Why do cats knead?
Kneading is also called “making biscuits” because the action resembles someone kneading dough. The cat will push out and pull in their front paws, often alternating between right and left limbs. Usually it’s combined with plenty of purring and possibly drooling. The cat may look zoned out – completely content in the moment.
Kneading is an instinctive trait. Kittens knead their mother’s belly to stimulate the flow of milk. Nearly all adult cats will knead. It’s likely the instinctive behavior comforts and soothes cats.
Kneading might be done to pat down an area, making a cushy, cozy bed for sleeping. Many cats will knead a blanket or towel before taking a nap on it.
When cats knead, the scent glands on the pads of their feet will mark the surface being kneaded. So, the scent left is a territorial marker. An added bonus – if the cat is kneading your lap or chest, she’s saying she owns you and also feels comfortable and safe with you. Try keeping her little nails trimmed so she doesn’t puncture your skin or snag clothes.
Some female cats will knead before going into heat.
Don’t punish a cat when they are kneading. It’s a natural thing for them. If you don’t like it, or their nails are hurting you, then coax the kitty to lie down. Or try gently holding her paws together, grab a toy or have a towel handy to drape over your body and allow the cat to do her thing. It’s a true compliment if you have a cat that kneads you! They are at ease with your company.