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Wool Sucking Behavior in Cats

Photo: Kote Puerto for Unsplash

Separation Anxiety or Stress

A cat under stress or exposed to sudden changes such as the arrival of a new baby to the family, the sudden absence of a family member (divorce, college, work schedule change, etc.), move to a new home, too-dense cat population,unclean living conditions, and so on, can result in a cat displaying wool sucking behavior.Cats can suffer from separation anxiety and that can lead to wool sucking behavior. In a human child you might see thumb sucking behavior during stressful times. In a human adult you might see nail biting or hair twirling. Wool sucking becomes the feline equivalent.

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Breed Related

Wool sucking has been found to be more common in Oriental breeds.

Other Factors

Other factors may contribute to wool sucking behavior such as lack of environmental stimulation, nutritional deficiencies, lack of dietary fiber, and underlying medical conditions.

Techniques for Discouraging Wool Sucking Behavior

The first and easiest step in the process is to remove or at least reduce access to the tempting material. If the substrate isn’t available, the cat can’t suckle on it.

Have your cat examined by the veterinarian to rule out any potential underlying medical cause for the behavior. In addition, talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s diet in case he/she feels there is a dietary deficiency.

Divert your cat’s attention by offering her other activities – especially ones that encourage confidence. Playtime is the perfect choice. When you notice your cat is getting in the position that usually precedes wool sucking, distract her by engaging in an interactive play session.

cat on cat tree

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

You can also use solo playtime by providing lots of opportunities for her to enjoy puzzle feeders and solo activity toys.

Increase environmental enrichment by providing places for her to climb, scratch, play and nap. A cat tree that overlooks an outdoor bird feeder or at least in a spot that overlooks something the cat finds interesting would be ideal. Provide sisal scratching posts so your cat has appealing places to displace anxiety or emotion by scratching on a rough surface. As mentioned previously, provide puzzle feeders and other solo games for her. If your cat likes watching television, get one of the cat entertainment DVDs that showcase prey and other cat-appealing critters.

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