6 Reasons Why Cats Knead and Bite Blankets

Cats are sometimes quirky, and you may find them doing the most random things from time to time. One of them is kneading and biting blankets. Have you ever come across your cat kneading and biting your favorite blanket and wondered why? As a result of this odd behavior, you might be displeased to find a spot of saliva when cuddling up to your favorite blanket. However, they seem so content and happy when they do this- so should we not interrupt them? If you want to know why your cat does this, look no further because I have gathered all the main points explaining this quirky behavior.

Why Do Cats Knead And Bite Blankets?

We can’t read a cat’s mind, however we have a good idea as to why cats knead and bite blankets. It can be associated with: a nursing technique from kittenhood, wildcat instincts, claiming the blanket as their territory, relaxation and comfort, a sign of trust, and possibly a health concern.

A Nursing Technique

When your cat was a kitten, it had to bite and suck on its mother’s nipple while kneading the stomach to stimulate the production of milk. Kittens develop a positive association with this because they are receiving food, comfort, and safety. A kitten will search for their mother solely for comfort, and still attempt to nurse and knead on her, even when milk stores are dry!

This positive association may be strong enough that their muscle memory or habit of kneading persists through adulthood when they are feeling content- especially when they are on a soft surface such as blanket, similar to their mother’s fur.

Wild Cat Behavior

6 Reasons Why Cats Knead and Bite Blankets

Another theory suggests that this behavior could be a deeply ingrained instinct from their wild cat ancestors. Many wild cats prepare their sleeping spots by pushing down and kneading foliage. They also perform this action to prepare for birth to make the ground softer and more palatable for their kittens. So if you see your kitty doing this before bedtime, it is possible they are preparing for a comfortable sleeping spot.

Adult male cats especially are more likely to get frisky with the kneading and biting of a blanket because it is associated with not only comfort, but with mating instincts. In the cat world, males tend to gently bite the back of the females neck while mating.

Claiming The Blanket As Their Territory

Cats are very territorial animals. They like to put their scent on their favorite people and things. Have you noticed when a cat rubs up against your leg that they start with a firm push with their face and then kind of wrap their tail around your leg? This is because Cats have scent glands in their cheeks (that they initially push against you), and near the base of their tail (that they place firmly against your leg). They are basically claiming you as their own! But, don’t worry this also means they love you!

When they knead and bite the blanket of their favorite sleeping spot, or the most fuzzy and comfortable blanket in the house, they are actually trying to claim it as their own. This is especially common in multi-cat households where claiming territory as a means to establish their boundaries and preferred spots.

To claim something as their territory, they spread their scent on it. Claiming a blanket is achieved by the action of kneading which causes the scent glands of their paws to be repetitively be pushed down on it. Biting the blanket also helps spread their unique scent via their saliva and cheek scent-glands.

Relaxation and Comfort

This goes back to the action of kneading and biting as a nursing technique associated positively with comfort and safety of their mother.

A lot of cats will self soothe and find comfort by kneading and biting a blanket, especially if it’s your favorite blanket with your scent on it. The scent reminds them of you- their source of protection and happiness (just like their mother)! This behavior is so relaxing for adult cats that they seem to go into a trance (while purring of course), and eventually fall asleep.

This self soothing technique may be seen more often in cats who are bored, or have anxiety. If this is a habit that continues and interrupts other activities, there may be a psychological issue at hand.

It is also seen as a self soothing method in cats that were taking away from their mothers too soon, and as a result weaned too early. This can make them become “blanket nursers”, which may persist into adulthood. Such early weaning is not beneficial for a kitten’s health and they should be bottle fed a formula designed for kittens. Also, if they nurse on random objects they can be at risk for choking.

Sign of Trust

If your kitty is kneading on you, or things that smell like you such as your clothes or your favorite blanket, it is a sign of trust and affection towards you, and a sign that they find comfort in you and your scent! Take it as a compliment!

Health Concerns

It is possible your cat may be trying to self soothe due to a health concern, especially if they seem like they are all of a sudden, or increasingly exhibiting this behavior.

Blanket biting could be attributed to your cat trying to ease pain, swelling, or itchiness caused by tooth decay and/or gum disease. At the same time they could be kneading in order to self soothe. It may not be apparent to you that your cat is in pain, because they are really good at hiding pain and discomfort thanks to an evolutionary survival tactic to prevent appearing vulnerable and sick.

Another medical condition related to biting blankets is called pica. Pica is typically seen in cats that eat unusual things and have a history of gastrointestinal problems. If your cat has pica, you may see them biting (or ingesting) blankets, especially blankets with a courser texture like wool. A cat with pica may chew on or ingest other things such as their litter, paper and plastic. If this sounds like your cat, they should be examined right away, as they may have a condition associated with pica. Conditions associated with pica are: anemia, feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), diabetes, or brain tumors.

Other than physical health concerns, your cats tendency to knead blankets and chew could be due to psychological concerns such as OCD and anxiety. They may be lacking stimulation or feel-good chemicals in their brain which causes them to seek it themselves- kneading and the act of chewing is soothing to them and can be addicting. If you suspect this, you should consult with a vet.

This behavior is definitely a concern if you find your cat having an allergic reaction to the fabric.

Should You Prevent Your Cat From Kneading And Biting?

If you’ve noticed your cat displaying this behavior, its most likely due to a habit they acquired as a kitten, or instinctual in nature. So there is absolutely no worry if your cat is kneading and biting blankets.

However it may be concerning if your grown cat drastically increases this habit to the point it in interferes with their usual activity. It is also a concern if they are actually ingesting blanket material or having an allergic reaction to it- in that case, contact your vetinarian.

If it is beneficial to your cat, here are some tactics to prevent them from kneading and biting your blankets:

  • Use an apple bitter spray on the blanket. Your cat may form a negative association with the behavior.
  • If your cat is having a bad reaction to the material or you simply don’t want your cat to ruin your blanket- use the replacement technique by using a hypoallergenic material with your scent on it, for example an old cotton shirt of yours. If your cat seems distressed with this change, you could introduce it gradually.
  • Relieve your cat’s anxiety- if their kneading and biting is due to anxiety or OCD, try to investigate what might be the cause. Are you not at home as much? Is there a new pet in the house? Whatever it is, try to see if this behavior decreases after spending quality time with your cat by playing and cuddling with them, and giving them cat nip and treats. If it’s another pet that’s bothering them provide them a cat tree or platform.
  • If you do not want your cat biting your blankets, try to provide your cat something else to chew like cat grass or chewing toys.

6 Reasons Why Cats Knead and Bite Blankets Final Thoughts.

So those are the 6 main reasons your cat kneads and bites blankets. It is usually not a concern if your cat does this from time to time, as it’s a normal behavior they developed from nursing and deeply ingrained instincts. Cats also associate this behavior with comfort and do this around the people they trust. Multiple cats in the household may be another explanation to this behavior, as cats are highly territorial and like claiming their favorite items and sleeping spots. Finally, if you find an unusual increase in this behavior from your adult cat, there might be a medical explanation behind it, whether it is to self-sooth anxiety or you find they are actually ingesting the blanket as well as other material.

Do you have a cat that does this? What was your reaction? Feel free to drop your responses and any questions you might have in the comment section below. Also feel free to check out our latest articles.

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