Why do cats knead and make biscuits?

Anyone who has ever owned or looked after a cat would know how good they are at making biscuits. Why is it that cats knead your legs and stomach when they're chilling with you on the couch? Let's find out!

Who could have known cats make such good bakers? Here's why cats make biscuits!
Who could have known cats make such good bakers? Here's why cats make biscuits!  © Collage: Unsplash/Tony Wang/Reba Spike

Cats are synonymous with biscuits and, no, we don't mean the delicious edible snack.

Kneading your legs like dough, these fluffy little fellows sometimes cause a great deal of pain, despite them seeming happy and content and often purring in your lap. It's a curious phenomenon, indeed.

In this cat guide, TAG24 will take a look at what it means for a cat to "make biscuits." Why do cats make biscuits and knead their human's appendages, and should you be concerned?

What is "making biscuits"?

Kneading and "making biscuits" are two separate terms for the same thing. When a cat makes biscuits, bakes, enjoys a scone, or kneads, it is stretching out and lightly clawing at something. Cats stretch out their fingers real wide and release their claws in a calm and non-aggressive way, pushing on your leg, pillow, or something soft, generally before they lie down.

A cat's need to knead is entirely instinctive. It's a friendly, loving mechanism that sadly has rather sharp consequences from time to time. Making biscuits is an almost meditative exercise for cats, as they pull at the sheets and rearrange pillows for maximum comfort. When they're lying in your lap and kneading, they're also likely to be purring loudly and warmly.

Be careful: While a cat's biscuit-making habits can be incredibly cute, and are a sign of love, the kitty is still clawing at your clothes, legs, or belly with their outstretched nails. You don't want to get hurt, so try to rearrange your kitty to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed!

Why do cats make biscuits and knead?

There are a number of reasons why cats will knead their surroundings and make biscuits on your legs. All of these reasons are, generally, positive, so there's no reason to be concerned. Kneading is typically an expression of comfort or love, or an instinctual habit based on the release of sweat from their paws.

Here is a breakdown of the most common reasons why cats make biscuits:

To make things a tad more comfortable: This is a two-pronged answer: 1) Your cat finds it soothing and comfortable to knead, and 2) your cat likes to rearrange its environment so that it is more comfortable and fits your kitty better. Ultimately, your cat wants to be as comfortable and happy as possible, and will do everything in its power to achieve this goal.

Preparing their bed: Cats will also knead to rearrange their sleeping spot, and to make sure that it is safe and will yield a restful sleep. This is also an instinctive behavior, passed down from when cats lived in the wild and needed to rearrange their space to find comfort when sleeping (and also to make sure that they were in a position of dominance and advantage).

Marking their territory: Cats have small glands in their paws which excrete a sweat-like substance. This stuff contains pheromones as well as the scent of the cat, marking things as their territory and letting other kitties know what and whom they should stay away from.

Expressing contentment and love: By stretching out its paws and fingers, letting its claws out a little bit, touching you or your clothes/blanket, and purring, your cat is showing you that it feels safe. This expression of love and contentment is the most common and well-known reason for cats to make biscuits. Enjoy it – the love of a cat is something special!

Mothers feeding their children: When a female cat needs to nurse her children, she will knead with her claws to stimulate the flow of milk to her kittens. You'll notice that your cat will constantly make biscuits when breastfeeding, and this is why.

There are other reasons: As with anything in the world of pet care, if things seem a little strange and your cat is behaving in an unusual or unwanted way, you should contact your vet. There are very few negative associations with kneading and making biscuits, but if you are ever worried, then it is a good idea to get the advice of a medical professional.

Why do cats knead on you with their paws?

The primary reason why cats knead their human's legs and clothes is based on territory. By kneading and then sleeping on your clothes, your kitty is adorning you with its heavenly scent and thereby marking you as its property. Indeed, you don't own your cat; your cat owns you!

There's a reason why it seems like your clothes are constantly covered in cat fur. Your kitty wants you to stay loyal, and wants other cats to stay away from you, so they will knead you and your clothing and coat everything in your home with a thick layer of fur. Hopefully you don't have any allergy-afflicted friends!

Cats will knead you with their claws when they are happy and contented.
Cats will knead you with their claws when they are happy and contented.  © Unsplash/The Lucky Neko

Why do cats make biscuits on your stomach?

Picture the scene: You're lying on your back, about to sleep or perhaps just having a mid-afternoon nap and enjoying a little TV. Your beautiful kitty appears, bringing with it a stream of fur, a loud hearty pur, and a need to knead that overrules all other requirements. It proceeds to make biscuits on your stomach. Ouch!

Unlike other forms of kneading, perhaps upon your jeans or all over your clothing and possessions, kneading on your body or stomach is a sign of deep love and affection. Of course, there is also the factor of territorial behavior, but if your kitty is having a good nap, enjoying a good pat, and purring away like a champion, it is expressing love through its kneading habits.

If your cat kneads you, it's a sign of love!

While it may seem counterintuitive since it can cause a lot of pain, a kneading cat is simply making biscuits as an expression of its love and affection for you. At times, you may need to stop it from continuing (if you're wearing shorts, for example), but ultimately, kneading is relatively harmless and a positive behavior.

When you want to show affection to your loved one, what do you do? Well, you bake biscuits or another yummy treat, of course! What makes cats any different? Your feline kneads your legs and makes biscuits because it couldn't go on without you, so try not to worry so much!

Cover photo: Collage: Unsplash/Tony Wang/Reba Spike

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