Why do cats knead and bite blankets? It does look cute but what is it all about?
My tabby Milly is ten years old and she still kneads like she is making some sort of kitty dough.
And my goodness, the purring that goes with it is just utter contentment!
Well, this behavior might seem really weird at first, but you may be surprised to find that cats do it for a good reason.
Read on to learn more about this quirky but adorable little habit.
Why Do Cats Knead And Bite Blankets? (in short)
Kittens knead their mom's nipples to stimulate milk production. While some cats unlearn this behavior when they grow up, other cats carry it throughout their adult life and use it for relaxation, as a sign of affection, and various other things.
It really is such an instinctive trait, and they like to knead to comfort themselves, mark their territory, and show trust and affection to their owner and fellow cats.
What is Cat Kneading?
When a cat kneads, it pushes one of its front paws into a soft surface and then pulls it back. Then it repeats the same with the second front paw.
Felines can keep doing this activity for several minutes. Others will press into the blanket just a few times, then lay to sleep on it.
You may notice your cat biting or sucking on the blanket while kneading.
You shouldn't be concerned about that as long as your kitty doesn't rip off pieces of blanket and consciously ingests them.
This condition is called Pica and you should address a veterinary professional as soon as you identify it in your pet.
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My Cat Bites Blanket and Kneads? But Why?
While some cat owners think their felines knead the blanket to sharpen their claws, the reasons behind this weird habit are more complex.
Take a look at them to have a better understanding of your beloved pet's behavior.
1. Nursing instinct
Cat kneading dates back to kittenhood when the kittens used to knead and bite at their mother's nipples to stimulate the production of milk.
Some cats will carry this habit throughout their life to remind them of their mother's care.
They will usually start kneading when stressed or afraid of something to find virtual motherly comfort in the object they are kneading.
Kneading is more common in cats that have been abandoned by their mother during breastfeeding.
Bottle-fed kittens are also prone to adopt kneading behavior when they grow up.
Some cats may bite on the blanket while kneading it.
This is also a leftover habit from kittenhood that reminds them of their intimate relationship with their mother.
2. Wild cat behavior
Cat kneading may also be associated with the wild ancestors of domesticated felines.
They used to knead at the foliage before sleeping and giving birth to make it a softer and smoother place.
If your cat kneads the blanket before naptime, most probably it imitates its ancestors' behavior embedded in its mind.
3. Territory marking
Cats often knead a blanket to mark it as their territory.
They have scent glands in their kitty paws which release pheromones when the cat kneads.
In this way, the cat lets other felines know that this blanket is owned by someone else and they'd better stay away.
This behavior is common in households with two or more cats.
Each feline will try to spread pheromones onto their favorite items to claim their rule over them.
You may notice your kitty kneading or rolling over the place near the radiator telling other cats in the house that this toasty sleeping spot is taken.
Similarly to places and objects, your cat will also mark you as its territory.
So if your furball kneads on your chest or lap, don't worry, it just prepares its sleeping spot and claims ownership over it.
4. Finding comfort
Kittens knead at their mother's body while nursing.
They keep doing that with humans, fellow cats, or bedding when they grow up.
Kneading offers psychological relief to cats as they start to associate the object or person they knead with their mother.
Aware that they are highly vulnerable while sleeping, cats get a bit nervous when going to bed.
They may engage in some blanket kneading to get rid of concerns and create a sense of safety their mom provided them with.
And since kneading releases the nursing instinct, you may find your cat happy and content when doing that as it wags its tail and purrs in pleasure.
5. Expressing trust
When your cat kneads at your clothes or bedding, it tells in this way that it trusts and loves you.
Your clothes and blankets are soaked with your scent, so if your cat enjoys kneading, biting, and sniffing them, it definitely considers you part of its family and feels comfortable and safe with you.
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Should you be concerned?
Cat kneading is a natural process that once carried to maturity is hard to get rid of. Your cat will keep kneading even at old age as a way to soothe itself, mark territory, showing love to its owner and fellow furballs.
You should take it as a normal behavior as long as it doesn't evolve into a bad habit.
Does your cat suffer from Pica?
Some cats may bite the blanket while kneading it.
Biting helps nervous or frightened cats to soothe themselves and can be considered as a therapy.
We all tend to get a bit calmer when twirling and tapping a pen or biting our nails. So do cats when they engage in relaxing and repetitive behavior.
However, sometimes cats take biting to a new level as they start to rip pieces of fabric off and eat them, which indicates a health condition called Pica.
