My Cat Suckles Me (video)
My foster cat suckles on my clothes while I am wearing them. It seems it has to be on my clothes and the clothes have to be on me. He does this when I am in bed working or snoozing while listening to the radio or trying to get to sleep. He kneads me and purrs in the classic manner. Kneading helps the flow of milk – shame I haven’t got any 😉 .
It is said that this behavior is not uncommon. However, it is the first time that I have been the recipient of it. If it is fairly common, it is slightly disturbing as it possibly indicates an underlying emotional problem amongst domestic cats which we are not addressing.
We don’t fully understand why adult cats do this. Common sense tells me that it is due to insecurity. It is a bit like a person sucking his thumb. Humans have other habits which indicate feelings of insecurity and anxiety such a biting nails. Also, a supporting influence is the fact that we do keep our adult cats in a suspended state of kittenhood because they depend on us for everything as a kitten would.
I’ll state right away that my foster cat is fairly confident and generally relaxed or, at least, that is the impression he gives me. He is young though and bit immature. He lacks life experience and simply being a foster cat is potentially stressful because his life is unsettled. These elements are almost certainly causes. I don’t know anything about his early weeks and months. He is about 9 months of age (estimated).
The experts say that it can be due to early weaning; being weaned before he/she is ready.
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I am not sure why early weaning might lead to the adult cat suckling his owner. Common sense, again, dictates the answer: the cat has a sense of insecurity because he didn’t receive all the maternal reassurances that nursing provides. Is that correct? It feels correct to me.
The problem is this: suckling a person’s clothes may pass but it may stick. It may develop into an obsessive compulsive condition (feline OCD). If that is the case this habit may stress up the human/cat relationship. If a cat can’t and won’t stop and does this indefinitely, it would have to be considered OCD, I’d have thought.
Donwton suckles me in bed for about 15 minutes. He makes my clothes wet with his saliva. I let him do it because to stop him may hurt him emotionally. He needs the reassurance that suckling me brings him.
Obviously any form of punishment is out of the question. I guess I could bar him from the bedroom but for me that, too, is out if the question. He needs the company and companionship, and so do I.
It is difficult to block him from getting at my clothes because he is persistent – aren’t all cats? ASPCA suggest that the person being suckled gets up and removes herself from her cat’s attentions every time her cat suckles. Over time (how long?) the cat unlearns the habit. That is the theory.
The above can be combined with a toy to distract the cat and in addition a substitute item to suckle can be employed such as a “rawhide coated with cheese spread”! It might work.
The underlying emotional condition remains, however: insecurity. This may well fade over time especially if the caretaker provides an extremely emotionally secure environment for her cat which is also fully enriched.
One last point comes to mind. If a foster cat is behaving in a way which may stress the relationship it could cause problems for the long term viability of the relationship if the new “cat owner” is new to cat caretaking.
Cats who are left alone and then adopted use to suckle. My observation within these 9 years have been not as vet practitioner but only as an observer. I see Laila always grip me hard (not painful to me) and start suckle some times (not often). It was Pinky (Laila’s mom) who decided not to milk her or she just left her alone. When I kept my four kittens outside in the terrace without cage, Pinky never visited the terrace, she just stopped. Now every day she visit and when ever she sees Laila, she hiss at her. I can not understand this cat mother behavior at all, really I can’t. I suppose its a cruel behavior. Maybe I am a human and they are cats. Maybe its just their nature but I personally don’t like cat mother leaving her kittens to let die. very strange. 🙁
You are a lucky man Michael, someone thinks at your home that you are his everything. He depends on you and need you. But the word foster is forcing you not to become his perhaps. I mean 100 % his.
He is a beautiful companion and trustful companion, no doubt. Alas I could once say, “ADOPT HIM, PLEASE” but I am silent now 😉
Well my Tiger Does this except he does it on the Ear Lopes. He’s done it since a Kitten and continues to do it at age 4. I’m actually really sure he loves the sensation. I don’t really like the feeling of it as he nibbles sometimes. My Ex/flatmate doesn’t mind it so will let him do it. Sometimes I will let him do it if he hasn’t done it in awhile. I think its like a reassurance before he goes off to sleep. He kneads and holds on…
Ear lobe suckling is the same thing. It can actually feel quite nice to have a cat suckling on you but after 15 minutes it gets a bit much and for me I am wet by then 😉
I am a bit concerned that too many cats do this. It may indicate a problem in the human/cat relationship.
Yes it can your right. I only put up with it for a wee while. I don’t like the feeling. He’s also a rather sensitive boy so if he knows you don’t want it he wont come near you. I think he prob come off his mum abit early. He also dribbles when your patting him some times. We actually call him his nickname sometimes Suckles which he answers too. In the photo you can see the grey bit of his lips. He was a rescue that I got off my Sister. I will surely miss him soon as are thinking of moving soon. I’ve made up my mind.
I’ve never been bothered much with the few I’ve had that did this; but, I can understand how it can be disturbing to some normal people trying to fall asleep (trying to fall asleep isn’t something that I do. I’m dog tired when I get into bed and in a coma within 90 seconds). Nothing bothers me after that.
But, I remember one cat that so viciously went about it that, like Barbara, I substituted a silky nightgown for my skin. I have never found a comparable substitute for kneading and suckling on my head and hair though. So, I’ve just wore ski caps.
Jozef used to suckle on ‘Blue Mammie’ my old candlewick dressing gown but he hasn’t done it for a good while, no idea why he stopped, maybe because he’s a very laid back cat now. He did leave his mother too young as she was only a kitten herself and had no milk.
I can’t see any harm in it as it gives a cat comfort.
I am pleased to know he stopped at some time. It means it can and does stop for some cats. Also nice to see that the cause looks like being early weaning.
Yes some cats seem to stop, some don’t, I don’t think it’s anything at all to worry about, in fact it’s rather nice.
Yes, it is not a “problem” in the conventional sense but for some people who are not committed to lifetime care it might be. You are a high quality car caretaker/guardian. Not everyone is as good as you.
My lovely Felix used to do exactly the same on me, he did it all his life until he died in 1997 in his 13th year, of kidney failure, we always thought it was because he’d had a bad start in life by being born into a poor household and undernourished, we took all the litter quite young because his mother couldn’t feed them and the “owners” were threatening to drown the kittens so it might have been because he left his mother too soon, we rehomed the other kittens so don’t know if they also sucked. I always used to keep a silk scarf handy for bed for him to suck on.
lol I remember that scarf, we called it ‘the suck shield’
I still have it in my bed drawer, and his red rubber bone and his vets card :'(
I might try that Ruth but I have a feeling he wants to suckle on me. He even does it on my skin but rarely.
Interesting Babz. Nice to know that you experienced the same thing and that you also have first hand experience of the possible cause: early weaning.
Felix is very handsome.
A beautiful pic of Felix.
I love those little tufts atop his ears.
I’ll bet that 1997 seems just like yesterday to you.
He was a beautiful cat, and yes in some ways it seems like yesterday and in others such a long time since he left us, then worst of all we had to leave his grave behind, and those of other much loved cats, when we moved home.
But, I know that you know they are not in their graves.
They’re in your heart and, sometimes, in your dreams if you are privileged.