Why Do Cats Make Biscuits?

My last cat was the independent sort. He’d enjoy kneading a nearby soft surface on occasion. It was a blue blanket at the foot of the bed. Or, a pillow. But he never kneaded me. I was a door opener and food provider, not someone to knead. 

You know how it goes with our feline friends. 

Then, I cat-sat a gorgeous and cuddly new feline friend who kneaded me several times a day. (Finally! A kitty who kneads me!) 

It would start as an early morning wake-up. During the weeks I was with her, Simi’d bound onto the right side of the bed around 8 a.m. with a sense of purpose. She headed right for me, stepped up and over my hip, and settled down on my left side. Purring like a freight train, she’d put one paw on my upper arm and then the other. It was time to make the biscuits. 

Ouch! It’s a bittersweet thing, this so-called “biscuit making.” 

Bittersweet because it’s one of the ways cats show their affection. Yet, cat’s nails in my arm aren’t my idea of a good time. Yet, it’s sweet. 

What Are Kitty Biscuits? 

why do cats scratch cat nails

Many cat lovers are familiar with kitty biscuits. It’s that that rhythmic front paw motion that goes back and forth and seems to put cats in a trance. Most cats like to practice on soft objects which can include you. With Simi, she’d knead away at me with her front paws, purr, and meow every thirty seconds. I sleepily tried to put a sheet barrier between her claws and my arm to cut down on the feeling of the cat’s claws making their mark on my upper arm, but it was a losing battle. 

I joked with her if she was opening a bakery and it got me to wondering the age-old question of cat lovers everywhere: why do cats make biscuits?

Why Do Cats Knead? 

why do cats make biscuits

Our feline friends have many interesting behaviors (and sleeping positions). For example, when a cat stretches their front paws out and starts that rhythmic pawing motion, does it mean anything? Or are they simply working out a comfortable place to lay? 

Why does your cat choose you to knead like a loaf of bread vs. the soft blanket folded at the foot of the bed? Or, vice versa? 

According to Julia Albright, an associate professor at The University of Tennesee’s College of Veterinary Medicine, cat kneading is the sign of a relaxed kitty. Your feline friend is likely showing her affection toward you. 

Veterinarians and cat behaviorists consider the possible reasons why cats knead and they have many popular theories. 

1. It’s Left Over From Kittenhood

Have you ever seen newborn kittens suckling at their mother’s teat? If so, you’ll see those kittens kneading their mother. Maybe that’s to help the mother’s milk make its way to their tiny mouths or maybe it’s to show affection and relaxation. 

An article in Inverse says all of these things are likely. In the case of nursing, pushing on the teats does help with milk production. Then, because the kittens associate kneading with a warm, relaxing feeling of safety that feeling stays with our feline friends throughout their lives. 

2. Leave a Scent

Another reason cats knead you or a favorite soft surface is cats have scent glands in their paw pads. When they knead your arm or lap or scratch your furniture, they’re leaving their scent behind. This marks you as “their” person. When they choose a soft object like a pillow for their kneading pleasure, they’re marking that too. You probably can’t smell anything but you could consider it “Eau de kitty.” It’s a special scent only other animals can smell. 

3. It’s Comforting and Self-Soothing

We all have our “go to’s” for making ourselves feel better after a tough day. From indulging in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to a few minutes in child’s pose, our kitties sometimes feel upset and anxious too. Cat kneading is an instinctual habit that can remind them of happy times and help them feel better. 

My gray and white tabby Romeo rarely kneaded me but he’d get lost in kneading a soft blanket. He’d close his eyes, stretch those front paws out, and begin. He could go for five or ten minutes at a time with his blanket. He’d even drool on occasion and I always felt like I should give him his privacy. 

Usually, after a good kneading session, he’d curl up on or beside the blanket and cat-nap. 

4. They’re in Heat

When female cats are in heat (estrus), they’ll usually meow more often and try to get outside. They may also knead your lap, your arm, or a soft blanket. They’re restless and need to keep moving so they go back to a tried and true activity. 

5. It’s Stretching

Ever watch your kitty wake up from a nap? They tend to stretch out one arm and then the other and then each back leg. Kneading is another form of stretching. Though it focuses on the cat’s paws. Maybe we should try it too. You can stretch one hand out, spread your fingers, and draw them back. 

It turns out, wild cats knead too, and if they’re looking for a good napping spot in a grassy area, they’ll knead some tall grass to make a bed of sorts. Why not create a soft space to lay?

Essentially, like many adult cat behaviors, it appears cats knead because they like it. Some kitties even use all four paws to knead and I’ve heard that some don’t use their claws! 

I think we can all agree, cats do what they want most of the time. Cat kneading is instinctual. It’s also kind of sweet. I mean, if your cat starts making biscuits on you, it’s a sign of affection. But what if you don’t enjoy your cat’s claws digging into your soft spots?  

What If You Don’t Want Your Cat to Knead You? 

why do cats lay on your chest

This is a tough one because most cat owners want to encourage their kitty’s affection. It’s kind of an honor when your kitty wants to knead you. They’re relaxed, they’re probably purring, and they’re letting you know they like you. 

But yes, those nails can hurt when they’re digging into your soft flesh. One thing you can do is keep your kitty’s claws shorter. Offer a scratching post or two nearby where your kitty can keep those nails trimmed. The other thing to do is keep a blanket or throw nearby and try to work it in between your soft flesh and your cat’s kneading tendencies. 

You can also offer other games in case your kitty is bored as a distraction. 

Now you know the possible reasons why your cat likes to play baker! Isn’t nice to know they’re happy?