The Scientific Reason Why Cats Like Kneading Us Like Pieces of Dough

The Scientific Reason Why Cats Like Kneading Us Like Pieces of Dough

Forget "making biscuits," let's call this a feline mini massage.

By Heather Dale

When our kitty’s nails are trimmed — because sharp claws would be no bueno in this situation — how great is it when our cats find their favorite spot on our lap and begin the beautifully orchestrated pawing-of-the-legs ritual? Growing up I remember our Tabby doing this often, and I interpreted her behavior has a way of saying she was in her happy place and was thoroughly enjoying all the free head scratches. Cat mom for the win!

According to science, no, our cats didn’t work in pizzerias in their past life kneading dough. This soothing pawing motion actually stems from birth when kittens use this technique to help stimulate milk production in their mothers’ mammary glands. And over the years, humans have come up with many funny terms to describe this motion which include but are not limited to “pussyfooting”, “making biscuits” and “milk treading” — a term coined by zoologist Desmond Morris.

This innate, lovable kneading tends to comes served with a side of purring, followed by a nap, everything a little kitty does while it’s still in the nursing stage of development. Don’t fret, your cat isn’t trying to milk you or give you subtle cues to up your milk production, this behavior is just something that’s been carried over from their kitty phase that shows their genuine contentment.

Adult cats also do it to help create a cozy comfortable area for sleeping on or for giving birth to their babies because, out in the wild, that tall grass would need some serious kneading to get it up to snuff for the littles upcoming arrival. Another adorable kneading fact is that cats have scent glands in their paws so your cat is literally marking you as their territory with their mini massages. Now for those of you with two cats or more, do you ever get blessed with a four-paw lap massage?

Maybe being a bonafide cat lady isn’t so bad after all.

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