From kittenhood to adulthood, cats can be hilarious goofballs.
While their playful and quirky nature makes them wonderful and entertaining companions, for observant pet owners, it can also add a shroud of uncertainty over whether a specific behavior is just a cat thing or an underlying health or behavioral concern.
For instance, you may wonder why does my kitten suck on blankets?
In the vast majority of cases, a kitten nursing on a blanket is a completely normal habit. However, there are some instances—especially in older felines—where it could indicate a deeper issue.
But before you decide whether to dissuade your cat or just let them be, let’s review the more common reasons for kittens nursing on blankets.
Why Is My Kitten Nursing On a Blanket? Is It a Problem?
Practically every breed of cat will exhibit nursing or suckling behaviors, especially early on in life.
They may find a blanket, an article of clothing, or even a finger and then go to town, sucking contentedly. And that behavior may also be accompanied by exuberant purring and kneading.
Generally speaking, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a cat suckling on household items. In most instances, the only thing you should be alarmed about is the potential ravaging (and soaking) of a prized sweater, blanket, or bedsheet. And that statement is especially true if you’re dealing with a suckling kitten.
Having said that, there are some cases where this behavior should be cause for alarm, particularly for mature felines.
Below are the five most common reasons for a kitten sucking on a blanket.
#1 Natural Instinct
Nursing is a natural instinct that doesn’t need to be taught—it’s an innate survival mechanism developed in their pre-domestication days that’s still going strong.
Like a human baby, kittens pop out of the womb hungry and on the prowl for a teat to suckle. If one’s not readily available, they’ll search for a replacement, such as a:
- Clothing item
- Fuzzy toy
While this evolutionary purpose is to ensure that they quench their first, over time, it also bonds them to their mother. Both babies and kittens comfort-nurse for safety, warmth, and sleep.
Put simply, it’s a self-soothing mechanism, like toddlers sucking their thumb.
And that natural drive can stay with them even as they mature. Though, with time, the reliance on suckling random objects should subside.
#2 The Kitten Was Weaned Too Early
Along these lines, one of the most common reasons a kitten may exhibit habitual suckling is that they were, unfortunately, prematurely separated from their mother.
Most experts recommend that a kitten shouldn’t begin weaning until three to four weeks old. And that process will usually take several weeks before the kitten is comfortable drinking from a bowl.
Furthermore, kittens shouldn’t be separated until they’re ready. Typically, the earliest a kitten should be separated from the queen (mother cat) is at 8 weeks. But even this can be too early.1
If a kitten is orphaned, taken from its mom too soon, or bottle-fed from birth, it could cause psychological and behavioral scars that stay with the cat into adulthood. In response, a kitten kneading and sucking a blanket may be its subconscious way of reminding itself of its mother and litter.
Such a behavior is largely instinctual, but it could develop into a habit that lasts into adulthood.
#3 The Cat Feels Safe
Cats tend to be skittish creatures—often on edge. They’re easily spooked, which is why the term “scaredy cat” (originally “fraidy cat”) was popularized in the first place.2
While overly fearful behavior is often caused by negative associations drawn early in life, even cats that grew up in the most perfect of circumstances will commonly exhibit timidity. Being constantly on high alert is a survival mechanism, after all.
So, if your furry friend is willing to curl up in your lap and suckle on a blanket, that could be its way of showing that it’s comfortable enough around you to let down its guard. Instead of needing to pay close attention to its surroundings, it trusts you to keep it safe while it focuses on faux nursing.
If that’s the case, take your cat’s love and trust as a compliment. And maybe consider giving it an extra hardy scratch (so long as they’re into that sort of thing).
#4 A Common Behavior in Certain Breeds
Certain Oriental and Oriental-mixed breeds are genetically predisposed toward suckling—hence the nickname “wool-suckers.” It’s a compulsive behavior, especially common in:3
- Oriental shorthair
- Oriental longhair
While the exact reasons aren’t clear for this evolutionary trait, the most popular theory is that Oriental breeds tend to have longer weaning periods than their European or North American cousins. As a result, they’re often separated from their mother too early, which likely results in an uptick in suckling behavior.
#5 Feline Stress
The final reason, and the only one that could be cause for alarm, would be if an adult cat suddenly developed a blanket-sucking habit. When stressed, cats are known to manifest obsessive-compulsive tendencies. So, blanket suckling could be a coping mechanism that your cat adopts to deal with stress.
In such cases, this likely indicates a deeper-seeded issue—be it environmental or health-related—that requires your attention.
