Source: Woman’s World (Extract)
Posted: October 13, 2023

Blankets, pillows, mattresses, even you! If you have a cat, you’ve likely seen her knead soft things with her paws.

Many people refer to this behavior as cats making biscuits since it looks like they’re kneading bread dough to prepare it for baking. As cute as it is, this biscuit-making can be a bit baffling and, depending on the surface they use, potentially painful or destructive. We asked vets what it means when cats make biscuits and what you can do to curb the behavior, as well as when you should consult a professional.

Cats making biscuits: what does it mean?

While we like to think cats are natural-born bakers, there are some scientific reasons behind why your kitty kneads blankets like they’re bread dough. And as adorable as this behavior is, the reasons behind it are even cuter. Keep reading to see why veterinarians say cats love making biscuits.

1. It’s a ritual from kittenhood

That’s right — your cat has likely been in the biscuit-making biz since she was born. “When kittens are born, they knead their mother’s belly to stimulate the flow of milk,” says Dr. Mollie Newton, DVM and founder of PetMe Twice. “This early behavior can persist into adulthood as a comforting ritual. Think of it as their little throwback to kittenhood.”

There’s a misconception that cats kneading is the result of being weaned from their mother’s milk too early — this has largely been dispelled by the fact that most adult cats knead, regardless of when they stopped nursing.

2. It’s an instinct from their wild roots

Though Fluffy is far separated from her primal parentage, the tigress in her may be coming out when she kneads. “Kneading is an instinctual behavior that stems from a cat’s wild ancestors who would knead grass or foliage to create a soft and comfortable spot for resting or giving birth,” says Dr. Alejandro Caos, a veterinarian with The Vets. Now, spoiled kitties everywhere get to lie down in plush cat beds, but they still instinctually knead before settling down for a catnap.  And if she lays down in the spot she was just kneading, it’s like that she was trying to make it as comfy as possible.

3. They’re marking their territory

Your kitty may be making biscuits as a form of marking her territory. Whether she’s kneading her favorite blanket, sofa cushion or your arm, she’s signaling to others that this spot is hers and no one else’s. “Cats have scent glands in their paw pads, and kneading can help them leave their scent and mark their territory,” says Dr. Caos.

4. They’re content

Let’s face it — have you ever felt stressed when kneading dough? It’s usually an activity that you do for enjoyment, and when cats knead, they’re also indicating that they’re happy and relaxed. “Cats often knead when they are in a relaxed and content state,” says Dr. Caos. “The rhythmic motion can be soothing for them, similar to how humans may enjoy kneading dough when baking. It helps them release tension and feel more at ease.”

5. They’re in heat

Sometimes, female cats will knead as a sign that they’re in heat. Keep an eye out for other signs that your cat is ready to mate — like persistent meowing, marking her territory with urine, pacing, being overly affectionate and assuming the mating position — if you think this could be the cause.

6. They’re showing affection

Many cats knead soft furniture or blankets, but what does it mean when your kitty makes biscuit on you? It’s not because you might be wearing a soft sweater or she couldn’t find anything else: “Cats kneading on you can be a sign that they like you and feel comfortable in your presence. It’s a behavior they often reserve for trusted individuals,” says Dr. Caos. He adds that it’s one way they show affection — they’re essentially saying, “I feel safe and relaxed with you.”

When is kneading a warning sign?

Kneading is a natural behavior that most cats engage in, so it’s not a cause for concern on its own. However, there are a few things to look for in your cat’s kneading behaviors that may indicate it’s time to see a vet. “If your cat starts kneading excessively or seems agitated while doing it, it might indicate discomfort or stress,” says Dr. Newton. “Look for signs like aggressive meowing, restlessness or kneading on inappropriate objects.”

“It’s important to assess the overall body language and behavior of your cat to determine if there are any potential concerns,” adds Dr. Caos. “If you’re unsure or concerned about your cat’s behavior, it’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian.”

What to do about your cat’s biscuit-making

As cute as it is, there’s a point when your little baker needs to clock out of the biscuit factory — especially when her work surface is your skin (ouch!) or your living room furniture. And if you can’t get her to stop, there are a few things you can do to make her behavior a little less, well, scratchy.

1. Clip her nails

Kneading is pretty darn cute, but it can also be downright painful — especially if your cat kneads with its claws. The obvious solution here would be to clip your cat’s nails regularly.

2. Offer her alternatives

Give your cat a dedicated kneading surface, like a towel, soft blanket or scratching post. (Just make sure you don’t give her a blanket with sentimental value, as she will likely rip it up.) “Encourage your cat to use these alternatives by placing them near the furniture they usually knead on,” says Dr. Caos.

3. Use this foil trick

r cat is particularly drawn to certain pieces of furniture, try placing a sheet of aluminum foil or some double-sided tape on it to deter her from kneading in that spot. “Cats generally dislike the texture of these things and will be less likely to knead there,” notes Dr. Caos.

4. Distract her

Give your cat plenty of mental and physical stimulation to keep her from kneading on things you don’t want her to scratch up. Play with her regularly and give her puzzle toys to keep her engaged. “This can help redirect her energy away from kneading on furniture,” says Dr. Caos.

5. Reward her this way

Biscuit-making is in your cat’s DNA, and she doesn’t understand why you wouldn’t want her to knead on your furniture. Don’t raise your voice or admonish her — this will only confuse her and hurt your bond. Instead, reward her when she uses knead-safe surfaces. “Whenever your cat uses appropriate kneading surfaces, provide positive reinforcement such as praise, treats or playtime,” says Dr. Caos. “This can help reinforce the behavior you want to encourage.”