Cat wool-sucking. Why some cats do it.

I have divided this page into two parts for historical reasons. The second part was written about 15 years ago. The more modern section is the first section just below this introduction.

Feline wool-sucking
Feline wool-sucking. Picture in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Obvious reasons?

When you observe a domestic cat wool-sucking, it should be fairly obvious as to the origins of this anomalous feline behaviour. That’s because when an adult domestic cat sucks on wool it looks very much like they are sucking on the nipple of their mother’s breast. They look contented. They knead the garment with their front paws in exactly the same manner a a newborn kitten kneads her mother’s breast to try and express milk. To all intents and purposes, the adult cat is drinking milk as if they were a very young kitten.

The cat seems oblivious to everything around him or her. Except for the fact that it might be dangerous, you would leave them alone because it brings them pleasure.

So, the underlying reason is that they are re-enacting their newborn kitten life. Wool-sucking seems to be most common among young cats who have been orphaned or have been deprived of the maternal nipple too soon. It usually starts after cats have been weaned. The argument then is that they been weaned too early and are not ready to leave behind the maternal nipple. It might persist for a few months or it might even on occasions last a lifetime. And it can be very difficult to eradicate.

The second factor is that although wool is the chosen fabric, a cat might suck on their caregiver’s ear lobe their hand for instance. They might even suck on their owner’s hair. And it is suggested that the lanolin in wool “acts as a powerful unconscious reminder of the mother’s belly”. That quote comes from Dr. Desmond Morris.

Wool-sucking alternative the owner's neck
Wool-sucking alternative the owner’s neck. Photo: YouTube.

There is one last factor in this not uncommon, distorted behaviour: stress and/or boredom. It may be because it is so enjoyable for the cat that they embark on this behaviour when they are bored or stressed to lighten their mood. It is believed that an “empty lifestyle does seem to increase the chances of wool-sucking, and probably the best cure for it would be to make the cat’s way of life more surprising and complex.”


The quote once again is from Desmond Morris and it’s a reference to enriching the cat’s environment. This is something which I think is lacking very often in many homes.

Cats sometimes suck their thumbs for the same reason

This looks like a child sucking their thumb and arguably it is for the same reason: comfort to reduce stress.

Kitten sucking their thumb
This is an alternative to wool-sucking. Photo: PoC.

Suggested cure is no good

One suggested cure was to cover the chosen woolen garment with some sort of noxious substance to deter the cat. Not a good idea in my view. It may work but the underlying mental problem remains. It might increase stress levels and the cat might find another garment or another outlet such as overgrooming to alleviate stress.

Earlier section written in 2007

Cat wool sucking is unnatural and is caused by an interruption to the natural and gradual process of a kitten coming off drinking mother’s milk and turning to solids. If this process is stopped unnaturally the kitten might continue by finding substitutes and alternatives. Wool is one such example.

The earlier the cat is weaned unnaturally the more severe the wool sucking is likely to be. Cat wool sucking might fade away in time and resolve itself or it might develop into something worse; eating the object that is being sucked (wool is one of a range of things that a cat might turn to which might, in fact, include themselves and acrylics). In other words, rather than progressing to eating solid food a cat who is wool sucking might progress to eating non-nutritional objects. Also stress can aggravate the condition as nursing at mother’s nipple is in part a comfort process as well as nutritional.

The picture is just for illustration purposes and it not meant to suggest that this cat has a disorder!. Nice picture. Very nice job demolishing the box. Photo by Malingering and published under published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License — this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

How to fix cat wool sucking?

  • Mild condition – this will probably resolve itself and most likely will not require treatment.
  • Progressing to eating the wool clearly requires veterinarian intervention as it can be dangerous.

Prevention tactics?

  • Create a calm and de-stressed environment. Possible sources of stress are (a) cat separation anxiety (b) fighting between cats in a multi-cat household – Introducing a New Cat (c) frequent strangers visiting and (e) frequent noise. These are examples.
  • Try and get your cat to chew on something safer such as a cat chew toy.
  • Offer up a real alternative of high fiber diet and encourage him/her to eat that rather than the wool.
  • Last resort: your vet might prescribe anti obsession drugs such as Prozac. These are often human drugs. This must be a last resort, surely as long-term drug use cannot be good for anyone

Cat wool sucking tells us about the importance of the early years. In the first 6 months of life a cat can become a well-balanced animal able to mix with people or other animals (dogs for example – Cats and Dogs Living Together) or become unbalanced, which can only lead to a less content life.

