My cat suckles on my arm. Advice please.

What is Happening. A Visitor’s Question.

I adopted a somewhat shy, 6-month-old kitten 4 years ago. From the time I could get her into my lap, she would suck my forearms like a Hoover. Even now, she has a go at them at times. I was told the kitten was weaned. I considered bottle feeding her to see if she actually hadn’t been but didn’t want to create a dependence (or use a cow’s milk blend) if that wasn’t the issue. I finally got her to sit on my lap at times, play & sleep with me. But she’s still shy w/others & wants to suckle. Is there something she might lack that I can provide? Thank you.

Response – What Can Be Done.

“I was told the kitten was weaned…”

Well, it seems that she was weaned too early because, as you imply, the signs are that she was not given the time to be weaned properly.

My research indicates that

“…At about a maximum of ten weeks of age kittens are weaned.”

The way I see these problems, which are very hard to resolve, is that the kitten needs to be weaned properly. I believe that all domestic cats are kept in perpetual kittenhood because we look after them so totally. This does not help resolve these issues.

Cat sucking a blanket

Photo by brownpau

I am thinking aloud here and would welcome some comments. However, in the wild, wild kittens of all species are weaned by their mother when she brings in prey she has caught. The kittens learn to eat meat and then learn to hunt for it themselves by following mother on hunting trips. That gets them off the nipple.

What if you set up some play sessions with your cat in which she has to hunt for food. You might buy some commercially prepared raw food and use that as the prey. She might like raw food. Then again she may not! This page has a review of a raw cat food product.

The idea would be to change her mentality and get her to grow up by tapping into what is hard-wired into the brains of all cats, wild and domestic, the desire to hunt for prey and eat flesh (meat). If that desire can be triggered it might get her away from suckling on your arm.

It is almost as if from a developmental standpoint time has been arrested at about 4-7 weeks of age; a time when she was still suckling and not weaned.

In the expectation that my suggestion does not work or that you think it is crazy 😉 you could simply purchase a cat toy of some sort that she can suckle on for comfort, which is not harmful to her and which gives you a break!

Please leave a comment, yourself so we can discuss the matter further.

This page discusses the mother-kitten relationship.

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My cat suckles on my arm. Advice please. — 10 Comments

  1. This is nothing to worry about and nothing the cat lacks and this person sounds a very good cat caretaker.
    It probably is because she was weaned too soon but many cats suck on their person or something they are wearing, for their entire lives.
    It reminds a cat of their kittenhood and how they felt safe and loved by their mother and the person they suck on is their substitute mother, it comforts the cat with no harm done.
    Our Jozef is 11 years old and still does it at times purring loudly, on a bit of my old dressing gown we call ‘Blue Mammie’ and he’s the happiest cat you could ever meet with a full life indoors and outdoors.

  2. Cats suckle for a variety of reasons. Being weaned too early is just one of them. Some cats have chemical imbalances. They suckle to try and get salt for one thing. Natural lanolin in our skin is another attraction. Cats who chew on blankets may be low in fiber. A change in diet and some behavior modification may be needed. And…..many cats return to kittenhood because it is a safe, ‘warm fuzzy’ place to be. Whatever the causation, prudent retraining is essential.

  3. I agree with Ruth it’s nothing to worry about and trying to stop it may do more harm than good,think of it like taking a baby’s dummy from him,it causes distress.
    This cat’s owner says she still has a go at times,so this is not a constant desperate type of sucking,it’s a comfort sucking because of the cat’s shy nature and it does no harm.

  4. ps as the cat has been doing this for 4 years if it was a serious condition of lacking something she would be very ill by now.

  5. I agree on the cause, weaned too soon and I think Michael may have a great idea there with the raw food. I wonder if the hunt-kill-eat game might be best. You get a stick toy with some kind of tease on a string. Use this to lead your kitty around (the hunt). Once they start breathing sorta hard — aka had a good workout, but not overly so — let her catch it (kill). After that is when you feed her the raw food (eat). See above for link to info on raw food…

    The idea of given her a stuffed animal is great. Also, you can try two-sided tape on the place she is nursing on. Cats hate two-sided tape. You could use a mouse pad (from your computer) as a base. Cover it with the tape and place it where she wants to suckle. She will look at you funny for a few days, but she’ll get over it. That is a last resort type thing. I would get another cat for her to suckle on before doing this.

    FINALLY: Please avoid anything cruel that pet stores may try to sell you. It sounds like the owner isn’t that type, but I want to put it out there for any reader who may find this down the road. If you scare your cat in some way serious way they will avoid you for a long time, if not forever. We want to change the behavior, not betray the kitty.

  6. A vet’s input:
    ‘If the cat is not hurting itself or others with its suckling, there is no need to prevent the behaviour. That is just the cat’s way of comforting itself’

    In my own opinion trying to stop it can do more harm than good, there is no need to take away a cat’s form of comfort, like humans they need some way to cope in the stressful world this is now.

  7. When I first adopted Tootsie at 6 yo, she would often get into bed with me, and lick my hair, especially at the top of my forehead. She would go at it for at least 10 minutes, and slobbered a lot. It was really sweet, and I really did have to stop myself from laughing. Gradually this behavior stopped, and although the slobber was not always pleasant, I kind of miss the behavior.

    I figure that she was establishing our cat- human bond, and stopped after she was confident the bond had been established. Or maybe she was just making sure that even though I was much bigger that she, I was acceptable as the other cat in the household. Cats do often? groom each other.

    From all comments above, it does seem that perhaps the cat did not go through the complete weaning process. Plus I’ve never had to deal with a cat suckling my arm or such. Still, my inclination would be just to “go with the flow” so to say, and enjoy the little cat/ “big cat” bonding- well that’s what I think is happening, but it’s just a WAG.

    • Yes, Tootsie was grooming you – called alogrooming, one cat grooms another. Bit surprised it stopped. It may have been a sign of her desire to be friends with you. When you had shown her you were a true friend and companion she felt secure enough to stop.

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