Why Does My Cat Keep Licking Fabric?

If you’ve noticed your cat licking or chewing on fabrics around your home, you’re not alone. Many cat owners have experienced this peculiar feline behavior. But why exactly do cats lick and chew on fabrics?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Cats lick and chew fabric due to instincts, curiosity, boredom, attention seeking, dental issues, or anxiety.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the top reasons behind this behavior, when you should be concerned, and how to curb excessive fabric chewing and licking in cats.

Instinctual Behavior

One of the reasons why your cat keeps licking fabric is due to its instinctual behavior. Cats have natural instincts that drive their behavior, and licking fabric is one of them.

Remnant Hunting Behavior

Cats are natural hunters, and even though they may have all the food they need, their hunting instincts are still present. Licking fabric can be a way for them to simulate hunting and capture prey. The texture and scent of the fabric can trigger their predatory instincts, making them believe they are hunting for small animals or insects.

This behavior is especially common in indoor cats who may not have the opportunity to hunt in their environment. Licking fabric provides them with a substitute for their natural hunting behavior.


Another reason why cats lick fabric is because of their instinctual need for grooming. Cats are known for their self-grooming habits, and licking fabric can be a way for them to clean themselves.

Cats have tiny hooks on their tongues called papillae, which help them remove dirt, debris, and loose fur from their coats. When they lick fabric, these hooks can catch onto the fibers and help them groom themselves.

It’s important to note that excessive fabric licking can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health issue, such as allergies or anxiety. If you notice that your cat is excessively licking fabric or displaying other abnormal behaviors, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions.

For more information on cat behavior and instincts, you can visit www.catbehaviorassociates.com, a reputable website dedicated to understanding and managing cat behavior.

Curiosity and Boredom

One possible reason why your cat keeps licking fabric is due to curiosity and boredom. Cats are naturally curious creatures and are always looking for ways to engage their senses. Licking fabric can provide a different texture and taste for them to explore.

It’s like their way of investigating and interacting with their environment.

Cats also have a tendency to become bored easily, especially if they don’t have enough stimulation or activities to keep them occupied. When they are bored, they may resort to repetitive behaviors like licking fabric as a way to entertain themselves.

It’s important to provide your cat with plenty of toys, scratching posts, and interactive playtime to prevent boredom.

Additionally, cats may find comfort in licking fabric. The act of licking can release endorphins, which provide a sense of relaxation and pleasure. So, if your cat has a favorite blanket or piece of fabric that they like to lick, it could be their way of self-soothing or finding comfort.

If you notice that your cat’s fabric licking behavior is excessive or causing damage to your belongings, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. They can help rule out any underlying medical conditions or provide guidance on how to redirect your cat’s behavior.

Attention Seeking

One possible reason why your cat keeps licking fabric is because they are seeking attention. Cats are known to be independent creatures, but they still crave social interaction and affection from their owners.

When they lick fabric, it can be a way for them to get your attention and initiate playtime or cuddle sessions.

By licking fabric, your cat may be hoping that you will notice them and engage with them. They may even bring their favorite fabric to you as a way of inviting you to interact with them. So, next time your cat starts licking fabric, try giving them some attention and see if their behavior changes.

It’s important to note that excessive fabric licking could also be a sign of separation anxiety or boredom. If your cat is spending long periods of time alone or without stimulation, they may resort to licking fabric as a way to cope.

Providing them with plenty of toys, scratching posts, and interactive playtime can help alleviate these issues.

If you’re unsure whether your cat’s fabric licking is attention-seeking behavior or something else, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. They can assess your cat’s overall health and behavior to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate guidance.

Dental Issues

Cats are known for their meticulous grooming habits, but when they start licking fabric excessively, it may be a sign of underlying dental issues. Just like humans, cats can experience tooth pain and dental problems that can cause discomfort and lead to unusual behaviors.

Tooth Pain

One possible reason why your cat is licking fabric could be tooth pain. Dental issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, or even a cracked tooth can cause discomfort or pain when your cat eats or chews on hard objects.

As a result, your cat may seek relief by licking soft fabric, as it provides a soothing sensation for their sore gums or teeth.

If you suspect that tooth pain is the cause, it is essential to have your cat’s dental health evaluated by a veterinarian. They can perform a thorough examination, including dental x-rays, to identify any underlying issues and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as dental cleaning, extractions, or pain management.

Excessive Tartar Buildup

Another potential reason for your cat’s fabric licking behavior is excessive tartar buildup on their teeth. Tartar is a hard, yellowish substance that forms when plaque hardens on the teeth. If left untreated, tartar buildup can lead to gum disease and other dental problems, causing discomfort for your cat.

To prevent tartar buildup, it is essential to establish a regular dental care routine for your cat. This may include brushing their teeth with a cat-specific toothbrush and toothpaste, offering dental treats or toys designed to promote oral health, or using water additives that help reduce plaque and tartar formation.

Additionally, providing your cat with a balanced diet and avoiding overly processed foods can also contribute to their dental health. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best dental care routine and dietary plan for your furry friend.

It’s important to address any dental issues promptly as they can impact your cat’s overall health and well-being. Regular dental check-ups and proper oral hygiene can help prevent dental problems and ensure your cat maintains a healthy and pain-free mouth.

Anxiety and Stress

One possible reason why your cat keeps licking fabric could be due to anxiety and stress. Cats, just like humans, can experience feelings of anxiety and stress, and they may engage in certain behaviors as a way to cope with these emotions.

Licking fabric is one such behavior that some cats may exhibit when they are feeling anxious or stressed.