Some early comments

From Cat Wool Sucking to Home Page

Comments for
Cat Wool Sucking

Average Rating

Click here to add your own comments

Jan 13, 2012
sucking and thrusting NEW
by: Rachel

I’m glad i’m not the only one, my 2-3 year old male cat has taken to tugging/sucking my sofa throw and he’s thrusting at the same time. He’s been neutered along time ago. At first we presumed it was to do with being taken too early from his mum, we got him from a rescue centre when he was roughly 1 year old.

He’s more than happy to tug and purr for twenty minutes at a time. Its really frequent though, sometimes he’ll go at it 5-6 times a day

Jun 29, 2011
by: Anonymous

When I brought home my baby Siamese, although she was home raised, she was not handled much. This led to a scared and timid kitten. We already had an adult spayed Calico. After I knew she was litter trained Mae-Ling was given the run of the house. Although she made up with the older cat and they slept some together, at night she slept with me and wanted to suckle. I got her to use the skin at the base of my first finger and thumb. She has since out grown this but still likes to knead before curling up with me to sleep. I’m thinking this may have avoided her using some other object to suck on?

May 06, 2011
by: Anonymous

Thank you for the info. My Siamese cat has a wool sucking fetish! He chews on items made from wool. He loves to chew om my socks. They become all soggy!

Someone told me that some cat breeds wool suck and Siamese cats are the worst. About 50% of all cat wool suckers are Siamese cats!

I keep all the woollen clothes etc. out of my cat’s sight and reach.

I also play with him a lot and make him use his brain. Siamese are pretty smart and think one problem is boredom.

Apr 10, 2010
16 1/2 years old
by: Anonymous

Two years ago I inherited a wonderful cat. While with my bestfriend he carried article of clothing ranging from socks to pajamas to his food bowl. He took to a winter scarf of mine. My fiance and I watched, as we were unaware of wool sucking, to see what he would do. He chewed on the scarf, shook it, and then proceeded to eat. I took the scarf and cut into squares. I have allowed him to continue his habit as he tends to eat better when he has it than not. As he is now nearing 17 years old I see no need to change his bad habit; besides, it is a plus to keep him eating. I just make sure my guest know not to leave socks or other articles of clothing where he may get to them.

Mar 03, 2010
Finally I found something on this!
by: Anonymous

I have a 1.5 yr old Seal Point Siamese, Loki, who has done this since we adopted him at 10 weeks. He started on this blanket that is a micro-sherpa (really soft wool). This blanket is seriously heaven wrapped around you, so when my kitten decided to knead on it I was fine but then I noticed he would bite it and pull on it while he was kneading. I didn’t want cat slobber on my favorite blanket so I found a miniature baby blanket version that he seemed to like just the same. As he has gotten older the cute quirky biting/kneading has also become a strange pelvic thrusting at the same time. We have named his blanket Girlfriend. I don’t know what it all means?? He is gradually doing it less and less so I am hoping with not stressing him out about it and making a big deal it will go away soon. Makes for good entertainment when guests come over. haha! Love that little guy!

May 23, 2009
by: Anonymous

We have a strange pair of Siamese females found abandoned. One appears Bluepoint and the Smurgler, a runt, looks exactly like your Seal point photo. We have had them for 3 months and they had issues,found the day after a 2 night solid freeze, we expected some. They were infested with fleas and had bad runs and worms. We dealt with those and are getting ready to fix them.

They have worked there way into our hearts.

The Smurgler spends hours a day on the neck of the larger blue who tolerates her lovingly. There seems to be no harm so far and when we think of the nights the poor things spent alone in the freezing woods we can understand the devotion they hold for each other.

5 thoughts on “Cat wool-sucking. Why some cats do it.”

  1. Hi again

    Thanks for that you are right it is a worry as I dont want any harm to come to him.

    He has three lidded litter trays in our small box room which is his litter tray room but that means there is always one tray that is completely clean and usually unused. I check and remove anything in the trays each morning and evening and clean the trays completely evey three to four days which is expensive but I dont want him refusing to use a tray becuase it is soiled and he drinks a lot so he pees a lot which means the tray he uses to pee in doest last long before it needs changing and a thorough clean.

