Cats have their own somewhat weird behaviors and they do act in several seemingly unique ways.

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When you do see your cat knead and bite a blanket, you may think that something is wrong.

Even if there is a rhythm to their pawing of a soft surface like a blanket, they may begin to bite, drool and even chew.

White Cat Kneading On Green Blanket

However, there are several reasons why this might be happening and it does not need to be a concern.

In this guide, we will look at what kneading is, why cats do it, and the five reasons why cats knead and bite blankets.

We will also look at how to stop your cat from kneading and biting you, as well as whether you should be worried about the behavior.

The Kneading: Why Cats Do It?

The reasons why cats knead and even bite soft surfaces can seem instinctive but also simply because a cat wants to.

Those explanations behind cats kneading such surfaces are quite common and should not cause any stress.

They are quite natural to cats and some go hand in hand with their specific natural instincts why it may be difficult to resist.

You may imagine the kneading is primarily to sharpen a cat’s claws but it can be more varied than that.

The Five Reasons Why Cats Knead Soft Surfaces Like Blankets And Sweaters

The specific reasons for why cats knead soft surfaces are to play, make their bed, and as a nursing behavior, territorial behavior, as well as being indicators of trust.

To Play

The first common reason is simply that cats view the act of kneading as something enjoyable and a version of play.

Kneading and then biting a blanket may look quite similar to another typical feline behavior which is when they use their hunting instincts.

This may be an object such as a favorite plaything that may be on the blanket, or simply the blanket itself, that can be grabbed with their forelimbs and then bitten.

If you do not want them to be biting your blanket or sweater then ensure that they are actively stimulated during their waking hours with lots of cat toys.

Making Their Bed

The kneading may even be a way for a cat to get in touch with their ancestors.

A theory goes that the first generations that became domestic cats would use kneading to make their bed or create a birthing site by softening those long grasses of the African Savannah that they called home.

By making their bed, they could be thinking of going to sleep, which would explain why so many cats get sleepy while they knead.

However, if the cat continues to knead in a single place it could be that the behavior is play rather than bed-making.

Nursing Behavior

Just as babies take on milk from their mothers, kittens depend on their mothers for their early nutrition.

This happens mainly during the first weeks of life as the kittens exist simply on their mother’s milk.

To obtain this milk, the kittens will knead and then bite at the nipples of their mother to stimulate the production of milk.

This nursing behavior is not taught but is instinct, just as the suckling action is too.

Just as you might grab the fur at the back of a cat’s neck to remind them of being carried as kittens, the kneading reminds cats of their youth.

As such, the kneading and biting that once stimulated milk production from their mother can be replicated in later life as a soothing and relaxing action.

While they may not require milk as they once did, the behavior brings back thoughts of safety, warmth, and comfort.

If you see your cat drool while they knead and bite at a blanket then it could well be that their salivary glands are still anticipating their mother’s milk.

This kneading and biting can be common amongst both male and female cats and seems to be a welcome reminder of their youth.

As the kneading and biting helps a cat release their nursing behavior, you may hear the sound of purring to indicate that your cat is happy and content.

Territorial Behavior

As soon as your cat finds a soft surface that they enjoy kneading and biting, they will want to have it all to themselves.

Once the cat has begun to claim it as its own territory, they will release their scent onto the soft surface.

This is because cats can sweat from the soft pads found at the very bottom of their paws.

If you have a single cat in your home, you may not see this behavior so much or at all.

Because it is territorial, a cat may not see the need to claim a soft surface as their own as they already lay claim to it constantly.

However, in a multi-cat household, you may see one cat seemingly pick a soft surface like a blanket and continue to knead and bite it.

With more sweat, they can steer other cats away to claim the surface as their own, and use it as a preferred sleeping spot.

Indications Of Trust

A cat kneading on a soft surface that happens to be on your lap should be a good sign of trust.

This is largely due to the same behavior being exhibited when kittens will knead on their mothers during the nursing phase.

This same behavior is carried on into adulthood which means they may knead you instead as their owner.

The kneading may occur closer to their bedtime because if they trust you as their owner, it can be quite soothing to knead a soft surface.

There may be some drooling which is an even better sign as cats tend to feel vulnerable just before they fall asleep.

If they felt that they trusted their mothers to keep them safe then the same kneading should indicate that they trust you to keep them safe too.

While the cat may certainly be enjoying the feel of the soft surface on your lap, you should enjoy this as a sign of affection.

Certainly, this behavior should show you that they feel exceedingly comfortable and loved.

Feel free to give them a stroke while they are kneading.

The kneading may actually be a comforting act that the cat uses as anxiety relief.

If your cat seems particularly distressed then try to pet them gently while they are kneading.

Perhaps see this as a time to show your cat some appreciation so spoil them with a few treats.

The kneading may even be a sign that the cat is being bullied and trusts you to look after them, while they are enjoying the kneading.

The Kneading: What It Is?

Cats do look to enjoy kneading a soft surface like a blanket or even your favorite sweater.

It does look to be therapeutic as their paws make a rhythmic motion and cats will alternate the kneading from one paw to the other.

Your cat may even bite at the soft surface while it kneads, while there are cats that will drool and purr.

The ‘therapy’ can sometimes work too well as the cats seem to enter a drowsy state.

Soon enough, they may fall asleep on the blanket and you may want to let them rest on your sweater.

The kneading, and the rhythmic motion that goes with it, does seem to have a name known as ‘making bread or biscuits’.

This is because the kneading looks like how a baker would rhythmically knead some dough to create bread or biscuits.

How To Stop Cats From Kneading And Biting You?

Ragdoll Cat Kneading On Pink Blanket

The blanket or sweater that you may be wearing can be a preferred soft surface for your cat to knead and bite.

With their claws and teeth, this can be a painful experience that you may want to stop.

