You can probably imagine this if you have a feline lap warmer – that pleasant squishy massage-like sensation when you let your cat settle on your lap; making you feel all warm and fuzzy.
Suddenly you feel claws digging onto your clothes and your skin which can be surprising and painful if you did get a scratch.
No worries, this is not a scene out of a horror film – it’s just the kitten kneading.
So Why Does a Kitten Knead You
Kneading is when a cat treats you like dough using its paws to massage and push alternately against pliable surfaces like you, your bed and pillows, the furniture or another animal. This is why some cat parents also call it “making biscuits” and “kneading dough.” This is instinctive, so there is no need to punish your cat for something as natural as catnaps.
All cats knead, although kneading habits vary from kitty to kitty. Some do a kitty march while others just let their paws do the beat. Still, others like to poke on their dough with claw slightly out of their paws.
And the strange thing is, this behavior is not limited to our house cat – even lions and tigers pat their paws, too!
So why do felines make biscuits? If your cat could talk, it would probably say something like these:
You’re my Mama now, so why can’t I
Kittens knead their Mama Cats’ breast when they suckle on the teats for milk. These baby cats grow older and eventually get weaned from their moms, but old habits die hard.
Cats tend to instinctively knead whatever their source of comfort is. It’s kind of like silently saying “you remind me of my mom who was warm and fuzzy and gives me yummy food.” This is evident during those instances when you see your cat suckling on surfaces they knead.
“I am a potato.”
Kneading is a way for cats to express their snugness. Sometimes your kitty just feels so relaxed, happy, or contented that it gets its head up in the clouds while it kneads – just like how we would roll and curl up under bed covers on a cold rainy weekend afternoon. It even keeps its eyes closed while some also purr.
One cat parent once commented that her feline just would not budge and kept on making biscuits no matter how she prodded and poked fun at her cat. The only time her tabby moved was when it heard a nearby sound of a “real biscuit” being eaten by a kitty sibling.
“I own you now hooman!
Your kitty’s wild ancestors have this particular habit of patting down foliage and checking for any unwanted surprises before laying down for a nap or whenever they need to give birth. In return, by beeping the ground with their paws, they get to rub off their paw pads’ scent glands on the surface.
This will let our cats leave their scent marks and declare their territory – no need for any real estate company fees or government taxes.
For some reason, the kneading habit – as well as the scent glands DNA package – got passed on to descendants. Today, even when these felines are fully domesticated, they still instinctively find a need for making sure that things are comfortable before settling in on the spot.
“I wub you too! Now just enjoy my massage.”
Some cats purr contentedly and knead you when you pet them. This is their way of showing gratitude and affection. If your kitty is kneading your lap with their claws, do not get angry – they do not mean to be sadists.
You may either have their claws trimmed – nail clippers can be as cheap as $4, or you may have your kitty’s nails clipped in a grooming salon for $12 to $15, depending on the difficulty. Grooming packages may also include nail clipping.
Definitely, do not have your cat declawed – had your cat been human declawed would be like having one’s fingers amputated down to the last knuckle!
You may, however, dress its paws up in nail caps that cost as low as $7 for a set.
A good and cheap way would be to train your kitty as early as possible not to turn everything inside the house – you included – into a scratching post. Build it an area where it can claw away to its heart’s content, but teach it that anywhere else is a no-go.
Another is to put a towel, blanket or a thick but soft and comfy layer of cloth – a lap cat bed, if you call it – dedicated for your cat’s knead to protect yourself and maybe your favorite clothes from getting scratched.
“I’m doing yoga. Gotta unfreeze them sleeping muscles.”
Cats are couch potatoes. They spend two-thirds of their day asleep. Or so we think, for these feisty felines, even when dozing off, are actually on full-alert unlike us who zone out when we enter deep sleep.
If some pesky bug, a trespassing mouse or even an inconsiderate human pisses them off, they could easily wake up and swat them off with their claws.
If left to naturally wake up, however, cats occasionally make those biscuits before doing some stretches. Because of this frequency of naps, these furry yoga masters would need a bit of kneading and stretching from time to time to let their blood circulate.
“It’s not for you, Mom, Dad – it’s for Tom next door.”
Female felines definitely know what they want in a tomcat, how they want it, and how male cats will get to know about it. It’s like the kitty is primping oneself and posting in Tinder “looking for a mate”. A female cat getting into Estrus – the stage when a cat is in heat – will declare her status to male cats nearby by kneading.
Cats may have other reasons for kneading aside from the ones mentioned. Whatever the cause is, as their parent, we have to understand that kneading is instinctive and should not be a cause of worry – except for the Estrus part, when things could get noisy with all the kitty “business” afterward.