In this case, you have to take the situation under your control and make an appointment with a vet.
Cats may eat inedible materials, like plastic, leather, and fabrics, when they are extremely stressed.
It may be the separation from their owner or a change in their environment that scares them or makes them feel bored and lonely.
For example, a new dog in the house may strike fear into your kitty, making it apathetic and anxious. It may eventually lead to biting and eating blankets. If you notice your kitty biting on unhealthy items and then ingesting them, take it to a vet right away.
Eating inedible items inevitably causes gastrointestinal distress so you got to act fast.
Dental pain is another reason for your cat to bite on bedding and other items.
Biting, sucking, and chewing on the blanket helps your cat to alleviate pain and discomfort. It may also do this weird activity to draw your attention and ask for help.
If you see your feline biting and pulling the blanket aggressively, check it for gingivitis and tooth decay. If there are clear signs of dental distress, make an appointment with a licensed veterinary.
If you notice your cat sneezing, having swollen paws, and red skin after kneading and biting on the blanket, it may be an allergic reaction to the blanket's material.
Make sure you give your cat only hypoallergenic blankets made from high-quality materials.
Also, wash the blankets once a week to remove all harmful bacteria.
Should I Stop My Cat Kneading Blanket?
Kneading and biting are habits cats carry from kittenhood to mature life, so there is no reason to worry about them.
However, if you notice your cat ripping pieces of fabric off and eating them, you should immediately stop that behavior.
While it may sound like an easy thing to do, you'll need to put in some effort to reach your goal.
Luckily, there are some techniques to help you stop your kitty kneading and biting on blankets.
A negative association is one of the most effective ways to prevent a cat from eating the bedding. What you have to do is to spray a taste deterrent onto the blanket.
Such products aim at making the fabric unattractive to cats by infusing it with bad-tasting chemicals.
Taste deterrents are widely used in veterinary medicine as vets try to discourage furry patients from chewing their bondage.
This also works with blankets as the cat will step back when it senses the pungent scent.
Spray a small amount of deterrent onto the blanket and let your cat have a bite of it.
You should expect such reactions from your feline as spitting on the fabric, a shaking head, and vomiting triggered by the bitter taste that cats hate.
Now your cat will associate the blanket with the disgusting taste and hesitate to bite and ingest it.
You may actually try this trick with every item in your house you don't want your kitty to chew on.
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Push it away
When you see your kitty kneading the blanket, try to push it gently away and say "no" with a calm tone.
The more friendly and collaborative you are, the higher chance your cat will obey. You can also pull your cat's leg away and tell it gently to stop.
Although it may work with some cats, others will stubbornly refuse to give up on their kittenhood habit.
Use cat toys to distract your kitty from the blanket.
To make them even more attractive, spray them with catnip. Toys might not be the best solution, though, if your cat suffers from Pica, as it may want to chew on the toy as well.
Go to a vet to get your cat's eating disorder treated.
Help it fight anxiety
One of Pica syndrome's main causes is anxiety, so the vet may prescribe medications to make your furball less anxious.
Aside from medical treatment, there are some things you can at home to offer your kitty mental relief.
Try to spend more with it, by playing, walking, and cuddling together. Give it new toys so that it never gets boring when you are busy or away from home.
Feed it its favorite food. If there is a new dog in the house and your kitty is angry and frustrated about it, let it live in a separate room for a while to calm down.
Try not to make major changes in your cat's environment as it may get stressed.
If you have two or more cats, the weaker one may be bullied.
This may negatively affect its mental condition, making it adopt weird habits, like kneading and eating blankets.
A shared item leads to fighting and bullying, so you better make sure each item has only one owner.
If your furry companion displays signs of an allergic reaction, change the blanket to a hypoallergenic one.
There is a chance, though that your kitty might get stressed after losing its favorite blanket. In that case, replace the blanket with an old piece of clothing infused with your scent and similar touch to a blanket, like a woolen sweater.
You can also infuse the new blanket with your scent or apply catnip on it to entice your kitty to sleep on it.
Why Do Cats Knead And Bite Blankets? The Verdict
Cat kneading is a natural process that helps cats find comfort, soothe pain, mark territory and show love and trust.
If you want to break this habit, either because your kitty eats the blanket or you just don't like it, you will have to try hard.
Kneading is a deep-rooted behavior that goes back to kittenhood.
Your cat won't give up on it so easily.
Use the above-mentioned techniques and tips to make your cat forget about the habit as fast as possible.
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