Why Do Cats Knead and Bite Blankets? Common Cat Behavior Explained: 7 Possible Reasons
Why do cats knead? Cats knead for many reasons, but the most popular belief is that they are mimicking behavior they did as kittens. Young kittens knead at their mother’s teats to get the milk to flow.
Kneading may be a behavior that’s a throwback to their kittenhood. Kittens knead their mother to stimulate milk flow. If your cat is kneading a blanket, perhaps he’s just trying to get comfortable. This article will answer the question, ‘why do cats knead and bite blankets.’ We’ve researched the most likely reasons and have also found out what animal behaviourists and science has to say about the subject.
Why do cats knead and bite blankets?
Kneading is a funny habit that all domesticated cats seem to do from time to time. The behavior consists of gently pushing their front paws on something, usually on a cushion, blanket, or their owner. It is also sometimes referred to as making biscuits or kneading bread.
There are several theories about cats kneading, including stress release, territory marking, or showing affection to their owners.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
1. Milk stimulation
This is the most popular theory about why cats knead. Kittens learn to knead their mothers’ teats to stimulate milk flow. It’s thought that adult cats may continue this behavior because it makes them feel content and relaxed. Perhaps your cat remembers his mother and the comforts of nursing when kneading.
While nursing their kittens, a mother cat will also knead. It’s though that this creates movement which stops the kittens from falling asleep while feeding. When the mother cat kneads, she also feels content, releasing a hormone called oxytocin into the bloodstream. This helps trigger lactation so that the cat will have enough milk for her kittens.
2. Stress release
Some people believe that cats knead because it’s a stress release. This may be because when cats knead, they often purr, which is a sign of contentment. It could also be that the repetitive motion of kneading is calming for cats. Young kittens will also knead when their mother isn’t present. This behavior is most likely due to the fact that they are feeling anxious and want to self-soothe.
3. Territory marking
Another theory is that cats knead to mark their territory. By leaving their scent on objects, cats feel more secure and confident. Cats have scent glands in their paws and mark their territory by walking around or by kneading. Scent marking helps cats limit confrontations and keep other cats away from their spaces. Cats will often mark their beds by kneading.
4. Showing affection
Some people believe cats knead as a sign of affection towards their owners. Cats often show their love by grooming, sitting close, purring, and kneading. They may continue this behavior from kittenhood because they never fully grow out of doing it. If you’ve ever experienced your cat kneading on your lap, clothes, or other objects, it’s likely that they are showing their affection or marking you as their territory.
5. Helps with digestion
Stretching and pawing may also help to improve a cat’s digestion. There are theories that kneading helps other parts of the digestive system to get moving and break down food further.
6. Originates from wild behaviour
Wild cats will knead and walk around in a circle to flatten the grass before laying down. Domesticated cats often knead at their bed to get in a comfortable position to take a catnap.
7. May be a sign of hunger
When young kittens are hungry, they start to mew and knead. The mother takes these movements as a trigger to feed her kittens. Once a kitten leaves its mother, he will learn to meow at his owners to ask for food. Some cats never grow out of the habit of kneading and will also knead or claw at their owners lap due to hunger.
Why do cats knead and bite blankets?
Now you know why cats may knead blankets and other soft surfaces, but this doesn’t explain the second part of the question – why do they bite them?
There are a few reasons that cats may bite blankets. One theory is that they are trying to extract the scent of their owners from the fabric. They create a stronger bond with their owner and feel more secure in their territory by doing this.
Another reason could be that cats are simply playing with the blanket. If you watch your cats knead on something, they are likely batting, throwing, or scratching at the item in question.
Your cat may be making himself comfortable and attempting to rearrange his bedding by kneading and biting. Some kittens will also suck on the edge of a blanket while kneading either because its comforting and is what they used to do with their mothers teat, or because they are hungry.
Why do cats knead and bite blankets?: WARNING
If your cat often bites at blankets or cushions while kneading you’ll need to ensure that he isn’t ingesting any of the fabric. Biting isn’t a problem and is something that most young cats will grow out of as they mature. However chewing on material can cause dental problems and internal issues. Try distracting your cat every time you see him chewing or biting, in time he will give up this bahaviour. You should also seek help from your vet or an animal behaviourist if you are at all worried about your pet.
Is it possible to stop your cat kneading?
Kneading is a natural behavior that means your cat is happy and content. You shouldn’t attempt to stop your cat from kneading or displaying any other normal behavior. If your cat is regularly kneading at your lap with his claws out, you may want to discourage the behavior by moving your cat off your lap. However this may damage the bond you share.
It’s best to put a thick blanket on your lap and let your cat carry on. Kneading means that your cat is happy and that you have a secure bond. It’s likely that the happier your cat is, the more he will knead.
Now you know a little bit more about why cats knead and bite blankets. In most cases, kneading isn’t a problem, but if you’re having trouble understanding your cat’s behavior, consider talking to your vet or an animal behaviorist for more advice.