Scientists break down the mysterious act of "making biscuits" in cats.

Let your mind wander as you lounge around on the couch on a Saturday. You are startled by a soft push on your stomach. It's the rhythmic in-and-out pressure of your cat's paws on the floor. If you're reading this, you know what that means: biscuit time!

This kneading behavior is well-known among cat owners and has even gained traction online (#catsmakingbiscuits is a lively corner of TikTok). Your cat may appear to be preparing dough like a miniature baker, but the true motivation behind this action is unclear.

However, researchers have found evidence that kneading is an ancient behavior among cats. There are many different reasons why cats knead, each with their own quirks.

According to Inverse, board-certified veterinary behaviorist Katherine Pankratz says, "the style of'making biscuits' can vary cat to cat, from just the front feet to all four feet, from claws out or not."

Kneading like a cat?

Cat behaviorists explain this puzzling phenomenon Shutterstock

As Pankratz puts it, "kneading in cats is the rhythmic pushing of the paws towards and away from an intended object."

In the same way that breadmakers knead dough in a steady, rhythmic motion, so do biscuit makers, hence the common usage of the term "making biscuits." Cats are notorious for leaving their biscuit imprints all over the place, including on furniture, bedsheets, and even human clothing.

When kneading, some cats extend their claws while others don't.

Cats Knead Because...

Be mindful, your pet may be communicating with you. Shutterstock

Mother and kitten kneading is an ancient evolutionary response.

Mikel Delgado, a cat expert at Feline Minds, tells Inverse that "kneading," or "making biscuits," is very similar to the movements that kittens make when they are nursing on their mother.

According to Pankratz, kittens use kneading as a form of "juvenile behavior" for communicating with their mothers and to "stimulate milk production." ”

However, this habit is maintained in adulthood by many cats who knead on pillows and other soft surfaces.

Delgado hypothesizes that our domesticated cats "retain some of these behaviors that help them survive when they are young" because of the increased spaying and neutering they experienced as a result of human domestication. ”

Tumblr is littered with videos of cats "baking" cookies.

According to Pankratz, adult cats knead because it brings them the same sense of security they felt when they were nursing as kittens.

In contrast, some cats knead for more human-like reasons, like stretching tired muscles. In particular before a nap, "the motion of kneading can help stretch those muscles," says Pankratz.

Cats, like their wild ancestors, leave biscuits as a scent mark on things.

"As territorial creatures," Pankratz says, "this scent communicates their presence with other cats and provides a familiar scent to their territory."

One last thing: female cats may knead the air while lying on their sides just before they enter heat.

Is there any significance to your cat kneading you?

Kneading is a sign of a happy cat.

According to research published in 2018, kneading is a "communicatory behavior" that serves to mark objects with pheromones (chemicals that signal to and trigger responses in other cats).

Delgado claims that kneading is "typical feline behavior." She says that kneading is like a massage for cats.

Adult cats, according to Delgado, "knead when they are relaxed and happy or when they are on a very soft, inviting blanket."

In addition, Pankratz notes, "this behavior is a calming signal often expressed when the cat is happy and comfortable." ”

Is it normal for cats to knead?

Biscuit orders have been delayed because of him.

Instinctively, cats have the tendency to knead things, and it's not unusual for them to do so. Delgado concludes, "there's no reason to worry about it," as kneading is a sign that a cat is "safe and happy." ”

Pankratz explains that while many cats knead when they are kittens, not all of them maintain this behavior into adulthood. As a result, don't worry if your cat doesn't knead much or at all.

There shouldn't be an issue so long as your cat isn't kneading directly onto your body. However, you shouldn't get mad at your cats if they bake you some biscuits.

Cats aren't kneading for "malicious reasons," so "it is important not to punish — yell, scold, spank, squirt bottle, etcetera," says Pankratz. ”

Some studies suggest that kneading helps cats keep their claws and paws in good condition, but you should be aware of where your cat is kneading just in case.

Where do I go from here if my cat is kneading on me?

When my cat kneads my body, what should I do? Advice from the Pet Pros Shutterstock

Many cat owners don't mind if their feline friend kneads on them or their clothes. You should take care not to scratch yourself inadvertently, though.

As Pankratz points out, "some owners might find this behavior unpleasant if a cat does extend their claws during this behavior and inadvertently hurts the person."

Meanwhile, a study from 2017 suggests that kneading by cats can spread infections to their owners, even if they are wearing protective clothing. Trauma-induced cutaneous punctures resulted from the cat's paws kneading on the woman's clothed abdomen, as described in the article. ” Yikes

Pankratz says that even a harmless cat can ruin your favorite clothes by kneading them until they "pill or unravel."

The good news is that there are simple solutions to this possible issue. For worried pet owners, Pankratz has four recommendations:

  1. To which I reply, "Consider the time and place of this behavior." Is your cat the type to knead when you pet it on the couch, or when it has access to a certain item like a blanket?
  2. "Consider what preventative measures you could take to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again." Regular nail trimming or the use of plastic nail guards can help keep your cat from scratching you or your furniture while it bakes. You should think about storing your treasured blankets away when they are not in use.
  3. Place a thick, soft blanket or pillows as a "protective barrier" between you and your feline, or try redirecting their kneading to another strategically placed object. You can also divert their interest by giving them something to do, like play with or eat.
  4. Think about "alternatives to punishment," like removing yourself or the object your cat is kneading from its reach in a calm manner.

Delgado recommends slowly getting to your feet if you're feeling uneasy about your cat making biscuits on your lap, and then letting it "naturally fall off your lap." ”

But in the end, kneading is just a harmless feline reaction, so it's best to let cats be cats.

"Kneading is a loving, relaxed behavior," Delgado says, "so I let my cats do it whenever they want to."

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