Kneading, making biscuits, making muffins… it goes by many different names, and it’s something most cats do on a regular basis. It’s a completely normal and natural behavior that cats learn as kittens, one which will likely stick with them for the rest of their lives.
But why do cats engage in this behavior? What does it mean to them, and what function does it serve for them?
One reason is simply that it’s a comforting behavior for them to engage in. They learned to do this when they were kittens; it was a way to get nourishment from mom and kneading as an adult could likely flood a cat with comforting feelings reminiscent of how they felt when nursing with their littermates.
Another second reason is simply to mark territory. Much like scratching can be a function of marking territory, kneading can do the same. Cats have scent glands in their paws and kneading is one way to mark territory as they see fit.
Another reason cats may knead is that they’re simply trying to make the space they’re in more comfortable for a nap. They may knead and circle around a bit, lying down at times and then standing back up to knead some more. This is likely as simple as your cat trying to make the spot they’re planning on napping in a bit more comfortable.
It could be a way for cats to show affection for the person that they’re making muffins on or near. There’s some research that suggests that the harder your cat makes muffins on your lap, the more they like you, but it’s also entirely possible that your cat is simply more adept at muffin making, causing them to push harder while engaging in the behavior.
A final reason cats may knead is as simple as it being a part of stretching for some cats. Kneading helps them stretch those paws as they stretch out their legs, just as we might flex our feet when we’re looking for a good leg stretch.
Making muffins is a endearing behavior that we’ve all come to love from our cats. Though its origins are fairly simple for most cats, understanding why it happens can help you to understand your cat just a little bit more!