If there's one thing about cats that every owner loves it's that these furry little balls are almost always the epitome of being quirky, especially when it comes to cat behavior. But why does my cat suck on blankets?
Whether it's the mad dash running out of nowhere or them going crazy over a cat toy or a piece of yarn, to even how they love to bother you at the most inconvenient times, cats are something special.
While cats can vary greatly in many of their quirks (my house has six and they're all unique) one of the more universal traits you'll see no matter the region or breed is cat kneading, especially on blankets and other fabric material.
Why Does My Cat Suck On Blankets?
Cat kneading is the process by which cats and kittens press their clawed paws into a soft surface of some kind in order to break it down and make it more comfortable. All cat breeds do this but for some reason, oriental breeds like Siamese cats and Burmese cats are more likely to display this behavior!
However, our two tabbies always do it! So it's a general thing.
This "soft surface" doesn't have to just be a blanket, however. From clothes to cushions to even your very skin, when a cat wants to knead, if they can hook their claws into it, they'll certainly try.
Just as humans knead dough to make bread, cats perform in a very similar fashion, the only difference is that they use blankets and fabrics rather than dough.
Another name used to describe cat kneading is "making biscuits" as they are quite literally doing the exact same kneading motions that we do.
The cat kneading process is where they push their claws in and out of a surface they plan to sleep on.
The experience is rarely painful if done on human skin as the cat generally retracts their claws just as they begin to pull back.
This is done with one paw at a time and is what you'll see generally right as your little kitty is about to get ready to lay down and get comfortable.
Kneading isn't the only thing cats will do to get comfortable. You're also just as likely to see a cat perform some light biting and nibbling on your blankets for many of the same reasons.
Below, we'll go over the five main reasons cats and kittens knead.
While these potential causes are largely harmless (and often endearing), we'll also touch on some medical causes and medical conditions that may be worth paying attention to.
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Reason Cats Suck on Blankets
One of the methods most cats will usually grow out of as they get older, kittens will often knead their mothers' nipples when nursing. This process effectively stimulates the mother's body to start producing milk.
It is a kitten-weaning process!
Kitten kneading is also done as a way of finding comfort when stressed by their environment. This is true for kittens even after their mother's nipples are no longer producing milk.
Not only that, but in the cases where the mother was separated from the kittens too early, they may continue to "kitten knead" even well into adulthood. This kitty mental stimulation acts as an anxiety helper.
I've seen this personally with one of my mom's cats.
She was separated from his mother very early on and needed my mother to bottle-feed her for several weeks even after the others quickly moved to eat solid foods out of a tray.
As a result, she would often run to my mother whenever stressed and would often knead on her and continue blanket sucking for comfort even to this day over five years later.
Kittens and cats that have been taken from their mother too early can also find themselves biting and sucking on different pieces of cloth or fabric as it simulates the nursing experience.
This is less common than other methods of a cat biting and kneading and is generally only seen if a cat has had a particularly upsetting separation from its mother at a grossly underdeveloped time.
Probably the most common reason you'll find your cat making little kitty biscuits is that they want to relax and unwind. While this may be more strongly tied to cats that have separated from their mother early, it is fairly universal amongst all cats.
For many, the experience is regarded as something almost "trance-like", where they almost seem lost in the moment.
Cats can do this in virtually any high-stress situation, however, you're most likely going to witness it right before the cat plans on sleeping.
This is because cats understand just how vulnerable the sleeping process is and can, as a result, be very "on-guard" and "wired" right before laying down.
It's something we've all seen with our cats.
As they start to get tired and want to sleep, they can often be seen surveying the area before doing a bit of kneading, ultimately relaxing and heading to sleep town.
This is because the kneading experience, as mentioned earlier, harkens back to their kitten years with their mother.
This creates a sense of comfort and safety even if they're no longer with their mother or have been separated even as kittens.
One of the surest pieces of evidence that your cat is loving the kneading experience is if you hear them purring throughout the process.
Often, if you hear them lightly purring as they knead a blanket or your arm it's because they are legitimately feeling happy and content at that moment. It's why even if I find it a bit silly, I'll often let my seven-year-old knead my arm when he's about to sleep. He's just telling me that he's happy.
Cat kneading isn't just found in domesticated animals. Many have theorized that cat kneading began well into the wild years of the cat, long before domestication, where cats would knead the ground in order to break it down and soften it up.
These theories also argue that these cats would knead right before giving birth.
While this may have ancestral roots, one could imagine that it shares many of the same potential traits as from the earlier points.
