themselves. 

While a majority of kneady cats are happy, some will start this motion when they are stressed, worried, sick, or in pain. It is a coping mechanism for cats to revert to in order to comfort themselves. If your cat is showing signs of illness or unhappiness and is kneading in new ways, make sure to take her or him to the vet ASAP to get checked out. 

Do your cats knead a lot? Mine do! Rainbow loves to massage pillows around our house, while Belle will make “air biscuits” when she’s really excited to be fed!

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