Why Do Cats Do That Weird Thing With Their Legs?

Cats are enigmatic creatures that never cease to amaze us with their quirky behavior. As a cat owner, you’ve probably witnessed your feline friend doing something peculiar with their legs – kneading dough-like movements that can be mistaken for pain. But don’t worry; it’s just your kitty’s natural instinct at play.

So, what’s the deal with cats and their leg antics? Well, this behavior is commonly known as “making biscuits,” and it’s been around for centuries. Some people believe that it’s a sign of affection, mimicking the actions of a kitten nursing from its mother. Others think that it’s a way for cats to mark their territory or get comfortable.

But that’s not all; cats have more tricks up their sleeves (or paws). Have you ever noticed your furry companion stretching out in strange positions while sleeping or relaxing? Or shaking their legs after using the litter box? These behaviors may seem odd to us humans, but they’re perfectly normal for our feline friends.

If you’re curious about why cats do these weird things with their legs, buckle up and join us on an exciting journey through the fascinating world of cat behavior. We’ll explore the reasons behind these peculiar habits and learn more about our beloved pets’ mysterious ways.

What is Kneading?

This adorable behavior is called kneading, and it’s one of the most fascinating instincts of felines. But what exactly is kneading, and why do cats do it?

Kneading is an innate behavior that starts when kittens are nursing from their mother. Using their paws to massage their mother’s mammary glands helps stimulate milk production. As they grow older, cats continue to knead as a way to self-soothe and relieve stress. This action releases endorphins, which produce a feeling of comfort and contentment in cats.

Aside from being a calming behavior, kneading also serves as a way for cats to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands located on their paws, and by kneading a particular area, they leave behind their unique scent, which helps signal to other cats that this space belongs to them.

But kneading isn’t always about marking territory or self-soothing. In some cases, kneading can be a sign of affection from your cat. Many cats will knead on their owners’ laps as a way to show love and trust. Some cats may even purr while kneading, which further indicates their contentment and happiness.

While kneading is typically harmless, some cats can become too enthusiastic and accidentally scratch their owners. It’s essential to trim your cat’s nails regularly and provide them with appropriate scratching surfaces, such as scratching posts or pads, to prevent damage to furniture or clothing.

Why Do Cats Knead?

Cats are mysterious creatures, and one of their most intriguing behaviors is kneading, where they rhythmically push and pull their paws against a soft surface. But why do cats knead? As an expert on feline behavior, I’ve done some research and compiled some fascinating facts.

Kneading is actually an instinctual behavior that begins in kittens, who knead their mother’s nipples to stimulate milk flow while nursing. As cats grow up, they continue to knead as a way to show affection and comfort themselves. It’s no wonder that cats often purr while kneading – they’re content and relaxed.

But there’s more to kneading than just comfort. Cats have scent glands in their paws that release pheromones when they knead. This helps them mark their territory and feel more secure in their environment. So when your cat kneads your lap or a blanket, they’re not only showing you love but also claiming that spot as their own.

While most cats knead without issue, some may display more aggressive kneading behaviors. This can lead to accidental scratches or damage to furniture. In these cases, it’s crucial to redirect the cat’s behavior to a more appropriate surface, such as a scratching post.

Theories Behind Cat Kneading

While some may think that this is just a sign of contentment or relaxation, there are actually several fascinating theories behind why cats do this.

One theory suggests that cat kneading is a remnant of kittenhood. Kittens knead their mother’s stomach to stimulate milk production while nursing. As they grow up, this behavior may become ingrained in them and be associated with feelings of comfort and security. Therefore, when your cat kneads on your lap or chest, they may be trying to recreate the soothing sensation of nursing from their mother.

Another theory proposes that cat kneading is a way for cats to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands located in the pads of their paws, so when they knead an object or surface, they may be leaving their scent behind as a way to mark it as their own. This theory makes sense because you may notice that your cat kneads more often in areas where they spend a lot of time or where they feel safe and secure.

Moreover, some experts believe that cat kneading is a way for cats to show affection towards their owners. When cats knead on their owner’s lap or chest, they may be trying to express love and affection in the same way they would knead on their mother’s stomach. This theory is heartwarming because it shows that our furry friends are capable of displaying emotions towards us.

Lastly, it’s possible that cat kneading is simply a form of stretching and exercising for cats. By flexing and relaxing their paws and leg muscles, they may be keeping themselves limber and agile. This theory makes sense because you may notice that your cat kneads more often after waking up from a nap or after long periods of inactivity.

Kneading as a Sign of Affection

Kneading is a behavior that cats learn as kittens when they nurse from their mother. They knead her belly to stimulate milk production. As they grow older, they continue to practice this behavior as a sign of comfort and contentment towards their owners. As cats knead, they release endorphins that help them relax and feel happier.

In addition to being a sign of affection, kneading can also serve as a way for cats to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands in their paws, and by kneading, they leave their scent on the surface they are kneading on. This behavior may also be a way for cats to claim ownership over their owner’s lap or bed since they associate the scent with comfort and security.

