Why does my cat suck and knead their blanket?

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Does your cat or kitten often suckle and knead a blanket? Have you wondered why they perform such behaviour? Here's why...

Suckling is a common and, generally, non-harmful behaviour that occurs in all breeds and ages of cats but is most frequently observed in kittenhood. When kittens are first born, they are dependent on their mother for their nutrition. When suckling their mother’s teats, kittens tread with alternate front paws at her body to stimulate the flow of milk.

The instinct to suckle and knead is very powerful in young kittens, and they may try to suckle anything soft and warm, especially if it resembles a mother cat. If a kitten is very relaxed and comfortable, kneading behaviour usually occurs, which is often followed by suckling behaviour. Both behaviours are normal and appear to be very relaxing to the cat, whether milk is present or not.

Typically, many cats eventually outgrow this behaviour, but some do continue into adulthood, with a cat suckling on objects like a blanket, an item of clothing (often wool or a similar texture), or even a furry, cuddly toy. Although this behaviour is an instinctual response, which is calming and soothing to the cat, it can be dangerous if the cat begins to ingest the fabric, which could lead to intestinal problems.

If this is the case, it is vital to keep blankets, jumpers, and other items of clothing out of reach, and to provide the cat access to something that satisfies their suckling urge but won’t harm them. Introducing lots of environmental enrichment and mental stimulation should provide a distraction. Try diverting the cat’s attention onto something more appropriate, such as an intense play session that includes a variety of acceptable objects that the cat can safely capture.