by Nomi Berger
Does your kitty suck on blankets – or other “feel good” fabrics — while purring in pure feline bliss?
Have you ever pondered the reasons behind this paw-ticular behavior?
If so, consider these five paws-ibilities and wonder no more.
- (1) Kittens suck on blankets if separated too early from their mothers: In a purr-fect world, kittens should remain with their mothers for at least the first eight weeks of their lives. If, however, they’re orphaned and raised instead by humans, these so-called “bottle baby” kittens are more prone to sucking on blankets than those suckled by and socialized by their natural mothers.
- (2) Some cat breeds are more inclined than others to suck on blankets: Siamese and other Oriental breeds are more likely to “nurse” on all things fabric than other cat breeds. While there doesn’t appear to be a genetic cause for this behavior, it’s a well-known fact that Oriental cats require a longer weaning period than most other cats.
- (3) Sucking on blankets is a form of relaxation: Much like thumb sucking in young children, sucking on blankets provides your cat with a sense of well being, safety and comfort. An especially sensitive kitten may mature into a blanket-sucking cat because this behavior is a replication of and a reminder of how secure she felt when she was surrounded by her mother and littermates.
- (4) Sucking on fabrics such as clothing is a demonstration of trust: If your cat settles herself in your lap and begins “nursing” on your clothes, she’s showing you that she has complete faith in your ability to protect her from harm. Why? Because this behavior demands intense concentration on her part and it would be difficult for her to focus that intently if she didn’t feel completely safe with you.
- (5) Sucking on blankets is a way of coping with extreme stress: There is, unfortunately, a negative answer to explain this behavior. How ironic is it that “nursing” can be indicative of either complete trust or extreme anxiety? When a cat initiates a behavior that reminds her of the safety she felt as a kitten to comfort herself when she occasionally feels stressed, it may be considered sweet or cute. But when anxiety pervades every aspect of her life to the point where she’s continually “suckling” in an attempt to soothe herself, it’s a problem.
What then should you do if your cat is sucking on blankets or other fabrics and you’re worried about it? Start by assessing her surroundings, make a concerted effort to determine the root of her stress, and do everything you can to remedy it. Enrich her environment by adding vertical and horizontal spaces for her to explore – from multi-tiered cat trees to stepped wall ledges. Spend more time with her engaging in interactive play with an expanded assortment of wands and toys to distract her and help her to rebuild her confidence and trust. If all else fails, consult a cat behaviorist or speak to your vet who may prescribe a short course of anti-anxiety medication for her.