Researchers aren’t certain when cats started doing this, but most believe the action is rooted in how they learned to handle challenges in their lives.
Cats begin this behavior as kittens, kneading their mothers’ bellies to induce them to make milk. As they grow, researchers believe, cats use this instinct in other situations as well.
“Making biscuits” seems to be the behavior equivalent of dogs turning in circles to make a surface comfortable before lying down to sleep. Dogs do not knead, but the principle is the same.
We most often see Pip making biscuits when he’s tired and ready for a snooze. He thoroughly kneads his sleeping area, and if we disturb that area by perhaps stepping or sitting on his desired surface, he’ll start kneading the area again.
Cats will also knead to leave their scents to mark their territory or to stretch to stay limber, especially as they age.
“Cats have scent glands on the underside of their paws, and they use scent as a way of creating familiarity, marking territory, self‑soothing or bonding with another creature,” Kayleigh Kilcommons, head of cattery at themayhew.org, told a Newsweek reporter.
Pip always marks his “spot” with head rubs and purrs, not by kneading. He stretches when he gets up from a long stationary position such as a nap, but I have never witnessed kneading during this time.
Since it wasn’t a common behavior, it was surprising a few months ago when the frequency of Pip’s “biscuit-making” began increasing.
We had just finished a remodel in our bathroom and had purchased new accessories, including a plush bathroom rug. When Pip started taking afternoon naps on the rug, I assumed it was because the sun streamed through the window at that time of day.
But days later, as I was putting towels away in the master closet, I heard a strange sound coming from the bathroom. As I headed out of the closet, I saw Pip making biscuits on the thick, soft, plush rug, stretching each paw in almost a musical rhythm or beat before lying down for his afternoon nap.
I think I may have stumbled upon another reason cats make biscuits:
Plush bathroom rugs.
To see Pip making his “biscuits,” check out the video on Teddy the Lab’s Facebook page.
Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She is lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.