Cats bite blankets because they are creatures of comfort. When they bite and knead on a blanket, they are showing that they are relaxed and appreciative of their current situation. A happy and content kitty often cannot resist biting and kneading a blanket that has been warmed up by their favorite person.
If your cat likes to bite blankets and you want to know more about this behavior, keep on reading.
What is cat biting and kneading?
Before we dive into why cats bite and knead, let us discuss what this behavior is.Kneading is also called “making bread/biscuits.” It is when a cat presses their claws into a soft surface, such as cushions, clothes, blankets, or even people. Cats usually do this to a specific spot they want to lie down on. They do this with their claws, one paw at a time, retracting their claws as they pull back.
Some cats will bite or suck on the blanket while kneading because it brings them comfort. But be warned that some cats that bite blankets may have a condition called feline pica, where a cat will eat non-food substances.
Why do cats bite blankets?
Often a cat will simply outgrow this behavior, but there are those that will do this well into maturity. Here are some of the reasons why your cat bites and kneads blankets.
1. Wild cat behavior
Some scientists say that this behavior is one retained from domestic cats’ wild ancestors. In some theories, they state that these wild cats knead and pat down foliage to make it more comfortable to sleep on to give birth. Your kitty may also just be trying to make its sleeping spot more comfortable.
2. Cat nursing technique
Biting and sucking on a blanket or any soft material might just be a comforting habit that even older cats retain from being kittens to remind them of their mother. Along with kneading, these could be behaviors a cat learns to adopt when they are separated from their mothers a little too early.
There are studies that show that bottle-fed kittens have a higher tendency to knead as adults. Bottle-fed kittens were also observed to suckle on their siblings, any wooly material, or even themselves.
3. Marking the blanket as territory
Your cat may be biting and kneading the blanket because they are claiming the blanket as their own territory. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks as well as on the bottoms of their feet. When they nuzzle, bite, and knead on a blanket, they are attempting to transfer their scent onto the blanket.
This motivation for biting and kneading is especially common in households with multiple cats, where the need to establish dominance is a part of the cats’ daily routines.
Biting and kneading on a warm blanket is a cat putting its nursing instincts on display. Some cats can even enter a trance-like state while kneading where they start to drool.
This habit helps calm cats down and prepares them for rest or sleep that is safe within the confines of your room.
5. Showing trust
When your cat purrs while kneading and biting the warm blanket next to you, they are showing you that they feel loved. They trust you and are appreciative of the comfortable life you provide for them.
Should I be concerned when my cat bites blankets?
If you notice the biting and kneading behavior in your cat, it is possible that it will continue throughout its life. This behavior is not something that should be of great concern, unless you observe symptoms that may indicate some of the following health issues.
Cats that have never exhibited biting behaviors that suddenly start doing so may be doing this to self-soothe. If you have been away from home, not spending as much time with your cat, or if there has been a drastic change in your cat’s routine, these factors can make a cat feel anxious or bored. This is because cats love routine, and these changes may make them feel neglected or ignored.
If you see your cat biting and sucking on things that are not food, such as plastic or synthetic fabrics, they might have feline pica. If your cat has sudden unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms and a history of eating non-food objects, take it to the vet immediately.
Dental pain can also be a reason why your cat is biting blankets. They do this to relieve themselves of the pain or discomfort. If you feel like this is the case, take your cat to the vet.
Make sure that the blanket your cat is biting and kneading is made out of hypoallergenic material. Chemicals used in some materials may be dangerous to your cat and may trigger allergies that will cause your cat to sneeze, get swollen and irritated skin, or even vomit. Also make sure to keep the blanket clean by washing it once a week.
Should I stop my cat from biting blankets?
When you remember your cat biting and kneading as a kitten, it should be no surprise to see them do it even as adults. There is no reason to worry about the behavior unless the cat is actually eating and ingesting the fabric. But here are a few techniques you can try to keep your cat from biting and kneading your blankets:
1. Negative association
As long as you are sure that your cat does not have pica and really only just likes to bite and knead, you can use specially designed sprays to discourage licking, biting, and chewing.
2. Replacement technique
If you need to replace your cat’s blanket for whatever reason, it may cause stress for your cat. Gradually introduce the new blanket along with an old item of clothing of yours. This is so your scent will transfer to the new blanket while your cat also transfers its scent to the new blanket. Eventually, your cat will come to love the new blanket as much as the old one.
3. Make the kneading stop
If your cat does not have pica, but you just want to stop the kneading behavior for whatever reason, be patient because it will take some time to break a habit that the cat has had since it was a kitten.
When you see your cat start to bite and knead on the blanket, gently push it down and with a gentle tone, encourage it to go to sleep.
Another way is to distract the cat with catnip or with toys.
Grabbing their paw while they are kneading and saying “no” can also work, and eventually your cat will unlearn this behavior.
But if your cat never unlearns it, no matter how hard you try, they just might be the kind of cat that will never abandon it.
4. Anxiety relief
Biting and kneading can be a cat’s way to relieve its anxiety, so finding ways to relieve its anxiety can keep them from turning to kneading and biting. You can do this by providing a relaxing and happy environment for the cat 24/7. Spend quality time everyday with your cat by cuddling and playing with it. Once in a while, spoil it with treats.
If you have multiple cats, and one is bullying the other, give the bullied cat some time away from the other cat where it can relax and sleep in peace.
Cats bite and knead on blankets because they still have retained behavior from their wild cat ancestors, they are trying to soothe themselves from anxiety or make a sleeping spot more comfortable, they are marking the blanket as territory, or simply showing you that they feel safe and trust you completely.
Make sure the biting blanket behavior is not feline pica by consulting with a veterinarian.
If you want to stop your cat from biting and kneading blankets, you can use a bitter spray, replace the blanket with an old piece of clothing you no longer use, train the cat to unlearn the behavior, and find and correct the stressors that make your cat anxious so they no longer have to bite and knead to calm themselves down.
Image: istockphoto.com / kozorog