Why do Tortoiseshell Cats Knead?

Have you ever been sitting comfortably in your favourite chair when suddenly your tortie cat leaps onto your lap and starts kneading you with her front paws one after the other?

 She is often purring loudly and can appear to be very relaxed-almost in a trance. This behaviour has been compared to kneading dough and is also sometimes referred to as “milk treading” or “making biscuits”. But why do cats do it?

tortoiseshell cat

There are various theories:

The most popular explanation is that it makes them feel happy because it is what they did as kittens. A kitten will knead its mother’s teats to get the milk to flow. Some adult cats can still be seen to dribble as if expecting milk when they are kneading and may even suck a soft surface at the same time. It certainly shows they feel happy and secure.

Some people suggest that kneading may also be a way of claiming territory and warning off other cats as the scent glands in a cat’s paws release pheromones which other cats can smell.

Another suggestion is that the behaviour is instinctive, inherited from wild ancestors who would pat down foliage to make a soft surface for sleeping on. Does your tortie usually settle down to have a snooze when the kneading stops?

Some people have also found areas of trodden down grass in their gardens where a cat may have prepared a “nest” for sleeping in.

It has also been suggested that some female cats may do it when they are ready to mate

Although it is more unusual some cats have been known to knead with all four paws. This may be a way of stretching after sleeping away the day. Another way cats like to stretch after a good sleep is to use their scratching post.

Are there any problems associated with kneading?

Some cats may knead with their claws out. This can dig into your flesh or spoil your clothes. Do not punish your tortie if this happens as she is not meaning to cause harm but only love! Instead you could:

A) make sure the claws are trimmed regularly

B) keep a cushion or perhaps towel handy so that she has something soft to knead

C) distract her with a soft toy

D) stroke her and encourage her to lie down

Final Thoughts

If your tortie cat seems to prefer kneading you to any other members of your household just remember you should be flattered.

It shows you are the person she feels most happy and secure with and although those claws can be uncomfortable just have some soft padding ready and accept her affection.









1 thought on “Why do Tortoiseshell Cats Knead?”

Leave a Comment