Cats often perform an up and down motion, often known as ‘making biscuits’ and more formally – as kneading. They do it on soft surfaces, on cushions, on blankets, and they do it on humans. Perhaps you have experienced this when your cat has perched itself on you while you’re lying in bed!
This rhythmic action can seem like your cat is making dough. Sometimes he / she will also purr loudly. It can also seem as if the kitty is in a trance.
You may be asking, why your cat does this. Well, rather than there be one definitive answer, there are a small number of commonly suggested explanations from behaviourists.
1. It is instinct inherited from kittenhood
If your cat does this on you, it possibly means he/she feels safe enough around you, just like with mother. There may even be some sucking and dribbling (apparently, expectation of milk). This can be painful for you (see below), of course, so if you need to, you’ll have to gently interrupt.
2. Marking territory
Some explain this as being one of various ways of marking what belongs to them. Cats are highly territorial – which you have probably already noticed! They are also driven by scent, and have glands in their paws for releasing it. Kneading you is one way of marking their territory in this way.
3. Making a sleeping place
Just as dogs go around in circles when finding a spot to lie down in, kneading could be cats’ way of doing the same. Wild cats paw at nesting material to create a sleeping area for themselves and their offspring. Again, if your cat is doing this to you, it likely means he /she feels safe in your presence.
4. It’s a heatwave
Female cats can do this when they are in heat, as a way of indicating to males that they are available. This is often alongside other activities, including excessive and very particular types of meowing, being more affectionate than normal and wanting to go out a lot.
Kitten traits retained in adulthood
Actions that serve a kitten, such as making biscuits are retained as the cat becomes an adult. Kneading for mother’s milk is something that creates a result for a kitten. They may perform this action on you or even on soft furnishings, as they get older.
What to do if ‘making biscuits’ gets painful
Such soft fabrics can be really useful for if and when the kneading (on you) gets painful. You could use a blanket, a cushion a throw, or duvet – in fact any soft fabric to place between you and your cat’s claws.
Another way of reducing the impact is by cutting trimming your kitty’s claws. Doing this regularly is good for feline health.
Looking for something Meow-vellous to give your cat each month? Try our themed monthly boxes!
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