I'd imagine that many cats would want that sense of comfort when giving birth, as the experience is probably just as involved for them as it is for us!
It's Marking It (You) As Its Territory
Piggy-backing off of the ancestral argument a bit, another reason your kitty might be kneading and biting your blankets (or you) is that they feel their property is under the threat of another cat. We see this often in homes that house multiple cats.
Generally, the older cat will get more than a bit possessive and begin kneading their favorite blankets and fabrics.
The reason that this is not just a comfort-based thing, but a dominance and ownership-based reason are that cats have scent glands at the base of their paws.
While it's unlikely you'll ever pick up the scent with your nose, any other cat (or animal for that matter) will be pretty keen on what belongs to who.
Cat Showing Trust
People often say that cats aren't as loving or trusting as dogs are. While I can agree that the ways either animal shows affection is different in some ways, anyone that has known a cat for a while knows whether that cat loves them or not.
One of the clearest examples of this love and trust is if your cat kneads on you. It's kind of like them showing their stomach or giving your kitty kisses or trying to groom you.
They're all signs that they not only love you in the abstract, nebulous way of defining love but in a tangible way that family loves and relies on one another.
What is Cat Kneading?
Well, it kind of is the culmination of all the previous points we've talked about. Whether or not they've been separated from their mother, cats feel comfortable when kneading.
If they're willing to do that with or on you, it's showing that they either currently do or want to feel comfortable with you. Both of these things are not done by a cat that is lukewarm or just mildly favorable around a person.
Just as well, cats are also very territorial and possessive.
If you've developed a bond with one cat, they may start kneading you as a way of telling other cats to "BACK OFF!" whenever they walk by.
So long as you don't allow any directly aggressive or unacceptable behavior to start flaring up, a bit of kneading and biting on you or your blanket can be a great bonding experience between you and your little feline friend.
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Why Does My Kitten or Cat Suck On Blankets: Medical Reasons
Cat biting and kneading is generally a harmless and healthy action that virtually every cat does or will do at least once in their life.
It can be a great way to connect with them if done to you as well as a way for them to relax before heading to sleep.
Unfortunately, there are some things you should be aware of when you see your cat kneading. While kneading is never a problem in and of itself, if some of these other factors are involved, you should make sure they head to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Pica in Cats
One of the scarier biting alternatives out there, cats that suddenly find themselves biting and kneading things can develop a health condition known as "Pica".
Pica is an underlying medical issue where cats will find themselves eating and sucking on just about anything they can get their paws on. This can include things like cloth and fabrics, yes, but it can also include things like plastic or synthetic items.
If your cat is suddenly nibbling and sucking on things out of nowhere, you'll want to make sure to inspect the items to see if there are any holes or torn pieces found. If so, you may want to make a quick trip to the vet to see what can be done.
Smaller things and certain fabric materials can pass through relatively ok, however, plastics can easily get lodged in certain places or build up over time, causing a whole host of other problems down the line.
Cat Food Allergies
Biting, kneading and cat suckling are almost always entirely healthy actions. Where things can get dangerous, however, is if your cat has an allergic reaction to certain materials.
As an example, certain blankets may seem indistinguishable from others, however, they can also carry many chemicals that, if exposed, can result in things like body inflammation, irritated skin, or even vomiting and sneezing.
The best thing is to make sure your house has as many hypoallergenic items as possible. This greatly reduces the chance of your kitty suffering from an allergic or chemical reaction.
Cat Dental Issues
One thing you need to pay attention to is if your cat spends more time sucking on things than biting or kneading. In this case, it may be a way to relieve some of the pain in the tooth and gums.
You can also see this in some particularly aggressive biting and chewing.
If your cat is suddenly and aggressively sucking or pulling on a blanket, make a point of checking their gums out for any potential disease or signs of tooth decay.
You can also make a quick trip to the vet if you're not sure what you're looking at or otherwise want an expert opinion.
Read this next: How to Brush Cat's Teeth: A Cat Dental Guide
Why Does My Cat Suck On Blankets: Summary
Cats are, easily by far, one of the most fascinating animals that we humans will ever enjoy spending time with. One of those fascinating things is how they will bite and knead on the things that they love and find comforting.
Kneading and light biting is a perfectly fine and even enjoyable experience for your cat as well as being a great bonding experience with you.
I wouldn't suggest stopping your cat from kneading unless they run the risk of ruining your blankets or fabrics or otherwise actually hurting you.
In most cases, if you've got a cat that does a bit of kneading before bed, understand that she's essentially saying "I really love it here." and that's as close to a ringing endorsement as you'll ever get.
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