Why Do Cats Make Biscuits? (Aka, The Feline Need To Knead)
You might notice your cat making "biscuits" or kneading against you or the surface beneath their paws. But have you ever wondered why they do it? Turns out, it's a sign of affection - but also much more.
You might think your cat’s a prince or princess reincarnated – but their natural instincts might make them better suited for your local bakery instead. It’s why you’ll often see a cat making “biscuits”. Aka, rhythmically pawing or “kneading” the surface or objects beneath their paws – as if giving them a massage. But what does it mean when a cat makes biscuits? Is it just one of your cat’s quirks? Or does it signal something more?
Your cat’s kneading behavior indicates a bunch of things – and yes, one of them being that they love you and trust you. (It’s also one of the ways to indicate your cat is in heat.) Let’s dive right in and uncover what underlies the feline need to knead.
What does a cat making biscuits look like?
You might’ve experienced a cat making biscuits if yours is sitting on your lap – and suddenly begins to knead your stomach. Rhythmically pushing their paws in and out, kind of like a baker kneading dough. Or you might’ve noticed how your cat gives their sleeping basket or blanket a good massage before they lie down for a nap. Like in this short, sweet video here:
A cat making biscuits is usually a gentle, unhurried motion. Your cat might even purr contentedly while at it – or slow blink at you. So if you’ve ever wondered what this rather endearing behavior means, here are a couple of reasons your cat might be doing it.
What does it mean when a cat makes biscuits?
Cats knead the surface beneath their paws for a bunch of reasons. These range from marking their territory, getting a bit of exercise, to indicating they’re ready to find a mate. Let’s explore these one by one.
Your cat is reminiscing their kitten days
A cat making biscuits is usually on a bit of a nostalgia trip. It’s how kittens knead against Mama Cat’s belly to get her to nurse them. (The motion stimulates milk flow and helps them feed better.)
At this young age, kittens are really quite helpless – so Mama Cat is responsible for helping them bond, learn to trust, and grow. So besides simply getting fed, this is a safe, happy time when your cat felt loved, protected, and cared for. Which makes making biscuits a sort of throwback to this soothing, comforting time.
As cats grow into adulthood, this positive sensation of kneading stays with them. It’s why it’s always a good idea to make sure any kittens you adopt haven’t been weaned too early. Feeding from Mama Cat helps them grow healthy and strong – but it also helps them bond emotionally and learn to trust others. It’s why kittens who are orphaned or bottle-fed early might be more likely to develop separation anxiety.
Your cat is marking their territory
Even your indoor furball purring on your lap dreams of being a lion or a leopard stalking the wild. So while outdoor cats usually have sizable territories to patrol or defend, even indoor cats like to leave their “mark” around the house. So a cat making biscuits can indicate they’re marking that spot as part of their territory.
Cats’ paws have scent glands located in them. So a cat making biscuits is actually them marking their territory with their scent markings. When they knead a surface or an object, they leave this scent behind – staking a claim on the object or place (or person) as their own. It’s how they indicate, “This is MY spot.”
Unfortunately, your cat might not be as mindful of their claws as you’d like them to be. So they might end up accidentally scratching your furniture, couch, curtains, or carpets (or your clothing) while kneading them. You can redirect this by investing in scratch-friendly posts. Or drape a soft blanket over your furniture – your cat will enjoy kneading on the texture without scratching it.
Your cat is getting a bit of exercise in
A cat making biscuits might just be getting in a bit of stretching and exercise. Cats tend to stretch quite a bit – so when they knead, it helps them stretch out their limbs. Helping them improve blood flow to their muscles, throughout the body, and circulating better. This helps keep them limber and helps them move, jump, and climb around more easily.
Unfortunately, stretching is another reason your cat’s claws can sink into different surfaces. (Including your body.) And they aren’t really aware of how much it can sting. So help your cat stay active with regular playtime and toys that mimic prey, like feather wands. Or invest in vertical, scratch-friendly climbing spaces that can help your cat both get some cool-off time – while also keeping them active.