Besides marking their territory, kneading can be an excellent exercise for cats. The repetitive motion strengthens the muscles in their paws and legs, making them more agile and flexible.

As a cat owner, it’s essential to understand and appreciate your cat’s kneading behavior. It is a sign that your furry friend trusts and loves you deeply. So, the next time your cat starts making biscuits on your lap or chest, take it as a compliment and enjoy the peaceful moment with your beloved feline companion.

Redirecting Overzealous Kneading

We all know that kneading is an adorable behavior that shows our feline friends’ love and comfort. But what if their kneading becomes overzealous or even painful? Fear not, for as an expert in redirecting overzealous kneading behavior, I have some fantastic tips and tricks to share with you.

Firstly, let’s understand why cats engage in overzealous kneading. Cats use this behavior as a way to mark their territory by releasing scent from glands on their paws. However, when they choose to do this on your lap or furniture, it can be problematic and uncomfortable for you. So, what’s the solution?

One of the most effective ways to redirect your cat’s overzealous kneading behavior is by providing them with an appropriate outlet for their energy. A scratching post or mat can give them a designated area to knead and scratch without causing damage to your belongings. You could even try introducing new textures and materials to keep them interested and engaged.

Positive reinforcement is another great technique. Whenever your cat uses the scratching post or mat instead of your lap or furniture, offer them treats or praise to encourage repeat behavior. Over time, they will learn that using the designated area is more rewarding than using your belongings.

It’s also essential to consider your cat’s emotional state when addressing overzealous kneading behavior. If they engage in excessive kneading as a form of self-soothing or anxiety relief, providing them with ample opportunities for play and exercise can help reduce their need for overzealous kneading. Creating a calm and comfortable environment can also ease their anxiety.

Is Cat Kneading Painful?

Well, the answer might surprise you. Cat kneading is a completely natural behavior that cats develop as kittens to stimulate milk production from their mother while nursing. As they grow older, they continue to knead as a way to comfort themselves and show affection.

So, is cat kneading painful? The answer is no, it’s not. When cats knead, they use a motion similar to pushing dough or bread that helps them release tension and feel more relaxed. And here’s the best part – it also triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers that can give them a sense of euphoria.

However, our delicate human skin can sometimes be the victim of over-enthusiastic kneading. Cats have sharp claws that can scratch or puncture skin if they knead too hard or too long. And some cats may prefer to knead on sensitive areas of the body, such as the stomach or chest, which can be uncomfortable for some people.

To prevent any discomfort from cat kneading, it’s important to keep your cat’s claws trimmed regularly. This will help reduce any damage their claws could cause. You can also provide your cat with a soft blanket or pillow to knead on instead of your lap or body. And if your cat insists on kneading on you, try placing a thick towel or blanket between them and your skin.

How to Comfort Your Cat During Kneading Sessions

Cats are fascinating creatures, and their kneading behavior is one of their unique quirks. Kneading is a natural behavior in cats, and it can indicate comfort and contentment. However, some cats can become too enthusiastic during these sessions and may unintentionally scratch or bite their owners. As a responsible cat owner, it’s important to learn how to comfort your cat during kneading sessions. Here are some tips to help you:

Soft Surface

Providing your cat with a soft blanket or pillow to knead on can be comforting for them. This will give them a comfortable surface to knead on and prevent them from scratching or harming you.

Gentle Touch

While your cat is kneading, petting them gently can help them feel more relaxed and loved. Stroke their back or head softly, or try holding their paw and mimicking their kneading motion for a bonding experience.

Distraction with Treats and Toys

Offering treats or toys during kneading sessions can distract your cat and make the experience more enjoyable for both of you. This will also prevent them from kneading on you and causing accidental scratches.

Redirect Attention

If your cat becomes too excited during kneading sessions, redirecting their attention may be necessary. You can offer them a toy or treat to distract them from kneading on you, or gently move them away from your lap to prevent any scratches.

Understand Body Language

It’s important to understand your cat’s body language during kneading sessions to provide comfort and avoid potential harm. If your cat displays signs of stress or anxiety, stop the session and give them space until they calm down.


To sum it up, cats are truly fascinating creatures with a host of unique behaviors that never cease to amaze us. One such behavior is kneading, which has left cat owners scratching their heads for centuries. This instinctual behavior starts when kittens nurse from their mother and continues into adulthood as a way to self-soothe and relieve stress. Kneading also serves as a way for cats to mark their territory by leaving behind their scent.

While kneading is typically harmless, some cats can become too enthusiastic and accidentally scratch or harm their owners. It’s crucial to redirect overzealous kneading behavior by providing them with appropriate outlets, positive reinforcement, and creating a comfortable environment.

It’s important to understand and appreciate your cat’s kneading behavior as it is a sign of affection and trust towards you. By providing them with soft surfaces, gentle touches, distractions, and understanding their body language during kneading sessions, you can comfort your furry friend while preventing any discomfort or harm.

As an expert on feline behavior, I hope this article has provided valuable insights into why cats do that weird thing with their legs. Remember that this adorable behavior is a natural part of your cat’s personality that should be celebrated and cherished.