Why Do Kittens Knead?

Cat making biscuits

As a kitten owner, you may have noticed your furry friend repeatedly pushing their paws into soft surfaces like blankets, pillows, or even your lap. This adorable behavior is known as kneading, or “making biscuits”, and it’s a common feline habit. But why do kittens knead?

Why Do Kittens “Make Biscuits”?

Kneading is a natural behavior for kittens that is rooted in their nursing instincts. Kittens knead for various reasons, including marking territory, bonding and affection, comfort and relaxation, nostalgia, and exercise.

The Science of Kneading

Cats making biscuits is a common behavior, and it’s often a sign that your cat is feeling happy and relaxed. Making biscuits, or kneading, is when cats rhythmically push in and out with their front paws against a soft surface, such as a blanket or your lap.

Is It Normal For Kittens To Knead?

It’s a behavior that’s rooted in their early days as nursing kittens. When nursing from their mother, kittens knead on their mother’s belly to stimulate milk flow. The motion helps their tiny teeth and tongues extract milk more efficiently.

As kittens grow up, they often continue to knead, even when they’re no longer nursing. Some scientists believe that kneading behavior is a way for adult cats to feel comforted, relaxed, and secure. Others suggest that it’s a form of territorial marking or exercise.

Reasons Why Kittens Knead

Here are some possible reasons why kittens knead:

  1. Marking Territory: Kneading is a way for cats to mark their territory. When a cat pushes their paws in and out against a surface, it releases scent markers from glands in its paws. These scent markers help to create a sense of familiarity and safety in their surroundings.
  2. Bonding and affection: Making biscuits can be a sign that your cat is feeling affectionate and wants to bond with you. When cats knead on their owners, it can be a way of showing trust and love.
  3. Comfort and Relaxation: Kneading can be a self-soothing behavior for cats. The repetitive motion of kneading releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which can help them feel relaxed and happy.
  4. Nostalgia and Emotional Attachment: Kittens may knead when they feel nostalgic or emotionally attached to someone or something. For example, a kitten may knead on a blanket that smells like its mother, or on a person’s lap that they feel close to.
  5. Exercise and Stretching: Kneading can also be a way for cats to stretch and exercise their muscles. The motion helps to improve circulation and maintain flexibility in their paws.

Should I Let My Kitten Knead On Me?

You can let your kitten knead on you if it’s not causing any harm or discomfort to you or your kitten. Kneading is a natural and normal behavior for cats that can be a sign of comfort and relaxation. It’s a way for your kitten to feel safe and secure, and it can also be a way for your kitten to show affection and bond with you.

Joey cuddling

I know my humans think it’s cute when I make biscuits but it’s really not for them. They don’t get that it means that I OWN THEM. Then they reward me with tasty treats. Okay, the cuddling’s nice too. #SillyHumans #HappinessIsMakingBiscuits #KneadingForTreats

Joey

How to Respond to Kneading Behavior

Kneading is generally a harmless and natural behavior for kittens, but it can sometimes be problematic. Here are some tips on how to respond to kneading behavior:

  1. Provide a soft and safe surface: Kittens may knead on different surfaces, but it’s best to provide them with a soft and safe surface, such as a blanket, cushion, or a soft toy. This will help satisfy their kneading behavior without causing any harm or damage.
  2. Avoid pulling away abruptly: If your kitten is kneading on you and it’s causing discomfort or pain, avoid pulling away abruptly. This may startle or upset your kitten and cause them to scratch or bite. Instead, gently and slowly remove their paws from your skin and redirect their attention to a more appropriate surface.
  3. Use positive reinforcement: When your kitten is kneading on an appropriate surface, you can reinforce the behavior with positive reinforcement. You can offer them treats, praise, or petting to show that you approve of their behavior.

How Do I Stop My Kitten From Making Biscuits?

If your kitten kneads on your skin, it can sometimes be painful or uncomfortable. Their claws can scratch or puncture your skin, or their weight can cause discomfort. If your kitten’s kneading behavior becomes a problem, you may want to stop your kitten from making biscuits. Here are a few things you can try:

  1. Provide a scratching post: Kittens may knead on surfaces because they need to scratch or stretch their paws. Providing a scratching post can redirect their behavior to a more appropriate surface and help satisfy their needs.
  2. Distract your kitten: When you notice your kitten starting to knead on an inappropriate surface, you can distract them with a toy or a treat. This will help redirect their attention and prevent them from making biscuits.
  3. Use double-sided tape or aluminum foil: Cats dislike sticky or noisy surfaces, so you can try placing double-sided tape or aluminum foil on surfaces that your kitten likes to knead on. This will deter them from using those surfaces and encourage them to find other outlets for their behavior.
  4. Use positive reinforcement: When your kitten uses an appropriate surface, such as a scratching post or a designated spot, to knead, you can reinforce the behavior with positive reinforcement. Offer them treats, praise, or petting to show that you approve of their behavior.

It’s important to redirect your kitten’s behavior to appropriate outlets while also providing them with scratching posts, toys, and other safe and fun activities. If your kitten’s kneading behavior becomes excessive or problematic, you can consult with a veterinarian or a cat behaviorist for additional advice and support.

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Summary

Kneading is a natural behavior for kittens that is rooted in their nursing instincts. Kittens knead for various reasons, including marking territory, comfort and relaxation, nostalgia, and exercise. If your kitten’s kneading behavior becomes a problem, it’s important to respond with positive reinforcement and redirect their attention to more appropriate surfaces. Understanding your kitten’s behavior is crucial to building a happy and healthy relationship with them.

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