Why Cats Like To “Knead” With The Paws
by Trisha Leigh
Cat lovers everywhere affectionately refer to this behavior as “making biscuits,” and cats enjoy doing it on anything soft (no offense to anyone’s belly).
Well, “kneading,” which is when cats massage with their front claws, extending and retracting, one paw at a time, could be a way of communicating with you.
It’s typically a kitten behavior, used while suckling to stimulate their mother’s milk supply. In addition, it can form a tactile and pheromone communication between the two using scent glands located in their soft paw pads.
These communications promote bonding, identification, warn the mother of health issues, or any number of other things.
That said, we see full-grown cats exhibit this behavior, too, and that’s because of neoteny – which is just a fancy word for retaining juvenile physical or behavioral traits into adulthood.
Likely, cats have found this behavior helps them socialize with their humans or with other cats in the household.
When your cat kneads on your lap or belly, they’re basically claiming you as part of their social group. When we pay attention to a kneading cat, we also reinforce the behavior as something positive on our end, too.
If you cat also sucks on what they’re kneading it’s likely relaxing for them, as it reminds them of being safe with their mother.
As long as the kneading and sucking occurs infrequently and doesn’t damage your cat’s paws, legs, or mouth, it likely simply means your cat is comfortable with you.
If it does, it might be a sign of stress or pain, so please bring it up to your vet.
There are some cats who can go a little hard, but if yours is hurting you, experts advise putting a thick blanket between the two of you as opposed to pushing them off your lap.
Instead, try giving them a treat when they knead properly or teaching them a command that means to retract their claws.
As always, good luck with training your cat.
But it’s worth a shot.