Why do cats make biscuits? We both know that if cats ran The Bake Off then every week would be biscuit week! Owning a kitty means you probably have a furry star baker in your midst!
What is ‘making biscuits’?
Affectionately called ‘making biscuits’ this refers to when cats press their paws rhythmically one at a time onto soft surfaces, on other cats or on their favourite human.
Usually, when cats knead they only use the front two paws but cat behaviour comes in all shapes and sizes and some cats have been known to get all four paws involved.
Kneading is an instinctive trait and it makes sense why kittens do this but when it no longer serves a functional purpose for them, there are several theories as to why this behaviour continues in adult cats:
1. Instinctive behaviour
When your cat was nursing as a kitten they would knead the area around their mother’s teats to stimulate milk production.
So in essence, at its most basic level, this behaviour comes down to an instinct to ensure survival.
However, this behaviour would also gain the attention, safety and love of the mother cat and it is thought that adult cats knead to recreate some of these positive feelings.
2. Attention (look how seamlessly we segued into this next point…smooth)
Cat kneading elicits attention from hoomans meaning you give your cat more fuss.
You may notice that when you pet your feline friend they begin kneading you and for them, when they knead you they get showered with more fuss.
They continue to learn a positive association between kneading and getting attention so this behaviour is not going to stop anytime soon when it is so heavily rewarded with your time and effort. Sneaky!
When kneading, your cat might purr, drool and slow blink; kneading can make them so relaxed that your cat naps.
Cats find kneading soothing and a stressed cat might do this to release tension and relieve anxiety putting them into a more serene and calm mood.
4. Leaving their scent
There are scent glands on cats’ paws (and also on their cheeks and head) so the act of kneading emits pheromones from these little glands leaving their scent behind.
Cats just love to mark their territory even if that territory is you.
Scent marking is their way of leaving little messages for other cats so they know they were there.
If your cat is sitting on your lap kneading you then they are claiming you as theirs. It is thought that cats knead you as a way for them to feel more bonded and secure in your relationship.
5. Big stretch
BIIIIIIG STRETCH (Side note – you should be celebrating every single stretch with the words ‘Big stretch’).
Cats knead to keep their circulation moving and their muscles activated so the motion used for making biscuits serves a physical biological purpose for your feline friend.
6. In heat or in labour
Female cats who are in heat are known to lie on their side, purr, stretch and knead the air to let male cats know they are ready to mate.
Additionally, when they are in labour they will knead blankets to create a soft bed ahead of the birth of their kittens.
7. Preparing to nest
This is a throwback to their ancestors’ days when they used to prepare the tall grass making sure it was a soft surface to bed down in for a sleep.
You may notice your cat kneads blankets, your lap or other soft items before settling down for a nap which is thought to also be a hangover from those yesteryears.
With no words aside from a meow, your cat finds other ways to communicate with you and kneads you as a way of expressing their affection and contentment.
Making biscuits is a perfectly natural, instinctive behaviour so there is no need to stop your cat from kneading unless you are finding it painful. There are good reasons why they do this and why the behaviour has carried over from kittenhood to adult cat life.
From serving a survival need to serving an emotional need, there is no doubt that cats enjoy this very much. They use it to bond with their favourite humans and as a means to express their love and affection. (You are the chosen one).
How to stop your cat from Making Biscuits on your lap
If your cat’s claws are sharp and kneading is causing you pain then keep those little daggers trimmed (your local vet or pet shop may have a service to trim your cat’s nails for you so if you don’t know what you are doing then find someone who does)
You could have a chunky blanket or pillow near your favourite snuggle spots.
You could also gently encourage your kitty to knead somewhere else by spraying a blanket with a pheromone spray which will make it more attractive as a biscuit-making spot than your legs.
Another idea is to have some toys or treats ready to distract them and redirect their attention because believe it or not it is possible to train your cat to act on their kneading behaviour without digging their claws into your lap.
Finally, it is very important that you never punish your cat for baking up a storm; cats knead as part of their normal, instinctive, natural behaviour and to show you affection so any punishments could damage the trust they have in you and your cat could become aggressive.