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Why Do Cats Suckle? 5 Reasons For This Behavior

Nicole Cosgrove

Have you ever wondered why cats suckle, even after they’ve grown out of their kitten phase? Maybe you have a cat that suckles on his favorite blanket, or perhaps he even suckles you! Is this normal behavior, and should you do something about it?

In this guide, we’ll explain where the instinct of suckling comes from, the possible reasons for this behavior, and what you may need to do if it seems your cat has a related issue. divider-cat

Why Do Cats Suckle?

First, what is suckling, anyway? Suckling is when a kitten nurses from its mother before weaning (removing the mother’s milk) and is a natural instinct. It’s not unusual for a cat to suck on something like a piece of fabric or even your finger after the weaning process.

Why Does My Full-Grown Cat Suckle?

It may seem odd for your adult cat to suckle because they’ve passed the kitten stage. If your adult cat still suckles, there is usually no cause for alarm. However, let’s dig into the possible causes of this behavior to determine if intervening is necessary.

1. Comfort

Suckling can be a sign that your cat or kitten is comfortable in their environment. It shows contentment and relaxation. If purring accompanies the behavior, your cat is happy.


2. Instinctive Behavior

All animals have natural tendencies, and suckling is one of them. Some kittens grow out of suckling as they age, but sometimes suckling lingers on into adulthood, which is no cause for worry unless it’s creating a health issue for your cat.


3. Stress

Stress can be the reason cats suckle, especially in adults. Stress can also cause behavioral problems and unwanted behaviors, such as scratching the furniture or relieving itself somewhere besides the litter box. Let’s examine stressors that may trigger unwanted behavior.

  • Boredom – Your cat may be suckling simply because he’s bored. If your cat doesn’t have a companion, or you’re not spending enough time with your cat, then you may need to step up playtime and exercise. A puzzle toy is a good option for mental stimulation and treats provide an excellent way to encourage engagement with you for playtime.
  • Poor Cat Environment – The proper cat environment is vital in the happiness of your cat and aids in eliminating stress. A proper cat environment involves guidelines; for example, adequate hiding places, a designated play area preferably equipped with a scratching post, sleeping areas, its own water and food bowl, and litter box. The litter box needs to be in a safe, private location with an escape route from other animals in the household. Cats are peculiar creatures and need to feel relaxed in the home, especially with other cats or animals.
  • A Medical Condition – Your cat may be suckling because of dental pain, which can cause stress. The suckling may be a soothing comfort, so it’s wise to have your cat checked out by your vet just in case there’s something else going on.

4. Early Weaning

Sometimes a kitten is weaned too early from the mother and can result in suckling. This reason ties in with instincts, as the kitten doesn’t understand that the soft, fuzzy blanket is not its mother. A kitten needs to stay with its mother until at least the first three months of life to avoid this possible reason for suckling.


5. Type of Breed

It appears that oriental cat breeds, such as Siamese, Tonkinese, and Balinese, are more prone to suckling because of genetics. They are also known as “wool-suckers.” If your cat falls into this category, then averting this behavior is warranted because wool can be harmful if ingested. If you can’t break your cat from this habit, try replacing wool fabrics with cat-safe toys.divider-cat

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I let my cat suckle on my finger?

It’s probably best to avert this behavior while your cat is still a kitten to avoid a possible compulsive disorder down the road. Even though it’s a harmless activity, it can become a nuisance if you’re trying to watch television while your cat nurses on your finger. Averting the behavior toward a toy or playtime with you is a great way to create a distraction. Never yell at your cat or kitten, and avoid sudden jerks when doing this. You don’t want your feline friend to become afraid of you. Some cat owners bond with their cats by snuggling while they suckle their shirts or blankets. As long as it doesn’t lead to unwanted behaviors, then there’s no harm.

How do you stop a cat from suckling on blankets?

You can use the same type of distractions as mentioned above. Toys, playtime, or a simple “no” helps, but never scold your cat for this behavior by raising your voice. Try removing the blanket followed by playtime. If that doesn’t help, check your cat’s environment because the suckling may be stress-related.

Should I let my cat knead and suckle?

Cat kneading is one of many signs that show they are happy. Kittens knead their mother while they nurse. This neonatal behavior is normal and should not be a cause for alarm. Suckling mimics feeding. With that said, your cat may very well stop the behavior on its own as it gets older. If not, try averting your cat’s attention to more appropriate behavior, such as playing with a cat toy. Suckling should not be a problem, as long as your cat has something safe to knead and suckle on. Some people don’t mind it, while others state it drives them nuts. Long story short, it’s usually a harmless activity.

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Conclusion

Suckling is usually normal behavior with no intervention necessary. It’s a good idea to monitor what your cat is suckling to prevent possible digestive problems, such as swallowing a button from a shirt or a piece of wool. You can also remove whatever your cat is suckling if it’s a bother. If you feel the suckling is stress-related or a possible medical condition, a trip to your vet is a good idea.

Hopefully, this article has helped you determine if your cat’s suckling is safe or if you need to have your vet do a check-up. When in doubt, a trip to the vet is always a good idea.


Featured Image Credit: KanphotoSS. Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.