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Wool Sucking Behavior in Cats

wool sucking behavior in cats

If you’ve never heard of this, I know it probably sounds like a very weird and unappealing thing for a cat to do, but it’s actually relatively common.

What is Wool Sucking?

The behavior consists of a cat actually sucking on items such as blankets, sweaters, shoelaces and even bathmats and carpets. The most common materials though are blankets and sweaters. There are also cases where a cat may suckle on another cat’s tail or other body part.

Some cats actually even begin chewing on and ingesting the material and that’s when wool sucking transitions into pica behavior. Pica can lead to intestinal problems.

Wool sucking is usually seen in cats under one year of age. Typically, many cats eventually outgrow the behavior but some do continue to engage in wool sucking if there is no behavior modification or environmental change made.

Here are some contributing factors to wool sucking:

Abrupt or Too-Early Weaning

The behavior seems to be a carry-over from nursing. There are several theories as to why a cat may continue it as she matures. One contributing factor may be abrupt or too-early weaning of a kitten from the mother. Ideally, kittens should be allowed to stay with the mother cat until they’re 12 weeks old. Many times though, kittens are removed from the mother at the frighteningly early age of 6 weeks just because they are capable of eating solid food. Unfortunately, they aren’t really physically or emotionally ready to be separated from the mother or littermates. Weaning should also be done gradually even when the kittens are able to eat solid food. There are also social lessons kittens learn during those first 12 weeks that are important as they mature so there are numerous reasons not to separate kittens from the mother and littermates too early. Unfortunately though, it does happen, whether at the hands of uninformed humans or due to a tragedy where kittens are orphaned.

quote from dr. haug

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If you adopt or rescue a kitten who is under 8 weeks of age, she may exhibit some wool sucking behavior, especially when in a comfortable, warm position (such as on your lap or in your arms). Just because she’s capable of eating solid food doesn’t mean she feels ready to let go of that comforting feeling of suckling on her mother (or in this case, your sweater). The soft, warm feeling of a blanket or sweater becomes a close second choice since the mother cat’s nipple is no longer available.

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