Does your kitty like to climb on top of you and rhythmically march up and down with her paws digging into your lap? Some people call it making biscuits, marching, dancing, giving a massage or paddling, but this kneading behavior is a sign of contentment.
Cats knead by pushing their front paws into a soft surface, alternating between the right and left paws. The surface can be a cushion, pillow, bedspread, soft toy, piece of clothing or you. It is quite common for them to purr while they are doing it, and sometimes they may even drool a little. Often they will appear as if they are in a trance as they get into a rhythm. Some cats keep their claws retracted while kneading, while others extend their claws.
Kneading behavior begins when cats are newborns. They instinctively knead their mother's tummy as they suckle, and this is thought to stimulate her milk flow. There are also theories that when all cats were wild they used kneading as a way to trample grass into a safe bed where they could sleep or give birth. Regardless of the reason, most cats will knead throughout their life.
As a cat kneads she is also distributing scent from glands in the soft pads on the bottoms of her paws. This acts as a territorial marker that other cats can recognize, but that the human nose does not register. The scent tells other cats that this is her particular spot and any other cat can go elsewhere. If your kitty is kneading you she is showing that she owns you.
Why Your Cat Kneads You
Your cat will knead you with her paws because she loves you and feels comfortable, relaxed and happy around you. You should feel honored that she has chosen you, but if she likes to dig her nails into your lap you might like to keep them trimmed, or put a thick towel or rug on your lap to protect it. Many owners just choose to live with a few small puncture wounds!