Cats are famous for doing all sorts of puzzling things, like rolling in the dirt, headbutting, and licking blankets.
As confusing as some of their feline antics are to humans, most of them have a reason. And for some, we may never understand why our feline friend does what they do.
But, when it comes to cats licking blankets, it’s often a sign of comfort and trust. However, it can also be your cat’s way to self-soothe, indicating they’re stressed about something.
In extreme cases, it could signal an obsessive behavior or an eating disorder called Pica, especially if they lick or eat other non-edibles.
Your first step to helping your cat is identifying why they lick blankets. If it’s just on occasion, it’s likely nothing to be concerned about; many cats lick blankets from time to time.
But, knowing the potential reasons for your feline friend’s blanket licking is the best place to start.
Four Reasons Cats Lick Blankets
Cats might lick blankets occasionally or all the time; they might have a favorite blanket they lick or several. For some cats, it’s all about a specific texture, while others aren’t as picky.
If your cat is licking blankets, see if one of these four primary reasons could be why.
Cats Lick Blankets Because They Like It
Licking blankets is comforting to some cats. Certain studies show that cats taken from their mothers too early tend to lick and suckle on blankets.
Perhaps, the texture and feel of the blanket resemble their mother and littermates.
For other cats, the act of licking a blanket might just feel good. If your cat only does it every now and then, it’s likely nothing to get worked up about.
You could equate it to eating junk food; it feels good and isn’t a big deal if done in moderation.
Your Cat’s Blanket Licking Could Signal Trust
If your cat licks blankets because it reminds them of their kitten years, they become vulnerable when they do it. They sort of lose themselves in the moment.
So, if they’re licking blankets near you or while on you, this is a big sign of trust.
This isn’t so much a reason why they lick as much as a positive sign. It means your cat feels comfortable with you.
But again, make sure the licking is only happening now and then. If you can’t get your cat to stop licking, this could mean the behavior has more negative connotations.
Cats Can Lick Blankets To Self-Soothe
One way cats try to diffuse a stressful situation and calm themselves is by licking. The act of licking releases endorphins which help your cat calm down. Dogs do something similar.
Your cat might lick you, the furniture, or blankets in an effort to self-soothe. If your cat only does this now and then, it’s likely nothing to worry about.
They probably found a situation stressful, licked the blanket to calm down, and all is well.
But, if the blanket licking is constant, or your cat is licking other things too, it’s worth further investigation.
This could be a sign that your cat is highly stressed, which can severely affect their quality of life.
Does Your Cat Have Pica?
Another possibility is that your cat has Pica, an eating disorder where they consume non-edible objects. Fabric is a particular favorite, so pay attention to your cat’s blanket licking.
Are they also shredding and tearing pieces out and swallowing any?
Is your cat licking and trying to eat other items? Pica seems to present in certain breeds more than others, like Siamese and Burmese, but any cat can have it.
Pica is a critical behavioral disorder that needs to be addressed immediately. After all, if your cat prefers fabric over eating pepperoni, something is likely amiss.
Plus, it can cause intestinal blockages, which can have deadly consequences. You might also notice your cat has diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, or disinterest in their food.
Cats can end up with Pica from malnutrition, compulsive behavior, genetic predisposition, or plain boredom. Talking with your vet is the only way to come to an accurate diagnosis.
In some cases, Pica behavior can signal an underlying health condition, including hyperthyroidism, lead poisoning, or cancer. This is another reason why bringing your cat to the vet is so vital.
When Should You Worry About Your Cat Licking Blankets?
Most of the time, you won’t need to worry too much about your cat licking blankets. However, take note if your cat is also licking other items, licking constantly, and you can’t get them to stop.
Also, if your cat is exhibiting other worrisome signs or symptoms, all of these are reasons to schedule a vet visit.
In either case, you will want to work with your cat on keeping the blanket licking under control. In extreme cases of licking, it’s important to discourage and redirect your cat’s licking behavior.
Tips For Stopping Your Cat’s Blanket Licking
Here are a few ways you can try to discourage your cat’s constant licking behavior.
- Don’t engage in negative behavior or yell at your cat.
- Remove the blanket and replace it with something healthier to lick, such as a lick mat. You can spread tasty treats on these mats to encourage your cat to lick without ingesting non-edible items.
- Provide other opportunities for engaging activities, like interactive toys. However, make sure these toys aren’t made of fabric. Remember, you want to get your cat away from licking and eating blankets.
- Keep tasty treats on hand to praise and reward your cat for desired behaviors.
- Make time every day to play with your cat and show them undivided attention.
- If your cat is willing to walk on a leash, taking your cat for walks is a great option. It can help relieve your cat’s stress and provide opportunities for exercise.
- Place various catnip plants throughout the house to attract your cat away from blankets and fabric.
- Cats have an instinctive nature to hunt. Take their food and divide it into several small bowls and place them throughout the house. This way, your feline friend needs to hunt for their food.
Products That Can Help Deter Cat Licking
Several products on the market can help deter your cat from licking. Certain sprays leave a bad taste in your cat’s mouth, literally, and will discourage them from licking things.
You can spray them on the blanket or any other items.
If stress is the reason for your cat’s constant licking, you might want to try some calming sprays or diffusers, like Feliway.
They mimic the calming pheromone that cats have and might help ease your cat’s stress.
Of course, if stress is to blame, try to pinpoint the source of the stress. Perhaps stray cats are coming into your yard, or it’s another pet in the home.
You can install motion-sensor sprinklers or other devices to deter stray cats from entering your yard.
If it’s another household pet, you might need to take some time to acquaint your two furry friends appropriately.
If your cat continues to lick constantly after making these changes, or you suspect Pica, your cat might need anti-anxiety medications.
You need to talk with your vet about any medications your cat may need to take. Never give human meds to your pet; it can have lethal consequences.
Can licking blankets give my cat hairballs?
Hairballs form when your cat’s excessive grooming causes them to sallow copious amounts of hair. Usually, hairballs will pass into the litter box, but occasionally a cat will cough one up.
In extreme cases, a hairball can cause a blockage.
Technically, licking blankets doesn’t cause hairballs since hairballs are, well, hair. But it’s reasonable to think that fibers could mix in with hair and create larger clumps depending on the blanket texture.
Why does my cat lick me?
Cats lick their owners for all sorts of reasons, including to show affection, stake their claim, or even clean you.
If your cat recognizes you as part of their group, they’ll groom you and lick to show their acceptance and trust.
Your cat could also be bored or lonely, or perhaps you’ve got some tasty food bits on you. Your cat’s remarkable sense of smell can zero in on the smallest of scents.
Your skin also likely has salt on it from your sweat.
What if my cat is excessively licking itself?
Cats are natural-born groomers, and they’ll spend a good chunk of the day on self-care. But that doesn’t mean your cat should be obsessively licking itself all day long.
If your cat’s usual licking seems to escalate or get more intense, pay attention. Your cat could have parasites, like fleas or ticks, or dry skin, or some type of infection.
Your cat could also be bored or dealing with a compulsive disorder, suffering from allergies, or in some sort of pain.
Therefore, any time your cat shows a change in behavior, such as increased licking, call your vet. Your vet can help narrow down the likely causes to prescribe the best course of treatment for your feline friend.
Stacy is a lifelong animal lover who truly believes life just isn’t complete without pets. She’s had pets her whole life (including three dogs and a cat living under the same roof, somewhat harmoniously). She currently resides in NOLA with her husband, son, and two pups, Scooby “Dooby” Doo and Zoey. Stacy always makes a point to learn everything she can about her fur babies, and she has been writing about the pet-parent life for over two years.
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