Of all the strange things cats do — chirping, squeezing into tight spaces, knocking your valuable stuff on the floor while looking you dead in the eye — their incessant kneading is particularly unusual.
One is that kneading could be a leftover behavior from kittenhood. “Kneading is a behavior that starts with birth,” says Marilyn “The Cat Coach” Krieger, author of Naughty No More!. “Neonates (newborns) knead their mum’s nipples when they’re nursing, stimulating lactation.”
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In addition to helping teats gush, Krieger adds, “It’s also possible that kneading lays claim to a specific teat — important when there are other siblings to contend with.” Going by that logic, it could be suggested that cats are also laying claim to your pillows, blankets and, yes, thighs when they knead them. “Felines may also be marking a specific spot when they knead, claiming ownership or territory,” Krieger confirms. After all, cats have scent glands in the pads of their paws that can leave behind reassuring kitty hormones.
Either way, you can rest assured knowing that a kneading cat is generally a happy cat. Once cats are mature enough to go without their mum’s milk, they may continue kneading when they feel at ease, as an instinctual reminder of those cozy days of youthful teat sucking. “Kneading is a behavior that most cats will continue to do throughout their lives,” Krieger says. “Some people call it ‘making biscuits.’ It’s a comfort behavior — something they’ll commonly do when they’re content. It’s usually accompanied by purrs.”
Now who likes butter with their biscuits?