When Cats Knead You, They Could Be Trying to Express Their Affection
While Southerners know a lot about making biscuits and kneading dough, cats aren’t exactly known for their skills in the kitchen. So, what are they doing when they start rubbing their little paws into your lap, pushing and pulling like they are whipping up a batch of your grandma’s buttermilk biscuits? Turns out, it’s one way for them to show their love.
Kneading—the process of repeatedly pushing their paws and stretching their claws into a person, pillow, blanket, or another cat—is a very natural behavior for cats. They start doing it when they are kittens, kneading their moms’ stomach in the hopes of getting some extra milk.
"We refer to kneading cats as 'muffin-makers' and 'biscuit-bakers,'" Katie Armour, project coordinator at MSPCA Boston Adoption Center, told animal news site, The Dodo. "Nursing kittens knead their mom's teats as they suckle to stimulate lactation, and they purr to let her know that they're happy and are getting full bellies."
While older cats have graduated from mother’s milk to Fancy Feast, some cats continue kneading as it reminds them of feeling safe, warm, and well fed, using kneading as a relaxation technique. Frequently when cats knead, they also close their eyes and start to purr, which most vets believe is a sign of kitty cat contentment. If they keep rubbing and purring, it can even put the cat into a meditative state. Some little furballs have even been known to start drooling once they really start kneading (which could be one reason why cats aren’t often allowed to use their kneading skills in the kitchen).
Don’t be alarmed if your calico cutie hasn’t laid a paw on you, though, because according to Dr. Elyse Kent, a vet who spoke with SheKnows, only one in 100 cats knead past kittenhood. If your little friend has been known to spend some quality time giving your lap a gentle massage or kneading the poor dog’s stomach, know that it is a sign that your cat feels happy. "If you do have a cat who kneads their bedding, or better yet you, it's because they're feeling very loved and comfortable," Armour told The Dodo. "You should absolutely take this as a compliment!"