Like human babies, kittens often exhibit some behaviours that owners might not be used to, which can cause some surprise! The good news is that most of these are just a normal part of growing up. And are likely to go away at some point. One of the most common things that owners notice is that their kitten has started sucking on fabric such as blankets or soft clothes. Being familiar with this type of behaviour is critical for a solid understanding of your cats’ health, as it can help you understand when they might be struggling with stress, discomfort or pain.
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Why do they suck on blankets?
This type of behaviour happens the most in young animals that were taken away from their mums before they were ready. The drive to suckle is crucial for kittens to thrive. This means they will try to do this in many different places such as fingers, other cats, and anything they can get their mouth on.
Blankets and comfortable clothes are common objects for this type of replacement. This is because cats find them pleasing to interact with, and it reminds them of their mum and siblings. Suckling is frequently accompanied by purring and kneading, which some people like to call ‘making biscuits’.
This behaviour is used as a self-soothing strategy in cats, in the same way, some children suck on their thumbs. When your pet feels distressed or anxious, they start suckling on blankets to help them calm down and feel better.
Will they grow out of it?
Kittens tend to grow out of it as they start eating solid foods and become more comfortable in their home life. However, there is a chance they will keep this habit their whole lives. Particularly when they find themselves in stressful situations.
Should I be concerned?
For the most part, blanket suckling and other similar behaviours are harmless. They do not affect your cat’s health at all. It’s tempting to try and eliminate blanket sucking in your cats. But working to discourage them from it might be unnecessary if it’s not actively harming them.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though, if:
- Your cat or kitten is prone to eating wool or strings from the blankets, they might end up with severe gastrointestinal issues;
- They suddenly start blanket suckling again, it can signify something changed for the worse in their health or home.
If this is the case, this is when you should act, which brings us to our last point…
Blanket sucking can be an important health barometer!
It’s true, blanket sucking and ‘making biscuits’ can be no more than an adorable quirk in your cat. But it can also tell you a lot about how your friendly feline is feeling.
Because this behaviour can happen due to stress or pain, a sudden increase in its frequency can have important underlying causes, such as:
- A new health problem or a flare-up of a chronic condition that increased pain and distress;
- Having to interact with a family member that your cat doesn’t like too much; like a child, another cat or a disruptive pet;
- Loss of essential household spaces; such as a comfortable bed, having to share a litter tray or no way to escape unwanted interactions.
Taking the time to examine these points can shed a lot of light on why there was a sudden change in your cat. Chronic anxiety and stress cause a significant dip in their quality of life, which means these self-soothing strategies can feature as an early warning sign that your pet is suffering.
Each pet has their own needs, and if you find that you can’t seem to get your cat to let go of destructive or dangerous behaviours, your vet can help you find ways to handle this.