Does your cat like to make "biscuits" with its paws? This cat behavior can seem odd, but there's a valid reason for it. While their glazed-over expression when kneading may cause you to worry, there's no need to be concerned. However, that's not to say you should ignore it either. Below, we ask why do adult cats knead and what does this behavior mean?

My cat likes to knead. Is this normal?

Cat kneading or "biscuit making" is an instinctive cat trait. It's believed to have deep roots in feline evolutionary behavior. While nobody knows why they engage in this strange activity, there are theories. So, is it normal for young and adult cats to knead? Yes, it is. But that shouldn't stop us from asking the question as to why they're doing it.

Some cats purr contentedly while kneading a soft blanket, yet others may seem anxious or in a trance. Your cat may only use their paws. Or they might like to knead with their claws too. And for others, they don't knead at all. So let's look at why your feline friend enjoys kneading imaginary dough.

Exploring this cat behavior—here's what you need to know

You wouldn't be the only pet parent to ask the question, “Why do adult cats knead?” This adorable yet mysterious behavior is fascinating to look at—and even more so to learn about. Here's what you need to know about your cat's kneading habit.

Why do adult cats knead?

As mentioned, there are various theories as to why cats knead. It's thought to be linked to all kittens' communicative behavior with their mothers. Yet, that doesn't explain why it continues when your feline friend is grown up. Here are some reasons we give when asked why do adult cats knead.

  • Simulates nursing. Kittens begin kneading soon after they're born. This rhythmic motion stimulates milk production when mother cats are breastfeeding, which can be helpful after feline pregnancy. Many believe this is why adult cats drool when "making biscuits." It reminds them of their connection with their mother.
  • Signals comfort. Many adult cats knead because they're happy. If your cat likes to knead when you pet them, it's an affectionate way of telling you they're content and love you. Anxious cats can often resort to this cat behavior to soothe and calm themselves.
  • Marking their territory. When a cat kneads an object or even your lap, it deposits pheromones or scent markers. As scent is used to communicate between animals, this is your cat's way of marking its territory.
  • Helps them to stretch their muscles. Another theory is kneading helps your cat relieve tension in their muscles. Cats love to sleep for hours each day. After a long nap, your feline friend may knead to stretch out tense muscles.
  • Making a nest. Others believe cat kneading has its roots in ancestral traits. Many cats in the wild knead leaves or tall grass to make a nest for themselves and their young. Not only did cats do this to make a soft surface for sleeping but also to check for predators.
  • Going into heat. If you have a female cat, their kneading behavior may indicate they're going into heat. When accompanied by other behaviors, such as being overly vocal or extremely affectionate, this is their way of telling male cats they're ready to mate.

My cat does it excessively. Should I be worried?

While cat kneading is entirely normal, if your cat does it excessively, it could be a sign they're overly anxious. As this behavior comforts cats, nervous cats may rely on it to cope with stress and tension. This is seen more in indoor cats than outdoor ones. This could be due to the stress of confinement or changes in their lifestyle (e.g., moving to a new house).

If you notice your cat kneads obsessively, bring your fur baby to the vet as soon as possible. They'll run physical and behavioral tests to diagnose the cause. These visits are often covered as part of cat wellness plans.

How to prevent your cat from scratching you when kneading

A cat kneading while sitting on your lap can be adorable but also painful if they like to use their claws. If this is the case, scratches can happen accidentally. To prevent your favorite pair of jeans or blanket from being at the mercy of your cat's claws, here are simple things you can do to stop cat scratching.

First, make sure to keep your cat's nails trimmed. Doing this as part of regular cat grooming will mean cat kneading can return to being purely adorable. Maybe place a thick blanket across your lap to prevent them from making your legs their personal scratching post. Alternatively, you can try to distract your cat with exciting toys or treats.

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At Wagmo, our wellness plans for cats are all about helping your fur baby embrace their quirky behaviors while staying safe and healthy. For as little as $20 per month, pet parents get access to affordable pet care for various routine services, such as vaccinations, dental hygiene, flea prevention, and grooming.

We allow pet parents to do what they do best—care for their furry family members. By signing up for Wagmo, you'll never have to wonder why do adult cats knead again. Learn more about Wagmo Wellness Plans or take our pet wellness quiz today to find the right plan for your and your feline friend.