Cat suckling is a common behavior that is generally harmless and occurs in cats of all breeds and ages. While it’s a normal behavior in kittens, when it persists into adulthood, it may be perceived as abnormal. Understanding the reasons behind cat suckling and addressing any concerns is essential.
Reasons for Cat Suckling in Adulthood:
- Natural Instinct: The strong instinct to suckle is common in young kittens and may persist into adulthood. Cats may suckle on anything soft, warm, and fuzzy that resembles a mother cat.
- Comfort: Suckling often occurs when a cat is very relaxed or comfortable. It’s a soothing behavior that may follow kneading. This behavior can continue even when no milk is present.
- Stress: Cats may exhibit suckling behavior as a response to stress. Stressors can include environmental changes, anxiety, or conflicts.
- Genetics: Oriental breeds, such as Siamese, Balinese, Tonkinese, and their crosses, are more prone to adult cat suckling than other breeds.
- Weaning Experience: Excessive suckling has been linked to early weaning experiences in some cases.
Is Cat Suckling a Symptom of Disease?
Cat suckling is not directly related to specific diseases, but it can be a behavioral disorder. Behavioral disorders may result from a lack of environmental stimulation, anxiety, stress, or conflicts. If cat suckling begins suddenly, it could be a sign of pain or stress, and a veterinarian should be consulted to rule out underlying medical causes.
What to Do About Cat Suckling:
- Acceptance: In many cases, cat suckling is a normal and harmless behavior that indicates comfort and contentment. Accepting it as such is often the best approach.
- Environmental Needs: Ensure that the cat’s environmental needs are met, including separate areas for eating, elimination, and sleeping. Provide hiding spaces, vertical escape areas, and adequate resources in multi-cat households.
- Reduce Stressors: If stress is a factor, minimize stressors using synthetic pheromones like Feliway or by providing extra attention and playtime.
- Safe Alternatives: Provide access to something that satisfies the cat’s suckling urge without causing harm. Avoid long strands of wool or linear materials. Keep blankets or clothing out of reach, and isolate the cat from desired objects if necessary.
- Mental Stimulation: Address boredom by engaging the cat in play, exercise, puzzle toys, or offering treats. Consider adopting another cat for companionship.
- Veterinary Medications: As a last resort, veterinary medications such as antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine) or anxiety medications (buspirone, gabapentin) may be considered if the suckling behavior is excessive and destructive or caused by severe stress.
Cats are complex creatures, and after addressing potential stressors and taking precautions, cat suckling in some adult cats may be accepted as a harmless, unique behavior.