Cats often exhibit quirky behaviors that baffle their humans. These include licking or biting blankets and kneading or what many people fondly refer to as making biscuits.
But what does it mean when you see a cat biting blanket while kneading? When a cat sucks or bites a blanket while kneading it, it means that your pet is mimicking the time he was suckling at the teat of his mom. For him, this behavior is an attempt to feel relaxed and comfortable.
Kneading and biting a blanket
Cats often exhibit this behavior separately. Some cats lick or bite blankets while others knead fabrics or their humans. When a cat kneads you or a piece of fabric, it means that he is laying claim to you or the object. Cats have sweat glands on their paws. Apart from helping cats cool down during the warmer seasons, these sweat glands also release a unique scent felines use to mark territory.
If you have just one cat in your household, kneading a blanket can be seen as a sign that your cat is happy, content, and relaxed. This is why this behavior is often accompanied by a happy purring sound.
On the other hand, if you have other cats in your household, kneading can be a sign that it is claiming its stake on a favorite object, like a blanket. The scent produced while kneading is used to warn other feline members of the household to stay away from that object. This way, your cat will not have any trouble getting access to his favorite object when he wants to.
You might also see your cat perform this behavior on other objects as well, like a window or a favorite sleeping spot.
When you see your cat kneading and suckling at the same time, it means that your cat wants to get back to the time when he was a kitten feeding from his mother. For cats, this combination of two behaviors means that your cat is trying to relax.
Typically, this behavior is seen in oriental breeds like the Siamese and Tonkinese. One theory suggests that this behavior is common in these breeds because purity is important in them. The premium put on breed purity also means that this behavior can be handed down from one generation to another.
You can also see this behavior in cats that have been separated early from their mothers and littermates. Kittens should only be separated from their mother upon reaching 12 to 14 weeks old. Separating kittens from their mother at an earlier time can lead to health and social problems.
Many cats taper off from this habit, going back to it from time to time.
Should you worry about your cat kneading and biting a blanket?
In general, this seemingly odd behavior is harmless. In most instances, your pet is probably just relaxing or remembering his younger days. In isolation, you should not worry much about this feline behavior.
However, there are situations when this behavior is a sign of behavioral issues. For example, if your cat spends most of his waking moments doing this behavior while neglecting other activities, it may be a sign that your cat is dealing with a psychological problem.
It is also possible that your cat is displaying this behavior to cope with boredom. That means that your pet is not stimulated physically and mentally. To solve this issue, you should carve out time to play with your pet.
Finally, your cat may be suckling and kneading on a blanket to relieve himself from the dental pain that he is experiencing. Cats are known to be masters of hiding pain they are dealing with.
Apart from these underlying psychological and physical red flags, you should also keep a close eye on your cat while he is displaying this behavior.
If he is biting and kneading an old blanket, there is a risk that he can swallow string. Undetected, this can lead to the blockage of your cat’s digestive tract.
Furthermore, some cats are allergic to certain types of fabrics. If you do not mind your cat sucking and kneading on a blanket, give him another one that is made out of a cat-friendly fabric. Fabric allergy can manifest itself in the form of the following symptoms:
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy ears, skin, and tail
- Swelling of paws
- Coughing and sneezing
Stopping your cat from biting and kneading a blanket
Most of the time, this behavior is benign and should cause you no worry. It is also possible for your cat to outgrow biting and kneading on his favorite blanket. And as long as the behavior does not cause serious harm to him or your garments, you can just let your pet be.
If you wish to stop your cat from doing this, be aware that your cat may be traumatized, especially if you do it abruptly.
You can try weaning him from biting and kneading a blanket by offering something different, preferably one with your scent. Rummage through your closet and you might find an old piece of clothing you no longer need which you can give to your feline.
For a more drastic approach, you can use a repellent spray on his favorite blanket. You can make your own spray using cat repellents like citrus, citronella, lavender, lemongrass, or peppermint, the smell of which cats hate. Alternatively, you can rinse his favorite blanket in a fabric softener with one of the scents mentioned earlier.
As long as your cat does not exhibit physiological and psychological issues, there is no need to worry about him biting a blanket while kneading it. More often, this behavior is a sign that your cat is seeking comfort.
But this does not mean that you should let your guard down and just ignore your pet. Keep a watchful eye on him and look for red flags that can indicate a larger problem at hand.
Image: istockphoto.com / Robert Wei