Why do my two kittens nurse on my skin?

by Kimbrey
(Maryland)

I have a munchkin ragdoll cat (8 months old) who sucks on my ear lobes and a tuxedo kitten (4 months old) who will suck on anything, but mostly he prefers my skin. They suck so hard they often leave hickeys on me and visitors. The only part that hurts is when they knead with their claws. To see a video of this, I have a YouTube account, under the user name kimbreynol.

My questions are: Why do they do this? Should I let them continue? Is it a bad habit or does it mean they love me? Is this normal/common?

Thank you!


Dear Kimbrey,


Your kittens most likely nurse on your skin, whether your earlobes or elsewhere, because they are responding as if you are their mother. They are both still young, and they are likely doing this because they were taken from their cat mother too early. In kittens that were taken from their cat mothers too early, this behavior is quite common.

In my opinion, you should not allow your kittens to continue this behavior, but they should not be punished or scolded for their kitten behavior. Do not spray them with water or hit them even gently or raise your voice to them when they are suckling on your skin or the skin of your visitors. The best way to break your kittens of this bad habit is to discourage them. When they begin sucking on your ears, gently push them away. Try putting your hand between their mouths and their favorite suckling places. If that doesn’t work, gently lift them off your lap or put them on the floor.

Over time, your kittens will get the message that suckling on your skin is not an acceptable kitten behavior. It will take some time to break this habit, but you will be much more comfortable when you do. And they will love you just as much!

Best wishes,
Dr. Neely

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Cat Sucking After Weaning

Hi, Dr. Neely,

I have a 12-week-old kitten that constantly sucks on everyone. We have had him since 7 weeks old, but he did not start this for about 1-2 weeks later.

I understand the not-enough-mommy-cat-time thing, but is there anything I can do to make him stop?

Also, will he grow out of it? He is very healthy, a big-pawed, strong half-siamese & tabby.

Thanks,
Allion


Hi, Allion,

While some kittens suck on things because they were taken away from Mom too soon, I think the fact that your kitten is half Siamese is also very significant.

Siamese cats are known for being "wool-suckers".
It's genetic and difficult to change. There are some things you can try.

Try to remove temptation. You did not say what he is sucking on, but if it includes socks, blankets, other clothing, anything made of wool, but other fabrics as well, then you need to keep fabrics away from him as much as possible. Even if there are items you would "allow" him to chew or suck on, there is a danger of his suffering from an intestinal obstruction from thread or pieces of the material.

Sometimes, safe toys that can be chewed on, but are fairly indestructible, can be helpful. Providing your cat with plenty of toys to chew on may prevent him from going for your important clothes or other fabrics and may be safer for him.

Some owners have had success by adding fiber to their kitten's diet. There are special high-fiber diets you can get from your vet. A dash of psyllium (Metamucil) can also be added to canned food to increase fiber.

There is believed to be a connection between anxiety and sucking. Therefore, the product Feliway has been used with some success. Likewise, a holistic product called Rescue Remedy is available for cats and may be useful. Also, in serious cases, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety drugs.

Because there might be a connection between kittens weaned too early and wool sucking behavior, there is still a chance that your kitten will just outgrow this. I hope this is the case, but if not, I hope I have given you some useful suggestions.

Thank you for writing,
Dr. Neely



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Kitten Behavior: Cat Sucking

by Chandra
(TN)

QUESTION:

I recently adopted my kitten Macy about a month ago, she is 4 months old now. She is continuously sucking on one of her nipples. I can't get her to stop and she seems very content when she is doing it. Is this because she was weaned from her mother to early? How can I get her to stop?


Hi, Chandra:

This is not unusual. Yes, she is trying to continue or imitate the act of nursing from her mom.

Sometimes this will just go away on its own.

You may be able to stop it by trying to get her interested in something else when you see her doing it.

Some people have tried products applied to the nipples that taste bad and will discourage her, but make sure anything you use is VERY safe for CATS. Many things that are safe for us or dogs are not safe for cats.

Most of the time, I have seen kittens just outgrow this behavior. You do, of course, want to monitor her nipples for irritation or infection, which can easily happen.

Thank you for writing,

Dr. Neely

Return to KITTENS.

Inappropriate kitten suckling

by Kris Brackin
(Texas)

We have bottled raised 6 kittens and they are now 10 weeks. One of our girl kittens is inappropriately suckling on her brothers private parts. Please help me figure out the best course of action to take with this.


Dear Kris,


In the absence of a mother cat’s nipple to suckle, it is not uncommon for kittens to nurse on the body parts of other kittens in their litter, especially the penis of males in the litter. The best thing for both of the kittens would be to separate them from one another. Not only is it a bad habit for your little girl kitten, but the suckling behavior also puts your little boy kitten at risk for swelling, urinary problems, and infections, as evidenced by this question and answer from another reader. For your boy kitten's health, you should try to keep the area clean and lubricate with a bit of Vaseline or other lubricant to help prevent these issues from arising while the area heals.

Best wishes,
Dr. Neely

Return to KITTENS.

4 month old kitty with a suckling issue

by Kimberly
(Saucier, MS, USA)

QUESTION

My mother had two female cats that gave birth. One had four kittens and one had seven. Being inundated with kitties everywhere we decided to take one of the seven from the second litter. He's a sweet kitty and we had him neutered as soon as he turned three months old. My question is concerning his suckling. He's an absolute lap cat that loves being very social, but when he thinks he's going to drift off to sleep he finds the nearest piece of blanket, shirt, pant, whatever is nearby and begins to suckle it. It may or may not include kneading, but it's something that we are having a hard time breaking. I've tapped his nose, I've pulled him away, and now I've had to resort to putting him on the floor to get him to stop. I don't think he was properly weaned and perhaps we got him a little early. I was wondering if there's something that I should try or just keep doing what I'm doing and eventually he'll stop. Thanks for any suggestions and we love our little Homer!

Thanks,
Kimberly in south Mississippi


Hi,

That usually occurs because the kitten was taken away too early or because it is part Siamese. In either event, I would probably find something that is safe to suck on (that won't be destroyed and therefore swallowed by the kitten) and let him use that and discourage everything else in the manner in which you have been doing.

Good luck, Thank you for writing,
Dr. Neely

Return to KITTENS.





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