Cats are unique creatures with a lot of mystifying behavior, such as the habit of “making muffins.” Other terms for this behavior are making biscuits, milking, playing the piano, and mashing potatoes but it is most commonly called kneading or kneading dough. When cats knead, they push their front paws in and out, alternating the left and right paws. They usually do this on people, animals, blankets, and pillows.
Why do cats make muffins?
Cats make muffins or knead because of the following reasons:
1. To remind them of their kittenhood
Cat experts note that cats knead or make muffins as a reminder of their kittenhood. When they are kittens, cats knead their mother’s breast to promote milk flow. Cats do not seem to get over this habit; even when they are adults, they still tend to knead as a way to self-soothe or comfort themselves.
Some cats may also suckle a blanket or cloth while they knead to mimic how they suckled their mother when they were still kittens. Cats that behave this way are those that were weaned too early or abandoned by their mother at an early age.
2. To make an area or spot comfortable to sleep or lie on
Some researchers state that kneading is instinctive among cats, passed on from their wild ancestors. Cats in the wild knead the ground before they sleep on it or give birth. They knead dirt and tall grass together to make a comfortable bed and to make sure that there are no sharp twigs or edges to get in the way. Similarly, domesticated cats knead a certain area to “smooth” it out before they lie downor sleep on it.
3. To mark their territory
Another reason why cats make muffins or knead is to mark a certain area as their territory. Some vets and researchers attest that it is another form of scenting among cats since their paws contain scent glands.
4. To express their love and affection for their humans
Cats will knead their owners on the thigh, belly, or arm to express their affection. They also do it because it means they are comfortable and happy with you. Cat experts believe that cats knead when they are calm and relaxed. Some cats even tend to drool while they knead.
5. To stretch their muscles
Cats like to stretch and keep in shape by being active and playful. One particular behavior among cats that helps them shape up is scratching or clawing a scratching post or furniture. Making muffins or kneading is another way for them to stretch and flex their muscles and keep themselves in shape.
- To show that they are ready to mate
Cats may also make muffins or knead because they are in heat. Female cats may purr, stretch, and knead the air as they lie on their side to let the tomcats know they are ready to mate. If a female cat is about to mate, it will not knead but instead will raise its pelvis with the tail on one side. Also, female cats tend to knead all over the place while male cats usually knead only in a small area.
Why does my cat knead me but not my husband?
These are the reasons why your cat kneads you but not your husband:
- Your cat feels deeply bonded to you.
- You are her main caretaker.
- She sees you as her mother.
- You sit and keep still unlike your husband.
- She wants to take a nap on you.
- She likes the type of material you are wearing.
- You smell great.
What should you do if your cat’s kneading is hurting you?
Here are the things that you can do to avoid getting hurt if your cat kneads you:
- Trim or file your cat’s claws to make them less sharp.
- Put a thick blanket or cat mat on your lap or a soft spot of your body before your cat starts to knead.
- Let your cat wear plastic caps so it won’t hurt your skin when your cat kneads you. This will also protect your sofa and other furniture when your cat scratches it.
If your cat does not normally knead but suddenly starts to, it could mean that she is not feeling well, that she is going through some behavioral changes, or maybe that you purchased a new blanket made of soft fur which she really wants to sleep on. Some cats tend to hump while kneading as a manifestation of stress.
Cats are dynamic pets with a myriad of surprising behavior. They make muffins or knead as a reminder of their childhood, to express comfort or contentment, and as a way of telling you that they love you. They will also knead to mark their territory, stretch their muscles, and let the tomcats know that they are ready to mate.
Image: istockphoto.com / Yuliya Apanasenko