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Kneading, also known as “making biscuits,” is a common behaviour exhibited by cats. During this behaviour, a cat will alternately push in and out with their front paws – shifting between their left and right paw. The behaviour is typically accompanied by purring and while there isn’t a single definitive answer to why cats knead, there are several theories that may explain this behaviour.
One theory is that kneading is a remnant of kitten behaviour. When nursing, kittens knead their mother’s belly to stimulate the flow of milk. This behaviour may carry over into adulthood as a form of relaxation and comfort.
Another theory is that kneading is a way for cats to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands in their paw pads, and kneading may help spread their scent onto the surfaces they are kneading.
Stretch and flex
A third theory is that kneading helps cats stretch and exercise their paws and leg muscles.
Regardless of the reason, kneading is generally considered a sign that a cat is feeling relaxed and content, and most owners love to see this innate behaviour.
- Bradshaw, J. (2019). Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. Basic Books.
- Buffington, C. A., Westropp, J. L., & Chew, D. J. (2006). Feline lower urinary tract disorders: a medical and behavioral approach. Saunders.
- Turner, D. C., & Bateson, P. (2014). The domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour. Cambridge University Press.