We get it, you’re a curious. You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. For this series, we send your burning kitty q’s to our panel of experts who can help you get inside your cat’s high-held head.
We consulted Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Mikel has worked professionally with cats for almost twenty years, starting in the Cat Behavior Program of the San Francisco SPCA, and more recently through her cat behavior consulting partnership, Feline Minds. She’s also co-author with Jackson Galaxy of the 2017 book “Total Cat Mojo,” and has published her research in several academic journals.
You know how we all, as a collective society, became expert bakers at the onset of quarantine? Well, I've been wondering why my cat has been at this for years. We call it “making biscuits”, because when she's sleepy she'll start going to town on a blanket or pillow, moving her paws back and forth. It's the cutest thing, but I've never really understood why he does this. Any ideas?
— A fellow baker
We love to see our cats knead, or "make bread", and it's an interesting behavior that is both cute, and facinating.
You may notice that sometimes when your cat is sleepy or relaxed, that she starts to move her front paws back and forth in a treading motion, alternating between the right and left foot. This kneading behavior is just like the movements that kittens make when they are nursing on mom. This treading movement against the mother cat’s mammary glands helps stimulate the release of milk. Kittens and mom cats often purr while nursing and kneading happen, suggesting that the whole experience is pleasurable for both.
But why does your adult cat still knead? You may notice your cat marching on fuzzy blankets, or even kneading against your arms or legs while you pet them.
We believe that this behavior reveals itself when your cat is feeling happy and cozy -- much like they did when they were a baby and with their mom. Maybe you’re petting your cat or they are in your lap. Kneading is likely to just be a sign that your cat is comfortable and feeling safe - like they did when their mom was caring for them.
The process of domestication often leads to the selection of animals for “neoteny” - or the retention of juvenile behaviors. We prefer our pets to be less aggressive, more dependent, and with cute features, such as large eyes. Perhaps during the process of domesticating cats, one of the other things we selected for was an increased chance of showing baby-like behaviors such as kneading.
If your cat is kneading on you, and it hurts (those claws!), you can limit the damage by placing a fleece blanket (or your cat’s preferred blanket type!) on your lap. You can also train your cat to accept routine nail trims to dull those sharp edges!
Never punish your cat for kneading. It’s a happy, feel-good behavior that shows they love you and feel safe with you!
[#BeginTLDR#] Kneading behavior comes from the instinct kittens have when they're nursing on their mothers. [#SplitTLDR#] We believe that this behavior reveals itself when your cat is feeling happy and cozy -- much like they did when they were a baby. [#SplitTLDR#]Never punish your cat for kneading. It’s a happy, feel-good behavior that shows they love you and feel safe with you![#EndTLDR#]
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