You can reduce the impact by layering a thicker blanket on top to shelter your body from the sharp parts of your cat.

At the same time as they are kneading and biting, you can stroke them to take your cat to their happy place.

Distract Your Cat

If you want to stop your cat from kneading and biting you then let their attention be distracted.

While you may seem soft enough to a cat, a nice thick blanket that even smells like you can be a welcome alternative.

The smell is important and pheromone sprays would help attract a cat to whatever you put it on.

Of course, there are other ways to distract and dissuade your cat from kneading and biting your favorite sweater.

If there is a preferred cat toy of theirs then use it to good effect and see if their attention is broken away from the kneading.

Scent is important so tempt them away with some catnip or treats but try not to make this a regular habit.

Negative Association Scents

Indeed, a smell is important to a cat so if you have a particularly valuable blanket or sweater you can dissuade your cat from kneading it.

Try a spray that veterinarians use to discourage a cat from biting, licking, and chewing their bandages.

As soon as they get the smell, they should stay away and find something else to knead.

Don’t React Too Strongly

Try not to shout and scream when your cat accidentally plunges their claws into your flesh.

Any sudden behavior or noise is likely to stress them out so simply pick them up and gently move onto another soft surface.

Here they can continue their kneading and biting without causing you discomfort.

Cats also learn fast so once they have been safely removed you can reward their movement with cat toys or treats.

Stopping the kneading can be a very difficult task as it is a behavior they have learned since being a kitten.

You could try replacing their favorite soft surface with an old shirt but this can be a slow and gradual process.

While this can take time, you should try gently pushing your kitten or cat down to a lying position as they knead.

Such disruption can indicate that it is time for them to stop kneading and go to bed though this should be done gently.

The Kneading: Should You Be Worried About It?

If your cat is simply kneading and biting soft surfaces then that behavior on its own should not be something to worry about.

As long as your cat seems content doing it then it is a sign that it feels loved and is with an owner it can trust.

The kneading is also a natural, instinctive behavior and one it should find enjoyable.

However, if there seems to be an underlying reason for why the cat is performing this behavior then you may start to get worried.

One of those underlying reasons could be because your cat is suffering from an illness, this could be pica which we will cover below.

This is especially worrying if your cat has recently started to develop signs of kneading as they could be using it to soothe themselves.

The requirement for soothing may be because their owner has been away and they have been missed.

Perhaps the cat feels neglected as they have not been getting the attention they believe they deserve.

It Could Be Pica

Pica can be one of those underlying medical problems which may result in a cat sucking and biting on various materials.

These could be synthetic fabrics or plastic materials which would prove to be particularly unhealthy.

If your cat has some unexplained and strange gastrointestinal symptoms and typically bites and sucks on unusual options then this should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

It may appear that your cat is biting a soft surface yet if it looks like they are, in fact, eating it then this can soon be a problem.

The biting and chewing could be a technique that the cat uses to ease its pain as a self soothing mechanism.

Such behavior could also be an indication that the cat is trying to bring your attention to their discomfort.

Allergies

While the kneading and biting may not seem to be a problem in itself, the blanket could pose an issue.

Check that the blanket is made from hypoallergenic and safe materials before the cat claims it as its own.

Cheaply made blankets can use chemicals that could lead your cat to begin sneezing and develop irritated skin with swollen paws.

If they start vomiting after biting or chewing the blanket this is a surefire sign that the blanket needs to be cleaned or replaced.

Problems With Your Cat’s Oral Health

The biting and chewing of a blanket or soft surface could also be an indication of dental pain and poor oral health.

Should the cat be aggressively chewing on a blanket then this could be sweet relief from the pain they are experiencing from their teeth.

Again, the chewing can be seen as the cat attempting to bring your attention to the pain they are suffering.

If you are worrying about how often, and how aggressively, your cat is chewing on a blanket then get it checked out.

A veterinarian should be able to check for tooth decay and gum disease which is causing the discomfort.

Final Thoughts

One simple overriding reason why cats knead and bite blankets is simply because they enjoy doing it.

Sure, it may be a natural instinctive behavior yet cats do seem to enjoy the soft and warm feel of wool underneath their paws.

Wool is also known to be hypoallergenic and is a material that resists dust mites so cats should be able to safely sleep on it.

However, if a cat is choosing a soft surface to chew on then it could be an indication of pica so this should be checked with a veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions

If My Cat Begins To Knead And Bite My Favorite Sweater Should I Spray It With A Water Bottle?

Once your cat begins to knead and bite your favorite sweater, it can become annoying and you may want to dissuade it.

However, spraying a cat with water from a squirt bottle is not the way to do it.

The spraying would be seen as a cruel punishment to what is simply a natural instinctive behavior.

An alternative solution is finding something else for the cat to knead and bite, perhaps a soft blanket and then encourage the choice by fussing it.

Why Is My Cat Kneading And Then Biting Me?

If your male cat is aggressively kneading while sat on your lap then this behavior typically needs to be left alone.

Your cat may seem to be overly exciting while they are doing the kneading and in this heightened state you may experience some biting and scratching.

It is best to leave them to enjoy their kneading, even if it does seem a little painful.

Linda
Linda

Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS is a locum veterinary surgeon who has worked in London for the past 8 years. She graduated top of her class in small animal medicine from UCD, Dublin. She is currently a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Linda is the resident vet for Woman magazine and a frequent contributor to People’s Friend Magazine, the Dogzone website, Vet Help Direct and Wag! Linda also writes content for the CVS veterinary group, Vetwriter and a number of other establishments.

As well as working in clinic, Linda is an online vet for www. JustAnswer.com where she has been providing online advice for thousands of owners since 2018.

In her spare time, Linda enjoys baking, yoga and running around after her young son!

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