    He currently gets a daily dose of Beaphar Hairball Paste which is a 2in 1 hairball remedy offering malt extract,oil and fibre to help the hair pass through the intestines and Bio-Mos to stimulate the healthy intestinal flora to assist the natural passing of ingested hair – or at least thats what it says on the tube.

    I have also given him both Katalax and Bezo Pet that I bought myself and lactalose that the vet prescribed and before that I tried a Pet lick stick but I couldnt get him to even try it. To be honest he really dislikes them all but I have to do something as I cant just ignore it.

    He is fed a combination fo dry and wet food mainly Royal canin dry and either feline Tuna flakes or sheba morsels though he also gets fresh cooked chicken or turkey from time to time.

    I would stop giving him dried food altogether but that was all he got in the first four years of his life and he is addicted to it so he will refuse to eat wet food some days and he needs to eat something. So I buy Royal Canin Skin and Hairball Vet remedy which is a dry food that includes fibre and other additives to support hairball elimination and he gets a few of his favourite Simese 38 which also includes ingredients to support his coat and digestion.

    I just wish I knew for sure it is just constipation and not down to something more serious but the Vet seems as confused as I am; its really frustrating. Anyway thanks for your advice at least I know I am doing all I can for the moment.

  2. Interesting as I have an almost 9 year old Siamese boy who will happily steel things made of wool and eat them. We first noticed it when I found hubbys new pure new wool jumper riddled with holes, didn’t put it down to the cat because the jumper was in the wash basket but a few weeks later we found him in the wash basket eating another new pure wool jumper and that rather clinched it.
    Since then we have had t keep anything made of pure wool away from him but that is difficult as I make hand felted wool animals and from time to time he has been known to steel and run off with one of those.

    The worrying thing is the combination of eating wool and obsessive grooming leaves him constipate and has cause a blockage so now we have to be very carefull with him – not good

      • Thanks just read the Pica piece and that was very interesting.
        I took on my boy from a customer who said she was returning to Australia and needed to rehome him so I don’t know about the first 4 years of his life. He is a beautiful big boy and during the last five years he has certainly received lots of TLC and mothering as I am here 24/7 and he is generally curled up next to me having a cuddle or a fuss. Most of the time he loves having his back groomed though he can suddenly decide he has had enough and won’t let you groom everywhere and he really hates being cold so during the night he sneaks in the bed. I am sure he suffers from Feline Hyperesthesia as he definitely twitches a lot, can be over sensitive to touch, can get very vocal and on a couple of occasions I have thought he was having an epileptic fit but the vet insisted it was a violent form of colic.
        My biggest problem with him is constipation since while he has a good appetite and has two water fountains that need refilling every few since he drinks a lot, when he goes to the toilet the best he can achieve are a few small round nuggets often full of hair and fibres despite all the grooming and keeping anything with hair out of his reach. Alas there is nothing i can do to stop him grooming himself so he can still ingest hair that way. I have just had him at the vet because he was off his food and not going to the toilet without help (lactalose or hair ball remedy) and after an examination the vet thought there was a blockage but an anaesthetic, barium enema and £150 later and the result is my vet (who is supposed to be the best in this area) is none the wiser so has told me to go on giving him lactalose and hair ball paste; hence my combing the internet in the hope I can get some idea of what might be going on.
        It’s all very worrying as I don’t want my boy to be in distress and I really don’t like having to give him daily laxatives so I need to get to the bottom of all this

        About six months after he moved in we found he is arthritic, he also has a number of allergies in particular something in his annual jabs and aneasthetics so we have problems with both

        • It is worrying. I can sense your worry. I’d be the same. There are some pages on cat constipation:

          My cat, Charlie, grooms too much and gets too many hairballs that might graze (scratch) his intestine. My vet (an excellent vet) gave me a lubricant: Bezo-Pet. As your boy eats wool it may help the passage of wool fragments through his intestine if you can get hold of it or something similar. The hairball paste that you mention may be the same stuff, actually.

          Bezo-Pet coats the stomach and intestine with an oily layer where foreign bodies might cause obstructions. It is added to food. You might think about it.


Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo