Why Do Cats Suck on Blankets? Usually, It's Harmless, But Here's How to Make Sure
When a sweet kitty is 'making biscuits' on a blanket—or on us!—it prompts all the feels. We perceive this particular cat behavior as a sign of contentment and relaxation, similar to when they used to knead on their mama's belly while nursing. But why do cats suck on blankets?
4 Possible Reasons Why Cats Suck on Blankets
Leslie Sinn, CPDT-KA, DVM, DACVB, is a certified veterinary behaviorist, owner of Behavior Solutions, and a member of the Daily Paws Advisory Board. She says companion animal experts really don't know why cats suck on blankets. This behavior is sometimes called "wool sucking" and it's not a common trait in most cats. But there are some theories.
"Our assumption is that it's an oral behavior left over from kittenhood and has some sort of a self-soothing function," Sinn tells Daily Paws. "But we don't know for sure."
She adds that there's some information which indicates this behavior may be more common in orphan kittens and/or kittens who have had rough starts. "The thought is that deprivation of some sort has caused this infantile-like behavior to be retained," Sinn says.
If your cat is kneading and sucking on a blanket, this might be their way of calming themselves. Cornell Feline Health Center states some cat breeds, such as Siamese, Burmese, and possibly Birman, are more prone to do it than others, "which suggests a genetic predisposition comparable to obsessive-compulsive disorders in humans." This behavior might also be a coping mechanism for cats with separation anxiety.
3. Gastrointestinal Distress
"Sucking, chewing, and/or eating non-food items may be a sign of gastrointestinal distress such as food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, obstruction, or other problems," Sinn says. She recommends asking your kitty's veterinary team for a thorough evaluation to check for any underlying medical issues, along with a general assessment to make sure his nutritional and health needs are being met.
It's not that your cat is sucking on a blanket deliberately to get your attention. But sometimes our mysterious cats have different ways of communicating, such as meowing at night or following us around. If your cat sucks on things such as blankets, wool, and even your clothing, he might be asking for something.
"Many of our cats are kept indoors and have little to occupy their time," Sinn says. "Pet parents should make sure that their emotional needs are being met through exercise and fun interactions." Cornell recommends enrichment cat toys, food forage bowls, and multi-level cat condos that provide mental stimulation.
Also make sure you and kitty have plenty of engaging playtime together. Sinn suggests reviewing tips from Ohio State University's Indoor Pet Initiative for new ideas.
To understand more about why your cat sucks on blankets, it might help to keep a record of when you notice the behavior most often. Is kitty doing it at night or when you leave for work? Does it happen before or after mealtime? Does he snuggle up for a little knead and suckle session when you're watching TV? Monitor him for a couple of weeks so you and your vet can determine if there's anything to worry about or if this behavior is simply part of your cat's personality.
Can Cats Get Sick from Sucking on Blankets Often?
Not really, unless there's a more serious issue. "Where problems arise is if the cat starts to chew on and/or ingest the item, then it can lead to GI upset and/or obstruction," Sinn says.
Ingesting fabric or other non-food items, a condition known as pica, is another health concern. Studies indicate that cats who develop pica could be a symptom of an underlying condition such as leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus. All the more reason to talk with your vet if your cat is sucking on a blanket, tearing it up, and eating it.
What to Do If Your Cat Won't Stop Sucking on Blankets, Clothes, and Other Things
If a professional exam clears your kitty of any medical issues, Sinn says you probably don't have to worry about this behavior—just consider some of the other possible reasons why and address them accordingly. She also recommends reading the book Decoding Your Cat from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.