You're stretched out on the couch watching television when your kitty jumps on you and begins to make biscuits. Translation: "Making biscuits" is that funny kneading or massaging motion cats sometimes do with their front paws on their human, and it's an instinctive trait with several explanations.
Massaging is an instinctive behavior practiced by many cats throughout their lives, but usually begins in kittens shortly after birth. This trance-like motion is often called "making biscuits" because it resembles a baker kneading dough. Kitties use their front paws to knead soft or pliable surfaces, including humans and other cats or kittens. Some cats retract their claws, while others extend them as they knead. Many purr with eyes closed, and some even drool.
Cats are hard-wired to knead with their front paws. Newborn kittens know instinctively to knead the mother's belly to stimulate a flow of milk through her nipples. While some people speculate that cats who were separated or weaned from their mothers too early will continue to knead as adults, most felines knead throughout life no matter how early they were weaned -- probably because the motion is comforting to them.
Territory & Biology
According to Catster.com, another reason for kneading harkens back to when cats were wild and used a similar motion to pat down tall grass or shredded leaves to make a comfortable bed for sleeping or giving birth. Scent glands are found in the soft pads on the bottoms of a cat's paws, so when a cat kneads a surface he is actually marking, or staking, that territory.
Mating & Stress
If you have an intact female cat who kneads, it may be an early indication she's getting ready to go into heat. Kneading is sometimes a signal to males that she is willing and able to mate. A final reason your cat may have chosen to give you a massage? She may be stressed due to recent changes in your home, and kneading is simply her way of getting your attention.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.