Cat owners spend hours watching their pets, equally entertained and bemused by their behavior. Cats have many quirky habits, but among the most notable is kneading and sucking on blankets.
Felines have scent glands in their paws. This means that they can claim the blanket as their ‘territory’ by kneading it. Also, kittens knead their mother’s nipples to release milk. If your cat is sucking on the blanket while kneading, it’s a comforting behavior.
There are many unique behaviors that cats display around blankets. If you ever wonder what your pet is thinking while purring contentedly in bed, read on to find the answers.
- 1 Why Does My Cat Knead and Suck on Their Blanket?
Why Does My Cat Knead and Suck on Their Blanket?
If your cat kneads their blanket, they are marking it as theirs. This is achieved through the glands found in feline paws. This is where a cat sweats when they start to overheat. As a result, they release a unique scent through them. In the process, the cat feels entirely content and relaxed. This is why you’ll often find your cat purring while kneading. It’s essentially a sign of happiness.
Laying claim to blankets is a common behavior among multi-pet households, too. Cats love routine, and they mean that they often have a preferred sleeping spot. Maybe this is by the radiator, or on top one of the house’s beds. If one of your cats kneads the blanket in these locations, they’re warning other pets off. The cat is ensuring that their blanket is available whenever they want it.
As we have established, however, kneading a blanket will also suckling is a little different. Think of this behavior as being similar to a child sucking their thumb. Cats cannot do that, and neither are they able to suckle on a pacifier. By kneading and suckling a blanket, however, they can replicate the feeding experience of their kittenhood. This will be comforting and calming for a cat. It’s most notable in cats that were separated from their mother’s too soon.
Cats are especially likely to knead and suckle a blanket that’s fresh from the laundry dryer. The explanation for this is simple – the warmth is another comforting reminder of the feeding sensation.
Should I Be Concerned?
A cat will likely knead blankets throughout their life. This is perfectly natural feline behavior. They find it fun, as well as functional. Just be a little careful about allowing your cat to ‘knead’ Your cat may relax in your lap, and start kneading to demonstrate affection and contentment. They don’t realize that their claws can get pretty painful if they catch human skin.
In isolation, sucking on blankets is also nothing to worry about. Occasionally seeking comfort doesn’t mean that your cat is anxious or unhappy. Just make sure that they do not attempt to repeat the trick with anything potentially dangerous. Some cats may attempt to suck shoelaces, for example, leaving them at risk of swallowing plastic.
Also be aware that most cats outgrow suckling behavior after the second year of their life. That’s not to say that an adult cat will never do it again. Just that it will become a less and less frequent habit. Seek advice if this behavior becomes obsessive.
If your cat sucks blankets overeating and playing, you may need a vet. It suggests that they are living with an anxiety disorder. As cats do not enjoy expressing vulnerability, they will not seek human help to deal with this. Instead, they’ll prefer to self-soothe. Again, this happening every now and again is fine. If it’s constant, and at the expense of anything else, it may be a psychological issue.
Should I Stop My Cat?
If you are determined to stop your cat from sucking a blanket, they can be trained. This could take the form of mild chastisement. Applying something foul tasting or smelling to the blanket may deter sucking. Lemon or lime juices will be particularly impactful. Cats hate the smell of citrus.
This is likely to cause your cat stress and anxiety though, so it’s not recommended. Forcing a cat to go ‘cold turkey’ can be traumatic. This, in turn, may lead to them acting aggressively as they struggle to manage their emotions.
If you must wean your cat off a particular blanket, offer a substitute. An old wool sweater that smells like you is ideal. They will draw comfort from your scent, and the wool will be safe for them.
Why Does My Cat Lick My Blanket and Purr?
Another common question for feline parents is, “why do cats lick fur blankets?” Usually, this is a sign of affection. Cats lick and groom each other to demonstrate that they are part of a family. Your cat will also lick you for the same reason. A lick from a cat is a great compliment.
If your cat is licking a blanket and purring, they are happy and content. This suggests that that blanket has a comforting and familiar scent. This may be of you, or it could be a feline companion. Either way, it’s sparking all kinds of happy associations in your cat’s mind.
You may also find that your cat jumps into your lap and licks your clothing. This behavior has the same roots as licking a blanket. Your cat is picking up on your scent, and it’s making them feel safe and secure. If your cat licks blankets or dirty laundry, don’t necessarily deter them.
Why Do Cats Bite Blankets?
Biting a blanket is a very common behavior in kittens, as that’s how they play. Young cats learn how hard they can nibble and bite from their mothers and littermates. Much like sucking, constant biting may be a sign that a cat was separated a little sooner than they’d like. It’s quite possible that they are expecting the blanket to respond!
