If you’re lucky enough to be owned by a cat, you know just how entertaining these furry creatures can be!
Behind their serious feline façade, there’s a world of comedy, laughter, and quirkiness. This quirkiness comes in many forms of expression and to find your cat knead and bite their blanket must be the most unexpected quirk of them all!
But why do cats knead and bite blankets? Kittens knead and bite their mother’s nipples to release milk. While most cats outgrow this behavior, others find it comforting throughout their life. By kneading their blanket cats also claim it as their own, thanks to the scent glands in their paws.
If you want to know more about this eccentric behavior look no further! We’ve gathered all the blanket kneading and biting information in this article.
Let’s get into it!
Before we get into all the whys, it’s important to know exactly what this unusual behavior is. Also referred to as “making bread or biscuits”, kneading is when a kitten or a cat presses their claws into soft surfaces, like blankets, cushions, or clothes and sometimes even our own mortal flesh.
When cats knead, they push in and out with their feet against the surface they might sleep on. They usually use their claws, retracting them as they pull back, one paw at a time. Some cats suck or bite at their blanket while kneading, which is also quite common. While biting could bring comfort to some cats, if your cat is doing more than biting and is actually eating the blanket it could ba a concerning condition called feline pica. Feline pica occurs when cats eat non-food substances and you can read more about that here.
While some cats outgrow the habit of kneading and biting, others carry it with them into adulthood. Some cat parents associate this behavior with a claw sharpening technique, but the reasons behind it are quite different and more complex.
A Nursing Technique
Kneading is a natural behavior in cats, and it begins from the moment the kitten is born. Kittens knead the nipples of their mothers while they’re nursing, and this simple movement stimulates milk production. Kittens could also run to their mother for comfort and they’ll nurse even if the milk bar is dry.
One of the most common reasons for your kitty to adopt this behavior later on in their life is if they were separated from their mothers too early. Some have suggested that kittens that were bottle-fed would also knead as mature cats. According to Dr. Nick Dodman, Director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, “they may begin sucking on themselves, their littermates, or certain wooly materials, especially wool itself.”
Along with kneading, there are some cats that might also suck or bite at their blanket. This behavior isn’t uncommon, and it could also be a leftover from kittenhood. Biting and sucking at any soft and warm item might simply be a comforting habit that brings them back to their mother.
Wild Cat Behavior
Some theories suggest that this behavior could be traced back to a time before the domestication of cats. According to these theories, the wild cats would knead and pat down the foliage to make the ground softer for sleeping or giving birth. So, your kitty might instinctively be doing what his ancestors did when it was time to sleep.
Claiming The Blanket As Their Territory
Another common reason why your furball might be kneading and biting their blanket is territory. Not only do cats sweat from the soft pads at the bottom of their paws, but they also have scent glands there. As they knead the blanket, they release a scent onto the surface, claiming it as their own.
This behavior is also quite common in multi-cat households, where cats have to establish their rule over some part of the house or item. You’ve probably noticed that most cats have their preferred sleeping spots, whether it’s your own bed or a fuzzy blanket. The kneading technique is the most common way of keeping other cats away from it and making it always available to them.
Relaxation And Comfort
“Kittens knead on their mothers while nursing,” says Rachel Barrack, a veterinarian of Animal Acupuncture and adds, “many cats carry this behavior into adulthood and may knead their owners, other furry siblings or bedding.” According to Barrack kneading can soothe cats and they could even enter a “trance-like state.” This means that there might be some drooling!
Since cats can feel quite vulnerable when going to sleep, it only makes sense that they would use kneading and biting to create a sense of safety that their mothers were responsible for.
Biting and kneading something fuzzy and warm, releases their nursing instinct. So, it’s also not uncommon to find your kitty purr while it kneads. This is a strong sign that your cat is content and happy. At times it truly makes me wonder if I should also copy this de-stressing behavior from my cats, even if I look awfully ridiculous!
A Sign Of Trust
Whether your loving furball is kneading you, while sitting on your lap or your clothes and blankets, it’s a clear sign of trust and affection towards you. “If you do have a cat who kneads their bedding, or better yet you, it’s because they’re feeling very loved and comfortable,” as suggested by Katie Armour a project coordinator at MSPCA Boston Adoption Center.
Just look at this multi-tasking ginger cat. He kneads, he bites and he purrs!
If your feline companion dabbles in the art of kneading and biting, there’s a great chance that this behavior will be stuck with him throughout his life. This habit isn’t something you should be worried about unless there you’ve noticed other unusual symptoms of bad health.
Does Your Cat Has Pica?
Cats that have never shown signs of biting blankets or other fabrics, might be using this behavior as an attempt to self-soothe. If you’ve been away from home for longer, or if your interaction with your cat has changed perhaps your cat is feeling anxious or bored. Even though cats try to act cool, they love routine. Small changes might make your kitty feel neglected or like like their world is falling apart.
