Why do cats knead you? And why do they purr? Explaining your pet's common behavior.

·2 min read

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 26% of all households in the United States owned cats in 2020. Whether you’re a new cat owner or curious about something your feline friend has been doing for years, we have the answers for you.

Some call it kneading. Some call it “making biscuits.” According to pet food company Purina, many cats exhibit this behavior, which consists of the rhythmic pushing of their paws in and out on a surface — much like the motion a baker would use to knead bread or make biscuits.

Cats do this to blankets, cushions and even their owners, who can experience pain if their cats do it with their claws out.

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Why do cats knead?

There are a few reasons your cat might be kneading.

According to the American Animal Hospital Organization, kneading could be a remnant of a kitten’s nursing habits, providing a comfort similar to nursing.

According to Purina, cats’ kneading may serve a territorial purpose, since their paws have scent glands which release pheromones that signal to other cats.

If your cat is female, Purina says it might also mean they are going into heat. To dodge unwanted pregnancies and even lengthen your cat’s life, be sure it is properly neutered.

Why do cats purr?

According to a paper published in the Journal of Zoology, cats purr using their larynx and diaphragm muscles. Elodie Briefer writes that purring is often correlated with positive social situations. This is why your cat may purr when you pet it or when it rubs up against you.

The common belief is that cats purr when they’re happy or pleased, but Wired magazine says they can also purr when they’re hungry, injured or frightened as a self-soothing action. Wired also points out the action serves an important health function. Purring has been proven to aid in the process of bone regeneration.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why do cats knead? Why do they purr? Your cat's behaviors, explained.

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