Why Does My Cat Lick the Carpet? Top Reasons & What to Do

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Grooming Behavior

Grooming Behavior

One of the most common reasons cats may lick carpets or other fabrics is simply as an extension of their normal self-grooming rituals. Cats spend much of their days cleaning and stimulating their fur growth by licking their coats. The texture of carpets and certain fabrics can appeal to this innate grooming instinct. The act of licking these surfaces may mimic their frequent self-licking and become a habit over time. This type of carpet licking is generally harmless.

Stress Relief

For some cats, excessive licking or sucking on fabrics like carpets, blankets or clothing can also produce a self-soothing, calming effect. Similar to infant thumb sucking, the repetitive motion of licking fabric may release endorphins in the cat’s brain that relieve anxiety, fear or stress. If the cat associates licking with this endorphin release, it can become a compulsive soothing behavior whenever the cat is feeling unrest. Identifying and reducing environmental stressors can curb the carpet licking habit.

Digestive Issues

Cats who exhibit sudden increased licking of carpets or other objects may also be experiencing nausea, acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, or other stomach issues. Licking fabrics or carpets can sometimes induce vomiting in cats with gastrointestinal discomfort or nausea. The act of vomiting provides temporary relief from nausea. In mild cases, changing to a bland diet or anti-nausea medication from the vet can help.

Nutritional Deficiencies

In some cases, compulsive licking of non-food objects like carpets and fabrics can signal a nutritional deficiency in cats. Cats lacking certain nutrients like folic acid, niacin, vitamin B or minerals may exhibit pica, which is the ingestion of non-food items. A vet can run blood tests to identify any deficiencies and provide vitamin supplements to help correct the imbalance causing the cravings.

Wool-Sucking

A specific condition called wool-sucking occurs when cats compulsively lick or suck on wool clothing and carpets. The cat may pull out threads with their teeth. This is thought to derive from weaning kittens too early from their mother’s milk. The sucking motion may be a residual comfort habit. Providing alternative materials to lick and suck may curb this behavior.

When to See the Vet

While occasional carpet licking may be harmless, consult your vet if the behavior becomes excessive or is accompanied by other symptoms like appetite changes, weight loss, lethargy or vomiting. The vet can examine the cat for any underlying medical issues like digestive, dental or neurological problems that could be causing the compulsion. Blood work and treatment can provide solutions to curb excessive licking.

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