What Could Cause Feline Anxiety and Nervousness?
A stressed cat will often appear overly- or chronically- stressed for no apparent reason. Your kitten may be biting and attacking you, but if you scratch beneath the surface, there are likely very real issues that the cat is experiencing.
Common causes of habitual feline anxiety may include:
- Separation from their owner
- Moving to a new setting
- Lack of proper socialization
- A traumatic history of abuse or neglect
- Physical pain
- Stressors like loud noises or fast-moving objects
- Triggering activities, such as baths or car trips
- New pets or people in the home
What Are the Signs of Feline Stress?
If your cat is feeling stressed, it will probably let you know by manifesting atypical behaviors. For instance, common signs of stressed cats can include:4
- Hiding more than usual
- Not tolerating people
- Reluctance to use the litter box
- Defecating or urinating on the floor
- Dietary changes
- Excessive meowing
- Vomitting and diarrhea
- Scratching furniture
- Suckling on blankets
- Grooming changes
- Bad breath
- Hunched posture
These signs can be subtle, your cat may be throwing up but otherwise seems fine. So, as a pet owner, you need to stay alert and pay attention to any behavioral changes they display.
How to Calm Your Cat
If your cat is suddenly sucking on blankets and exhibiting the other signs discussed in the previous section, consider taking the following actions:
- Visit your vet – Before you do anything else, your first action should be to take your cat on a trip to your trusted veterinarian. There, the medical expert can perform a full health evaluation to determine whether there are health issues causing your cat’s stress. Depending on the exam, they may prescribe medicines or recommend therapeutic activities.
- Remove irritating scents and sounds – Cats are incredibly sensitive to certain smells and sounds. Since their senses are so sharp, subtle environmental triggers that you don’t even notice could contribute to their stress levels. So, where you can, avoid or remove overwhelming sensory inputs.
- Establish healthy routines – According to Mikel Delgado, founder of Feline Minds Cat Behavior Consulting:5 “Cats thrive off routine, enrichment and exercise…Play is an important part of relieving stress. It helps cats release those feel-good hormones.” Therefore, be sure to provide your furry friend with plenty of physical and mental stimulation on a routine basis.
- Be considerate with handling – Some cats love physical affection, whereas others hate to be constrained in the slightest. Each cat responds differently to human forms of affection. So, you need to determine and then respect your cat’s boundaries, especially when they’re minding their own business.
Try CBD For Cats
In some cases, despite your best efforts to create a calm, stress-free environment for your cat, your furry feline companion may still suffer from generalized stress and fear.
In that case, CBD for cats could be just the thing to ease their nerves and calm their stress. By adding legal, hemp-based CBD oil to your pet’s food, you can help your cat relax and find comfort.
But is CBD safe for cats and kittens?
So far, all research indicates that pet-specific CBD appears to be safe, well-tolerated, and effective.6
Before you purchase, just be sure to check the label to confirm that the hemp is legal—meaning it’s made from hemp and contains less than .3% THC—and explicitly formulated for pet use.
Calm Your Suckling Cat with Canna-Pet®
In kittens and some mature cats, suckling can be a completely normal behavioral habit. But if this arises out of the blue and you’re left wondering why is my kitten sucking on my blanket, it could point to underlying stress or health issues.
Does your cat display signs of stress?
Then CBD oil is a safe and easy way to support your cat’s health, well-being, and vitality. And by shopping from a trustworthy CBD brand like Canna-Pet®, you can ensure that your cat receives CBD hemp oil that’s safe, natural, and veterinarian-recommended.
With just a single dose of CBD each day, you can help ease your cat’s nerves and improve its quality of life.
- Cats.org. An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Caring for Your Kittens After They Are Born. https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/pregnancy-and-kitten-care/kittencare
- Online Etymology Dictionary. Fraidy Cat. https://www.etymonline.com/word/fraidy-cat
- VCA Hospital. Cat Behavior Problems – Chewing and Sucking. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/cat-behavior-problems—chewing-and-sucking#:~:text=Sucking%20on%20wool%20or%20other,life%20(see%20Compulsive%20Disorders).
- Cats.org. Cat Stress. https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/health/cat-stress
- Humane Society. Reducing Stress for Cats. https://www.humanesociety.org/news/keeping-cats-stress-free
- Animals. Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics and Preliminary Safety Assessment with Use of CBD-Rich Hemp Nutraceutical in Healthy Dogs and Cats. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100832