Your cat is dealing with a stressful day
Kneading is a throwback to a soothing, comforting time for your cat. So when they’re stressed or anxious, they might end up making biscuits like this – usually on a soft surface. It can help relieve their stress because it’s a self-soothing technique. Besides, the rhythmic motion and your scent and presence can help them feel more relaxed and calm. (Similar to how we humans tend to fidget, rock back and forth, or play with our hair when anxious.)
Your cat is prepping their “nest”
Another one of your cat’s evolutionary behaviors, your cat might knead into a soft blanket or their basket right before catching a nap. Or you might observe them making biscuits into your pillow if they’re in the habit of sleeping next to you in bed.
It’s a behavior that draws from their wild ancestors. Big cats in the wild often pat down and knead against grass to soften it before lying down. It makes it more comfortable for them to rest. And old habits die hard – which is why you’ll find your cat kneading into your super soft pillows even when it’s not necessary. It’s how they’re prepping their sleeping area to catch a few winks.
Your cat is signaling they’re in heat
Female cats often make biscuits when they’re going into heat – sometimes while lying on their sides. It’s how they indicate they’re ready to mate and signal their interest in male cats in the neighborhood. Your cat might also urinate around the house to spread their scent and markings, to show that they’re looking for a mate.
A cat in heat might often escape outdoors to find a suitable mate. And while we do encourage you to let your cat explore the big, beautiful world outdoors, it’s always a good idea to ensure your cat’s safety – wherever they roam. Consider investing in a dedicated cat GPS tracker, so you can track them in real-time – and immediately pick them up if you see them headed somewhere dangerous.
“Tractive is the #1 cat GPS tracker in the industry. And it’s the highest quality cat tracker you can find. I was able to set the safe zone as my house area and once my cat gets outside, I get an alert right away.
In fact, it probably saved my cat’s life that time she chased a bird and got lost. She was scared and I was able to find her with the help of the GPS tracker. Tractive’s chip frequently calculates your cat’s location and is updated on the map every 2-3 seconds. Furthermore, the LED will help you guard your furry friend at night.”
– Clair Chesterman, Owner of CFA and CCA-registered cattery and fostering company, FluffyMeowPaws3
Know everywhere your cat goes
See where they are in real-time, no matter how far they go. Get alerts if they roam too far home. Find out where they’ve been and discover their favorite spots. Let others track with you.
Your cat might be going into labor
Congratulations, you’re about to become a cat grandparent! If your cat was in heat around 1-2 months prior and is making biscuits more than usual, they might’ve found the purr-fect partner for them. (And are now expecting a litter of kittens shortly.) Watch out for kneading behaviors and if your cat looks a bit…bigger around the belly area. Your cat is about to graduate to Mama Cat – so she’s kneading her surroundings into becoming a soft, comfortable surface for her new kittens.
Why does my cat make biscuits on me?
Besides these reasons, here’s the most heartwarming one for why your cat is making biscuits on you. If you’re noticing they do so while purring happily, it’s the ultimate sign of comfort and contentment. Because Mama Cat might not be around, you’re their primary caregiver now. So kneading on you is how they’d seek love and comfort from Mama Cat – and how they get it from you now instead.
So if your cat is kneading on you, it’s a sign they feel safe and comfortable around you. It’s akin to a baby hugging their favorite stuffed animal or blanket – or the closest you’ll get to an “I love you” from your feline friend. And if your cat tends to slow blink at you while kneading, pat yourself on the back. You’re doing a great job as a cat parent – according to your cat, at least.
Why doesn’t my cat make biscuits?
If your cat doesn’t tend to knead things or surfaces, it might simply not be a habit they’ve picked up. Plus, they might show you their affection in a bunch of different ways. (Like slow blinks, purring, or crying endlessly when you disappear behind a locked bathroom door.) Some cats just don’t have much of an inclination to knead – or they haven’t built the positive connection for the comfort it provides.
Age might play a role in your cat’s kneading behaviors too. If your cat is on the older side, they might not make biscuits as much. Kittens tend to be more likely to knead, since they’re small, helpless, and need nourishment from Mama Cat. And even they might outgrow this behavior as they mature.