Even as cats grow up, they will continue to do this. Male cats, in particular, associate biting with pleasure. This is because they tend to gently bite the neck of a female while mating. Don’t forget that biting and chewing is also fun and relaxing for cats.
You may notice you’re almost entering a trance-like state while biting, eventually falling into a deep sleep. If you don’t want your cat biting a blanket, trying offering them dog toys. These are usually bigger and sturdier that cat toys. They will give your pet something to sink their teeth into.
Also, think back to how biting and sucking blankets simulates feeding on their mother for cats. Like a breastfeeding child, if a kitten is struggling to feed they may bite in frustration. If they feel the blanket should be providing food, they’ll get fed up when it doesn’t. This behavior, like most associated with kittens, should pass before your cat reaches the age of 3.
Finally, keep an eye on your pet’s oral health. A cat showing any signs of gum disease or tooth decay will be in some pain. They will not want to let on about this, though. Chewing and biting the blanket could be an attempt at easing their discomfort. Any health concern related to teeth or gums should be seen by a vet. They will be able to provide painkillers, and treat the cause of the problem.
Why Do Cats Like Wool?
It’s a common cliché that cats enjoy chasing a ball of wool. This sparks their hunting instincts; it’s like an organic laser pointer or chasing after a piece of string. Cats chewing on static wool, meanwhile, may be the kneading and suckling behavior that we have discussed.
Wool is soft, and thus comforting. This will mean that a cat will enjoy sucking and kneading a blanket or wool rug. However, as Pet Coach explains, there may also be medical conditions that encourage this behavior.
Pica is a very common explanation. This psychological condition is the desire to eat non-food items. If your cat upgrades from kneading and sucking a blanket to eating it, danger could follow. Your cat may end up blocking their digestive tract, or choking. If your cat is trying to eat wool, they may be lacking essential nutrients elsewhere. Assess your cat’s diet, and discuss with a vet if you have any grounds for concern.
Another reason why a cat may be drawn to wool is that they lack stimulation. Cats like to chew for entertainment, even after they outgrow the teething phase. This is why so many cat toys are chewable. If your cat has started to chew wool, play with them a little more and offer more exercise. They may be frustrated with being an indoor cat if they have previously wandered at will. Chewing is a favorite way of passing the time. If your cat has plenty of things to keep them occupied, they won’t resort to chewing.
In some cases, your cat may also be struggling with a feline form of OCD. Speak to a vet if you think is the case. Many medications can help. This is particularly likely if your cat is anxious or nervous. They may be drawing comfort from wool as it holds familiar scents.
What Other Materials Do Cats Like?
It’s not just wool that attracts the attention of cats. Felines also tend to chew cardboard, plastic bags, cotton or polyester clothing, and stuffed toys.
Remember, in the case of the latter, your cat is probably drawing comfort from a familiar scent. They will chew and knead because the item reminds them of a beloved human. This means that you should never judge your pet harshly for behaving in such a way. If they insist on chewing your personal effects, choose one of two items to sacrifice as cat toys.
With a little training, your cat will quickly learn what is theirs and what is not. If they continue to knead and chew other materials, you may need to consult a professional.
Can a Cat Be Allergic to Material?
It’s very common for cats to be allergic to the material used to make a blanket. Fabrics are a common cause of allergies in cats.
As PetMD explains, common symptoms of an allergic reaction in a cat include:
- Coughing, sneezing and wheezing
- Itchy and streaming eyes
- Itchy skin, ears, and tail
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Swollen paws and paw pads
If your cat shows these symptoms, remove their blanket and replace it with something else. This could be a different fabric, or even a different comforting item. The wool sweater that we suggested earlier may be ideal.
A cat that has never experienced a reaction but suddenly exhibit symptoms may not be allergic to fabric. Instead of the blanket, think about what else may have changed. Are you wearing a different perfume or cologne, and it’s ended up on the blanket? Have you changed laundry detergent? Has a friend or family member smoked cigarettes near the blanket? Any of these activities could spark an allergic reaction.
If your cat seems content while kneading and sucking on blankets, leave them to it. This is your pet’s personal happy place, and they’ll be perfectly content. Likewise, they may just be claiming the blanket as their own. If all but one of your cats avoid a particular blanket, now you know why.
Just keep a careful eye on your cat while they’re suckling blankets. The corner of a wool comforter is fine. If they upgrade to other materials, or to ingesting fibers, it could get dangerous. Overall though, there is nothing overtly worrying or dangerous about this behavior. It’s just cats being cats.