Causes of Anxiety and Stress in Cats

There are several potential causes of anxiety and stress in cats. Changes in their environment, such as moving to a new home or the addition of a new pet or family member, can trigger these feelings. Other factors, such as loud noises, unfamiliar smells, or disruptions in their routine, can also contribute to their anxiety levels.

Additionally, cats are creatures of habit, and any disruption or change in their routine can lead to stress. This can include changes in feeding schedules, litter box location, or even a change in the type of litter used.

Cats are highly sensitive to their surroundings, and even seemingly minor changes can have a big impact on their emotional well-being.

How Licking Fabric Helps with Anxiety and Stress

Licking fabric can provide a sense of comfort and security for cats experiencing anxiety or stress. The repetitive motion and texture of the fabric can have a soothing effect on their nervous system, similar to how humans might engage in activities like knitting or squeezing stress balls to help alleviate stress.

When a cat licks fabric, it releases endorphins in their brain, which are natural chemicals that promote feelings of pleasure and relaxation. This behavior can serve as a self-soothing mechanism for cats, helping them to calm down and feel more at ease.

What You Can Do to Help

If you notice that your cat is frequently licking fabric and you suspect it may be due to anxiety or stress, there are several steps you can take to help alleviate their discomfort:

  • Provide a Safe and Comfortable Environment: Ensure that your cat has a quiet and secure space where they can retreat to when they feel overwhelmed. This can be a designated room or even a cozy cat bed tucked away in a corner.
  • Maintain a Consistent Routine: Cats thrive on routine, so try to keep their daily schedule as consistent as possible. This includes feeding times, play sessions, and litter box cleaning.
  • Introduce Environmental Enrichment: Provide your cat with plenty of toys, scratching posts, and interactive play to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. This can help redirect their energy and reduce stress.
  • Consider Using Calming Techniques: There are various calming techniques and products available for cats, such as pheromone diffusers or calming sprays. These can help create a more relaxing environment for your cat.

If your cat’s fabric licking behavior persists or worsens despite your efforts to reduce their anxiety, it’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian. They can help determine if there are any underlying medical or behavioral issues contributing to their behavior and recommend appropriate treatment options.


ASPCA,Cornell Feline Health Center

When to Be Concerned

If your cat keeps licking fabric, it may be a normal behavior or a sign of a more serious issue. Here are some situations when you should be concerned:

Excessive Chewing

If your cat not only licks but also chews on fabric excessively, it could indicate a dental problem. Dental issues such as gum disease or tooth decay can cause discomfort, leading your cat to seek relief by chewing on soft materials like fabric.

If you notice this behavior, it’s important to take your cat to the veterinarian for a dental check-up.

Swallowing Fabric

Another reason to be concerned is if your cat is swallowing the fabric they lick. Swallowing fabric can be dangerous as it can lead to gastrointestinal blockages. If you notice your cat swallowing fabric or if they start vomiting or having difficulty passing stool, it’s crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention.

A veterinarian will be able to perform tests and determine the best course of action to prevent any potential complications.

Other Behavior Changes

If your cat’s fabric licking behavior is accompanied by other changes in their behavior, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or weight loss, it could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any health issues and get appropriate treatment if necessary.

Remember, while occasional fabric licking may not be a cause for concern, persistent and excessive fabric licking should be taken seriously. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your furry friend’s health.

How to Stop Fabric Chewing

If you find your cat constantly licking fabric and chewing on household items like curtains, blankets, or clothing, there are a few steps you can take to help stop this behavior. Here are some tips to address the issue and redirect your feline friend’s attention.

1. Provide Appropriate Outlets

Cats have natural instincts to groom and chew, so it’s important to provide them with appropriate outlets for these behaviors. Make sure to offer your cat plenty of interactive toys, scratching posts, and puzzle feeders to keep them mentally stimulated and physically engaged.

This can help divert their attention away from fabric chewing.

Additionally, consider adding some cat grass or catnip to their environment. These natural plants can be very enticing for cats and may provide a more appealing alternative to chewing on fabrics.

2. Address Underlying Causes

Fabric chewing can sometimes be a sign of underlying health issues or anxiety. If you notice that your cat’s fabric chewing is excessive or accompanied by other concerning behaviors, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions.

In some cases, fabric chewing can be a result of stress or boredom. Take a look at your cat’s environment and daily routine. Are they getting enough mental and physical stimulation? Consider incorporating playtime, interactive toys, and environmental enrichment to help alleviate any underlying stress or boredom that may be contributing to the fabric chewing.

3. Use Deterrents

If your cat continues to chew on fabric despite your efforts, you can try using deterrents to discourage this behavior. There are various commercial sprays available that have a bitter taste, which can be applied to fabrics to make them less appealing to your cat.

Another effective deterrent is double-sided tape. Cats generally do not enjoy the sticky sensation, so placing strips of double-sided tape on the areas your cat tends to chew can discourage them from engaging in this behavior.

Remember, it’s important to provide positive reinforcement when your cat avoids chewing on fabric. Praise and reward them with treats or playtime when they choose appropriate outlets for their chewing and grooming instincts.

By providing appropriate outlets, addressing underlying causes, and using deterrents when necessary, you can help redirect your cat’s attention away from fabric chewing and promote healthier behaviors.


In summary, cats lick and chew fabric for a variety of reasons rooted in instinct, curiosity, boredom, attention seeking, dental woes, and anxiety. While occasional fabric licking is usually harmless, excessive chewing may indicate an underlying issue to address.

With patience and by providing more appropriate chewing outlets, you can curb this behavior in your cat.

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