If you find your cat biting and sucking on materials that are unhealthy especially plastic, or synthetic fabrics, it might be a sign of an underlying medical problem called pica. According to Arnold Plotnick, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the ACVIM, cats with unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms and a history of eating unusual objects should be examined right away.
Next time you find your cat biting their blanket make sure they’re not in fact eating it. With fluffy and fuzzy blankets, it could easily go unnoticed. I remember finding one of my cats biting and sucking on my leather purse, unfortunately, or thankfully, I discovered the missing pieces in the litterbox the next day but I still went to get the all-clear from my veterinarian.
Another common reason your cat could be sucking and biting on their blanket is dental pain. Some cats use this technique to relieve themselves from this pain, by pulling the blanket aggressively or even chewing on it. “They could be trying to relieve themselves of pain or discomfort, or they’re calling to you, trying to bring your attention to problems like these,” states Katenna Jones, a Rhode Island-based certified cat behavior consultant.
If this is the case then make sure to check your kitty for signs of gum disease or tooth decay. A visit to the vet should be the best way to eliminate this concern.
While kneading and biting could be a perfectly normal habit, there are other factors that could make it quite dangerous for your kitty. The danger lays in the blanket itself. It’s very important that your cat’s blanket is made of safe materials, preferably hypoallergenic. Chemicals used in cheap materials could lead to sneezing, swollen paws or irritated skin, and even vomiting. If you’re not sure how safe is your cat’s blanket, check out this super-comfy cat-friendly blanket on Amazon.
Don’t forget to keep your cat’s blanket clean. A good wash once a week should keep it free of unnecessary bacteria.
If you’ve noticed your kitten displaying such behavior, there might be a great chance that this habit will follow him into his adulthood. Of course, there’s no reason to worry if your grown cat kneads and bites their blanket unless they begin to ingest the fabric.
In case your cat is showing suspicious symptoms like consuming the items they knead and bite, then the negative association technique might be right for you. Scent plays an important role in a cat’s life and there are actually specially designed products that discourage chewing, licking, and biting. One of the most popular is Bitter Apple spray which is commonly used in veterinary medicine to prevent cats and dogs from chewing their bandages. But you could use it on other materials too and you can see the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
If your cat has an allergic reaction to their favorite blanket, make sure to replace it with a hypoallergenic one. By doing so there’s a possibility that your cat might find the loss of their blanket stressful. In that case, try to replace the blanket with another item of clothing. Perhaps an old shirt or a woolen jumper with your sent on it could work better. The replacing process should be gradual, and you might have to go back and forth until your cat accepts the imposter-blanket.
Stopping the kneading
If your cat doesn’t consume fluffy blankets and fuzzy covers, but for some reason, you’d like them to stop this behavior, be prepared. This is a difficult habit to break since it goes back to your cat’s kittenhood, but it could be worth the try.
When your kitty begins to knead and bite, gently push it down to a lying position. This is a signal, by disrupting their kneading routine you’re telling your cat that it’s time to go to bed. Remember to do so with a calm tone and a gentle touch.
You could distract your cat with a toy or some catnip. Pulling your cat’s paw away and saying “no”, might also work, and eventually, your cat will unlearn this behavior. Kneading and biting is a natural instinctive behavior and it’s important to remember that. So, no matter how hard you try your cat may never abandon it.
As mentioned before, kneading and biting blankets could be rooted in your cat’s anxiety. If this is the situation with your cat, you should do everything you can to make your feline companion feel more relaxed and happier in his environment.
Perhaps you should spend more quality time with your feline companion, by playing and cuddling together. Spoil them with their favorite treats. If you’re the parent of more than one cat, then perhaps one of your kitties is being bullied by his feline roommate. If the balance between your cats in your household is disrupted, it might be time you’ve bought a new cat tree! If nothing seems to work perhaps it’s time you and your kitty visited your local vet, to eliminate any health reasons behind the anxiety.
I’ve often found my cats enjoying their naps on my cozy woolen sweaters and I’ve wondered, why do they like them so much? I suppose the same reason we wear them in the first place. Wool is soft and warm and something about this material probably reminds them of their mothers.
Unless you and your cat are the minority of creatures allergic to lanolin, wool is considered hypoallergenic. Wool is resistant to dust mites and it creates fewer dust particles. This makes it a great material for cats to sleep safely on.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for the cats that suffer from pica. These kitties could get into the habit of consuming the wool while they bite it to comfort themselves. With wool, there could also be the danger of your cat choking on it. So, it’s important to make sure that your cat’s love for wool isn’t all about its taste.
As a proud cat parent, I find it fascinating living with my two cat-mates. I’m blessed with the opportunity of discovering the many ways our fur-babies show their love for us.
Cats can express their affection and trust as they knead our lap leaving love claw-marks and love bites or they do all their kneading and biting to the special blanket we’ve given them.
Either way, they look like tiny bakers kneading their dough of love.