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 that make little sense to humans. If you’ve ever wondered what your cat is thinking while purring contentedly in bed, then things will soon become a bit clearer.
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Why Does My Cat Knead and Suck on Its Blanket?
If your cat kneads its blanket, it is marking the item as its own. This is achieved through the glands found in feline paws. This is where a cat sweats when they start to overheat.
As a result, the paws release a unique scent. During the process, the cat feels entirely contented and relaxed. This is why you’ll often find your cat purring while kneading. It’s essentially a sign of happiness in cats.
Laying claim to blankets is a common behavior in multi-cat households. Cats often have a preferred sleeping spot. If one of your cats kneads the blanket on the radiator or by the window, it’s warning off other pets. Your cat is ensuring that its blanket is available whenever it wants it.
Kneading a blanket while suckling is a little different. Think of this behavior as being similar to a child sucking his/her thumb. Cats cannot do that, and neither are they able to suckle on a pacifier.
By kneading and suckling a blanket, it can replicate the feeding experience of its kittenhood. This will be comforting and calming for a cat. It’s most notable in cats that were separated from their mothers too soon.
Cats are likely to knead and suckle a blanket that’s fresh from the laundry dryer. The warmth is a comforting reminder of the feeding sensation.
Should I Be Concerned?
A cat will likely knead blankets throughout its life. This is perfectly natural feline behavior. It will 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. It doesn’t realize that its claws can get pretty painful if they dig into human skin.
In isolation, sucking on blankets is also nothing to worry about. Seeking comfort doesn’t mean that your cat is anxious or unhappy.
Just make sure that they do not attempt to repeat this process with anything potentially dangerous. Some cats may attempt to suck shoelaces and shopping bags, 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 frequent habit.
If your cat sucks blankets while overeating and playing, it suggests that it has an anxiety disorder. As cats do not enjoy expressing vulnerability, they will not seek human help to deal with this issue.
Instead, they prefer to self-soothe. Again, if this happening every now and again, it is fine. If it’s constant, and at the expense of all other activities, it may be a psychological issue.
Should I Stop My Cat?
If you are determined to stop your cat from sucking a blanket, it can be trained. This could take the form of a very mild form of chastisement.
Applying something foul-tasting or smelling to the blanket may deter sucking. Lemon or lime juices work well as cats hate the smell of citrus.
This is likely to cause your cat stress and anxiety, 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 blanket, offer it a substitute. An old wool sweater that smells like you is ideal. Your cat will draw comfort from your scent, and the wool will feel safe to it.
Why Does My Cat Lick My Blanket and Purr?
Another common question for a feline owner 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, then it is happy and contented. 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 it feel safe and secure. If your cat licks blankets or dirty laundry, you shouldn’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, according to Science Direct.
Much like sucking, constant biting may be a sign that a cat was separated from its mother a little sooner than it would have liked. It’s quite possible that it is expecting the blanket to respond in some way.
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 your cat almost entering a trance-like state while biting, eventually falling into a deep sleep. If you don’t want your cat biting a blanket, try offering it dog toys. These are usually bigger and sturdier than cat toys. They will give your cat something to sink its 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, it may bite in frustration.
If it feels that 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.
You should also monitor your cat’s oral health. A cat showing signs of gum disease or tooth decay will be in some pain.
Chewing and biting the blanket could be an attempt to ease its discomfort. Any health concern related to teeth or gums should be seen by a vet.
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, as we’ve already discussed.
Wool is soft, and thus comforting. This will mean that a cat will enjoy sucking and kneading a blanket or wool rug. However, there may also be a medical condition that encourages this behavior.
According to the BSAVA Manual of Feline Practice, pica is a psychological condition that results in a desire to eat non-food items. If your cat moves from kneading and sucking a blanket to eating the blanket, then this poses various health risks.
Your cat may end up blocking its digestive tract or choking. If your cat is trying to eat wool, it may be lacking essential nutrients elsewhere.
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 more and provide 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 it occupied, it’s far less likely to resort to chewing.
In some cases, your cat may have a feline form of OCD. This is particularly likely if your cat is anxious or nervous. Your cat may be drawing comfort from wool as it holds familiar scents.
Can a Cat Be Allergic to Material?
It’s common for cats to be allergic to the material used to make a blanket. Fabrics are a common cause of allergies in cats. 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 its blanket and replace it with something else. This could be a different fabric, or comforting item.
If your cat seems content while kneading and sucking on blankets, leave it to it. This is your cat’s happy place, and it’ll be perfectly contented. Likewise, it may just be claiming the blanket as its own as cats are territorial creatures. If all but one of your cats avoid a particular blanket, now you know why that’s the case.