The image of a cat rubbing its front paws on something soft is familiar to a lot of cat owners. Often known as "making biscuits" or "kneading dough", this common practice is very normal in cats. For years, this has been thought by cat specialists and animal psychologists to mean that a cat is relaxed and at peace. However, there are other factors that contribute to a deeper meaning of how a cat feels. For example, kittens and older cats have different reasons for their breadmaking!
A kitten kneads quickly beginning after birth. This is because it would normally knead on a mother's abdomen to signal that the kitten is hungry and ready for her milk. Most cats will also purr while kneading. In a kitten, purring signals the need for attention from a mother. These practices are ones that continue all the way up to adulthood, though their reasons change significantly with age.
Kneading in adult cats could mean one of two very different things. Cats can be kneading to signal that they are distressed, but this is fairly uncommon. It's much more realistic to believe that your cat is kneading to signal that it is relaxed, calm, and feeling (or feline) good! Also, cats tend to knead around their favorite person, so if you're nearby, that likely means they think very highly of you! They also do this by rubbing their head on your legs. These kitties love their owners!