A cat making biscuits can depend on their experiences and upbringing – and what signs they’ve learned indicate their trust and affection. So keep an eye out for what subtle signs your cat might be showing that indicate they care for you a bit more than just tolerating your presence.
If your cat suddenly stops kneading, it could be a sign that they’re reacting to a change in their environment. (Which could be as harmless as a new pet or person.) But another, more concerning reason they might stop is if they’re experiencing discomfort, sickness, or pain.
So if your cat suddenly stops making biscuits against you (or in general), keep an eye out for any changes in their regular behaviors. Often, these can indicate that something is wrong.
Tracking your cat’s activity can help you catch on to an illness or injury early on
Much like dogs, cats are notorious for masking their signs of illness or injury. Their evolutionary ancestors were more likely to hide or nurse their wounds or illness by themselves. (Else they’d be vulnerable to other predators.) Besides being in heat, sickness and injury are another primary reason why cats run away. And if your cat is sneaking outdoors to find a suitable mate, there’s always the risk they might pick up something infectious or injure themselves somewhere.
It’s why vets recommend tracking observable behaviors like your pet’s activity levels – to catch on early if something’s wrong. It’s how Tractive’s Wellness Monitoring helps you stay on top of your cat’s activity levels over time. So you can more easily notice a dip or a change in their activity – and get them to a vet before their health takes a turn for the worse.
Here’s a story from one of our pet parents whose outdoor cat seemed happy and healthy – until she checked their Wellness profile. (And narrowly avoided a medical emergency.)
“With the Tractive GPS, I found out one night that she’d only made one little trip to the park, slept all night – and didn’t really do much during the day.
So I decided to check her up to see if she was sick – or had something else going on. When I picked her up, the pus oozed over my hand from the abscess bursting!
Without Tractive, I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. I would still see her walk around to drink and feed and think everything is okay. I might only have noticed when I didn’t see her stroll over for a whole day.
At which point, she’d probably have been dangerously sick.
We went to the vet a few hours later – she had a serious fever, a big abscess, and was pretty sick already. So we got it in time.
A whole week of antibiotics – and now she’s herself again.
Tractive is also very handy for when you need to give your pets their medication. All I have to do is check where she is and call her over to give her the antibiotics.“– Cissy V, Netherlands
“Everything we build puts pets and pet parents first. It’s why we’ve built one device that tracks all aspects of your pet’s safety, from location to wellness. So you can holistically keep them both safe and happy.”
– Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive & occasional pet sitter
If your cat is no longer making biscuits on you, it might not always be a cause for concern. But if it’s a sudden change and you’re observing a difference in their regular behaviors, watch out. Even cats struggling with sickness or injury might seem completely normal and healthy. But with their activity data at hand, you can pre-empt a health emergency before it’s too late.
Cat making biscuits: A sign of trust, affection & comfort
When your cat kneads against you, it’s a sign they trust you and feel secure in your presence. Treasure these moments: they’re a glimpse into your feline friend’s inner world and the emotional bond and connection they’ve built with you. Besides that, they might also be marking you as a part of their territory, using you as a scratching post, or indicating they’re ready for a mate. (Or have – and you’re about to graduate to cat grandparent.)
A kneading cat who’s in heat might also be more likely to run away. Likewise, a cat who’s suddenly stopped kneading you might be struggling with a sickness or some sort of stress in their environment. (Which can also make them run away to hide somewhere they find safe.) But with your trusty Tractive GPS & Health tracker, you can take an active role in your cat’s safety – both from where they’re off roaming to their health on a day to day basis.
Track your cat’s wellbeing
See how they’re doing at a glance with Wellness Score. Know if they’re getting enough exercise. Spot nap patterns. Detect issues early and keep them healthy.
Not all cats knead – so make sure to keep an eye out for other signs of your cat’s attention and affection. They might be indicating it to you in small, subtle, easy-to-miss ways you might not have caught on to yet.
Even scientists are fascinated by cats’ curious behaviors. Here’s Hank Green from SciShow weighing on your cat’s biscuit-making tendencies:
Got a friend or family member with a budding baker at home? Share this article with them and make their day!