Home Cats Why Do Cats Knead And Bite Blankets?

Why Do Cats Knead And Bite Blankets?

by Lucy

Cats are such fascinating pets and it is true to say that they have many quirky habits that keep us curious and entertained. Most cats exhibit the same type of behaviors which can often leave us feeling confused as to why they do some of the things they do.

One of the behaviors you will see most frequently with cats is kneading and biting blankets and other items. This behavior is quite unique to cats and is often considered an innate behavior that has been inbred into our feline friends.

We often hear questions from owners asking why cats like to knead and bite items such as blankets and therefore we thought it was only right that we delve into this subject a little deeper and get you the answer you need.

So, why do cats knead and bite blankets? Cats knead blankets to mark their territory. It is an innate behavior that most cats will exhibit throughout their life. Cats have scent glands in their paws which will transfer over to blankets whilst kneading so everyone is aware the item belongs to them. Biting blankets is often a comforting tool.

As you can see kneading and biting blankets is not a behavior that you can stop very easily since it is inbred into our feline friends. There are however some distinct differences between kneading and biting blankets that we will discuss further.

Why do cats knead?

Kneading is an innate behavior that cats predominantly do to mark their territory. The art of kneading stems from when your cat was a kitten and was feeding off their mother (more on this later).

Some cats can be territorial and kneading is a behavior that, in their eyes, is vital for survival.

Cats in the wild will often mark their territory by kneading (and peeing) so predators are aware that a certain space has been claimed. Cats will frequently mark a territory line to warn other animals not to cross over onto claimed land.

When we look at domesticated cats they operate in the exact same way as your house and belongings. You may think that the house and everything in it is yours, but you can be sure that your cat thinks very differently.

Your kitty will have likely wiped their scent on everything you own, particularly if you have owned them for a long time.

As far as your cat is concerned everything they have scented belongs to them and they do not take too kindly to others interfering with what is rightly theirs. The good news is, as their loving owner they are likely to be prepared to share everything with you (phew that’s a relief!)

Cats seem to have a particular interest in blankets since they find them comforting and cozy. Most cats love nothing more than to curl up into a warm, soft blanket which often makes them feel secure and safe. When cats find something they love they like to claim that item so everyone around them knows that it belongs to them.

They will regularly knead blankets so they can transfer their scent over which in their eyes lets everyone know that the item belongs to them. What they don’t realize is that as humans we are unable to detect the scent, known as pheromones, and are not aware that in theory, a scent is present.

If you have 2 cats in the house you will likely find that they have each claimed their own items in the house. They may be happy sharing the house in general, but you can be sure that they will not want to share items in the house such as blankets.

They will almost certainly have claimed their own blankets by kneading said item and transferring over their scent. With cats, it is all about boundaries.

You will find that when it is time to wash blankets cats get particularly upset with you. Not only have they temporarily lost their beloved blanket, but their scent will have been washed away during the machine cycle. You can be sure that as soon as kitty gets their favorite blanket back the first thing they will do is knead it.

In addition to blankets, you will also notice there are many other items in the house that your cat chooses to knead and claim for themselves.

Here is a list of some of the most common items that you can see cats kneading:

  • Cat beds
  • Your duvet
  • Carpets
  • Sofas
  • Rugs
  • Towels
  • You! (Yes they sometimes like to claim you too!)

Kneading can also be associated with female cats that are ready to go into heat. It is said that kneading is a way to let male cats know that they are ready to mate.

Increased vocalization, along with a consistent need to go outside are also additional behaviors you will experience when a cat is in heat.

Why do cats bite blankets?

Quite often you will find that when a cat is kneading a blanket they will often be biting the blanket too. This is completely normal behavior for cats and is not something that you should be worried about.

There are 5 main reasons why you may see your cat biting blankets and here we look at some more detail for each one to give you some useful insight into this type of behavior:

1. Innate behavior from kittenhood

One of the key reasons why cats bite blankets is a continuation of kittenhood.

Kittens tend to exhibit a vast amount of biting behavior and this is an instinctive trait that has been inherited from when your cat was a small kitten. Kittens generally feed on their mother up until about 8 weeks old.

They will bite and knead at the mother’s teat in order to gain a supply of milk. This behavior will often continue well into adulthood. You may also find this behavior more prominent with cats that were separated too early from their mothers.

2. Relaxation and nesting

Cats love to relax and create a safe nesting place for both themselves and their young. Blankets are ideal since they are soft and cozy and can help your cat feel much more secure.

Cats love to have a place to call their own and will often bite and suck blankets as a way to create that safe nesting place.

They find biting relaxing in general and for some of the sensitive cats out there it can be a way of them reminiscing about a time when they were a kitten and protected by their mother and littermates which makes them feel much more at ease.

3. Trust

There’s no doubt about it, gaining a cat’s trust can be a long-drawn-out process. They don’t trust humans or other animals very easily and it can take a long time to build that bond and trust with your beloved kitty. Once you have fully gained your cat’s trust there are several ways in which your cat will let you know.

One of those ways is through biting. When a cat is biting a blanket it shows that they feel safe and secure around you. You can be sure they do not reserve this behavior for just anyone.

As well as biting blankets they are likely to come and bite you too which should be considered the highest compliment.

4. Breeding

It is true to say that some breeds are much more prone to biting items such as blankets than other breeds. You will likely notice this behavior much more if you own an oriental cat such as the Siamese.

There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to this, but oriental breeds usually require a much longer weaning period which could be the main cause of such behavior.

5. Coping with stress

When your cat is biting a blanket it doesn’t always mean happy times, unfortunately. When a cat is stressed or suffering from anxiety they can often turn to blankets and biting for comfort.

Cats often feel secure when biting and kneading blankets and this can be the best way they know to handle the stress they are experiencing.

This type of behavior brings them right back to kittenhood at a time when they were feeling safe and secure and can be the only coping mechanism they know.

Why do kittens knead blankets?

You will most commonly find kittens kneading their mothers. At an age when they are still weaning, they will generally knead and bite at the mother’s teat in order to stimulate the production of milk. At such a young age kittens are not able to fend for themselves and rely solely on their mothers for food and protection.

Kneading is pretty comforting for kittens as it is associated so closely with food and safety which all felines crave. You can often find a kitten kneading at a blanket as a comforting behavior.

It reminds them of the warmth and safety of their mother which is why you will often see so many adult cats even in their later years in life exhibiting this behavior.

Up Next: Can Cats Open Doors?

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