You’re sitting with your cat on your lap when it suddenly starts licking and kneading the blanket for some strange reason. While you’re intrigued by this behavior, you also don’t think it’s a good idea for it to continue. Why is your cat nursing on the blanket?
Cats will suck or nurse on blankets if they were taken from their mothers too soon or if they are stressed or anxious. Some breeds are more prone to this behavior, such as the Siamese cat. Adult cats can start this habit later without having done it in the past as kittens.
While this behavior is not harmful unless they ingest some of the blanket fibers, you might want to start discouraging it. Keep reading to find out how you can do that without causing stress to your cat.
Cats Were Taken From Their Mothers Too Soon
Kittens need at least 10-12 weeks with their mothers before they are re-homed. While mother cats will wean their babies from nursing around the six-week mark, kittens still need to be with their mothers another four to six weeks to learn how to “be a cat.” Mother cats teach their kittens how to use the litter box, hunt, and behave themselves.
When kittens are given away to a new home before they reach ten weeks old, they miss out on the safety and security that only a mother can give. Cats will suck on a soft blanket because it reminds them of their mothers and, if they were taken from mama cat too soon, they are seeking out that comfort they would have had from mama.
While kittens do not usually continue this sucking behavior past their youth, some adult cats taken from their mothers too soon might continue this behavior most of their lives.
Cats Feel Safe When Sucking on a Blanket
A blanket is warm and soft like a mother cat, and a cat will suck on it because they feel safe like they did when they were with their mothers. After kneading the blanket, a cat will lay down on it and start licking and sucking the blanket. It will then go to sleep because they are safe and warm.
If your cat is not ingesting any fibers, and you don’t mind if your blanket is full of cat saliva, then there isn’t any harm in letting your cat suck the blanket. That means that it feels safe or needs to feel safe when around you.
A cat that is stressed or feels threatened might also start sucking on a blanket as a way to calm down or maintain some sense of security. You might try making a spot just for your cat with a security blanket or some other soft item that smells like you so they can retreat when needed.
Cats Might Be Suffering From Stress Or Anxiety
Cats that haven’t sucked on blankets before might start this behavior when a change in routine or a new family member comes into the home. For example, if it’s only been you and the cat, and you bring in a human significant other, your cat might get jealous. Your cat might get jealous or stressed and may act out or retreat. When they retreat, they sometimes suck on a blanket to feel better.
Or, you may have moved to a new place, and your cat is picking up on another animal’s scent, which could be stressful for your cat. New changes are sometimes scary to a cat, and to cope, they suck on a blanket. If you have new changes in your life, create a small area in your home where your cat can go to escape and recharge, preferably with a blanket.
Some Breeds Of Cats Are More Prone to Sucking on Blankets
Most domestic short-hair cats do not nurse on blankets if they were not separated from their mothers too early or if there are not too many changes making your cat stressed out. Other breeds of cats are more prone to nurse on blankets, such as the Siamese or other Oriental breeds.
There doesn’t seem to be a genetic reason for this, aside from the fact that they require a longer weaning period from their mothers. If a cat of one of these breeds is separated from mom too soon, they will more than likely suck on blankets.
If you get your cat from a breeder, they should know how long kittens need to be with their mothers and won’t let you adopt a kitten until they are ready. However, some people don’t realize how long the kittens of this breed need to stay with their mothers and adopt out kittens before they are ready. So, they start nursing on a blanket to find the safety and security they are missing out on.
However, most kittens of any breed can be separated from their mothers by the age of 12 weeks.
Cats Might Not Start This Habit Until Adulthood
A cat might not start behaving this way until adulthood, which might have an underlying cause for it. Aside from the stress of new changes or new family members, an adult cat that starts sucking on blankets might have a medical issue. In particular, senior cats might have some dental or gum issues that make them suck on something soft to get relief. A vet can help you determine and treat the cause.
Or, an adult cat who suddenly starts sucking on a blanket might have hyper- or hypothyroidism. However, only your vet can determine this and will work with you to find a treatment for your cat.
Adult cats also start sucking on blankets as a way to relax or as a way to show trust to you. It takes quite a bit of concentration to nurse on something, and if your cat is doing that in front of you, the message is that your cat trusts you to protect it and care for it when in the most vulnerable positions.
Rescue cats are typically distressed and anxious, which means they might start nursing on blankets. If you adopt a rescue cat from a shelter, you will have a long way to show it that it can trust and love you. Providing it with a blanket to nurse on is one to help your new cat relax and let down its defenses.
How To Discourage This Behavior
When cats suck on blankets, they might ingest some blanket fibers or strings, which can be dangerous for your cat’s health. It could lead to gastrointestinal distress or blockage that might cause your cat to become fatally ill. Aside from this risk, this is normal behavior for cats.
However, if you want to discourage your cat from doing this, try the following actions:
- Ensure that your cat’s needs are being met. Are they getting enough food or attention?
- Make sure your cat is on the same routine to avoid stress.
- Distract your cat from this by providing other toys and comfort items.
Cats nursing on blankets is perfectly normal behavior that might or might not go away with time. They find ways to soothe themselves just like humans do, and if it is not harming your belongings or aren’t eating strings or fibers, you may want to let them continue doing it.
If your home is stressful, your cat might start sucking on a blanket in response to the stressful conditions. Once the stress dies down, this behavior might go away on its own.
Cats are curious creatures who do things that humans don’t understand, but that doesn’t mean the behavior is undesirable once you know what normal cat behavior is.
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