Kitten Nurses on Himself
June 20, 2016 7:42 AM   Subscribe

My 3 month old kitten began nursing on his own nipples 3 days after adopting him. I've owned him for two weeks so far. He does this ritual immediately before preparing for bed (with my husband and I) and sometimes during the day before he naps. Is there a way this can be stopped, or has it already turned into a (bad) habit? Someone suggested a (pet's) shirt that can cover his nipples. Another suggested "calming" spray just before bed. Is there an ointment I can rub on his nipples that tastes DISGUSTING to prevent him from continuing to do this? Please help!
posted by scarbo to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
Why do you want to stop him? Is it harming him in some way? He's still a little guy and is likely doing it to self-soothe. My nearly year-old girl kitten still nurses on our fingertips when we cuddle her... kittens are so off-the-wall that I'm pretty much in favor of ANYthing that'll calm their frantic little butts down a bit.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:53 AM on June 20, 2016 [22 favorites]

Is he doing damage? There's nothing that horrifying about the act, and he'll likely grow out of it, but if you wanted to try introducing some other calming procedure, maybe special petting time or a cuddle, it might distract him.

You might also consider a bed that provides comforting enclosure like this cave or this shark. There's the occasional oddball cat who doesn't like an enclosed space, but many do.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:03 AM on June 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You could try redirecting him to a washcloth or towel or an old sweater. As he's doing it, gently nudge the "blankie" in the way of nursing. He might or might not go for it and you may have to try a few different fabrics.

Pro: he nurses on something other than his own self.
Con: he might get really into it and used to nursing on fabric and clothing, and obviously cats don't understand the difference between Cat's Blankie and Distinguished Guest's Sweater.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:04 AM on June 20, 2016

Would you consider talking to your vet about it? If there's a possibility that he's going to hurt himself somehow by doing this, then you can discuss options for breaking him of the habit. If not, why is is a problem (other than being a little disturbing to witness)?

(It may well be ingrained by now. I admit that my own cat picked up a creepy little habit of trying to nurse on a skin tag on my neck when she was very little. I kept to the habit of putting her down when she did, but even a couple years later if she's being particularly lovey and cuddly I'll see her get this look in her eye and know that she's going to make an attempt.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:06 AM on June 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

I strongly urge you not to put anything on your cat that will discourage suckling. Whatever discourages suckling will also discourage grooming. Self-grooming is very important for the long-term health of a cat.

If he's not licking himself raw, there really isn't much of a problem here. He'll probably outgrow it.
posted by yesster at 8:13 AM on June 20, 2016 [32 favorites]

This is something a lot of kittens do as they adjust to being without their mothers, especially if they are taken from their mother too early. (Some people think that kittens should stay with their mother for 14-16 weeks.) Some cats outgrow it, some don't.

What are you worried about?
posted by Cygnet at 9:10 AM on June 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

At 10 weeks, your kitten was probably still nursing a bit with his mother, so he discovered this substitute. Ten weeks is considered a bit too soon by some breeders and vets. Years ago I adopted a 10-week kitten, who promptly began nursing on our male Golden Retriever, who didn't mind. It went on for a few months before the kitten outgrew it.
posted by beagle at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you SO MUCH for all responses. Guess there's really nothing wrong with this act. The up side is, once he's finished darting around and diving on the bed chasing "imaginary bugs" for 15 minutes, his suckling is a welcomed habit. Thank you all again
posted by scarbo at 9:35 AM on June 20, 2016

To answer some of the "why do you care?" comments above. Our kitten liked to suckle blankets and shirts, which was cute. Now he's an 18-pound cat. While he no longer suckles those things, he does do a really loud, aggressive slurping of his fur when he grooms, with grunting, that is very much like the suckling he used to do. It is so disgusting to hear. It It might be a bit of misophonia on my part, but it's so loud and constant that I can hear it with the bedroom door closed and ear plugs in. He'll likely never stop.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:37 AM on June 20, 2016

Am I wrong to want to see a video of Mo Nickles' cat so I can squee at the adorableness of the grunting?
posted by ereshkigal45 at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

ereshkigal45: NOT WRONG.

Also, one of our cats who was very young when we got her had a tendency to attempt to suckle on my neck or more often mr. epersonae's neck. She doesn't do that anymore, although she still loves licking her people. She's also really into "kneading" blankets, pillows, and the people under them, which is maybe also associated with nursing behavior?

In conclusion, cats are a land of contrasts.
posted by epersonae at 12:18 PM on June 20, 2016

Yup. Had a cat who would 'suck his thumb' (actually middle pad of his right back foot) when he was calming down/zoning out. Another kitty would suckle my left earlobe during petting sessions - she did this for many years. It was sweet, and I didn't mind...I was the only person she did it with.
posted by dbmcd at 1:36 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

My youngest cat doesn't just suckle on my armpits, she dives right in like... Well, she's licking and she's a cat... In a porn clip.
posted by wotsac at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was coming in to suggest a re-direct. As I write this my 4 year old cat is lying beside me sucking on her bear - a small stuffed animal we gave her as a kitten to stop her from sucking our faces. She still comes to our bed a few nights a week and meows at us until we find her bear for her.
posted by scrute at 6:21 PM on June 20, 2016

My cat likes to knead & nurse on this sheepskin blanket. (A lot of cats looooooove wool, because of the lanolin, something genetic like catnip sensitivity.) I agree with everyone that this is no big deal until/unless he starts irritating his skin, but giving him a mother-substitute blanket couldn't hurt.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:05 PM on June 20, 2016

One of my previous cats used to nurse on the _other_ cat when I adopted her: she'd suckle behind her ear, looking like a tiny fuzzy vampire. Which was hilarious, and I wish I had pictures of it.

After a month or two, I redirected her accidentally: I was holding her on my lap, and I waved her tail in front of her, and she grabbed it and started sucking. Which was much better, because she didn't have to convince the other cat to let her suckle.

She kept sucking that tail all her life, and it was really entertaining to see the butt-swish she did when she was curling up. She always had a few semi-dried sticky tufts of fur on her tail, making it look weird. It never hurt her, although it was strange to wake up at night and hear faint suckling noises somewhere close - but they were always mostly marked by purring. She still had suck-marks on her tail when I handed her body to the vet after her death.

So, maybe consider redirecting to his tail, because it'll make it easier once he gets older and less limber? If you can't manage/don't want to redirect to a blanket or other non-cat bit.
posted by ari_ at 12:15 AM on June 21, 2016

I think all these answers could be much more accurate if we had pictures of said cat.

Also you should film this behavior and look at it on days you need a laugh.
posted by Julnyes at 10:19 AM on June 21, 2016

« Older How do I get this guitar tone from Bettie...   |   Sippy cup without a valve Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.