Help my dain bramaged cat. (kitten development issues.)
January 20, 2017 5:09 PM   Subscribe

My juvenile cat is suckling and I'm looking for ideas on how to transition her away from her current target (my fingers and/or her sister's ear) onto anything else.

I adopted two kittens late last year. They were separated from their mother at an extremely young age - they were fostered and bottle fed until they were old enough to be spayed and transition to dry food.

They're now about 5 months old. Very active and friendly (they have a lot of fun when my mom brings her dogs to the house).

Obligatory pics:
An older pic:
Young Cats

They always have access to grain free kibble, and they each get a spoonful of gooshy food twice a day (we live in the Mojave, so I try to make sure they get extra liquids). They also seem to be good about drinking the water I put out for them.

Here's the issue:
Booger suckling
That's Booger. When I adopted them she would suckle on her sister's ear. I managed to transition her off of that onto my fingers. Now she suckles on my fingers.

I'm trying to transition her to anything else, but she won't take to anything I've tried so far. I've even tried

She doesn't suckle her own toes - I guess that's a common thing for cats that were separated too young.

Since it's something that makes her feel more comfortable, I don't want to discourage the behavior. I'd like to transition her to something other than my fingers, but so far she won't take to anything else.

I'm looking for ideas on ways to transition her to something else. I've tried the most common suggestions (basically everything I can search for) with no success. I'm hoping someone here can give me a new idea.
posted by BenevolentActor to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
I had a hardcore suckler and gave him a nubbly crocheted blanket. That worked for him, but the blanket was definitely his - it was gross and wet and fraying, so don't use an heirloom. The blanket worked well because he could suckle it in my lap or alone on the couch.
posted by OrangeVelour at 5:25 PM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ha ha ha. I've had katz who suckled any thing and everything all their lives, and those a bit more selective--ears and hair--and all of them had no issues being weaned too early. Right now I've got one with a hollow tooth--she drools when you pet her.

The more you hate it, the worse it gets. She'll either stop or won't, because...
Katz is katz.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:28 PM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

A lot of cats enjoy kneading/suckling on wool products - something about the lanolin. Has that been one of the things you've tried already? Here is video evidence of my Snow kneading a sheepskin throw from Costco. (Not sure where you are geographically/seasonally, but farmers' markets sell them sometimes as well. Synthetic fleece blankets may work too, but I've never seen any of my cats bliss out over a regular blanket the way they do/did over the sheepskin.)
posted by oh yeah! at 5:40 PM on January 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

I had a cat that suckled on anything wool from 5weeks of age until he died at 19. I bought a sheepskin rug that he loved to suckle on so I kept that as his "allowed" place to self comfort & just plopped him on there if I saw him suckling. Eventually that was his preferred place to do it. Cats love sucking on wool products. As oh yeah! mentioned it's something about lanolin so maybe make sure your hand cream doesn't contain it.
posted by wwax at 5:42 PM on January 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dr. Wily is a compulsive suckler, always has been. She likes anything soft that she can also knead; that ultra-soft sherpa fleece material is her favorite. We can't really stop her, so we just redirect her to fleecy blankets and such.

Be sure whatever you give her to is reasonably sturdy. Some cats will take it too far and start eating whatever they're suckling. Wily once ate (and barfed without incident, thank god) a few inches of knit afghan that she'd previously enjoyed suckling. The fleece stuff has been okay, though.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:49 PM on January 20, 2017

Echoing the above, I have an 8 mo old suckling kitten and was desperate to train him onto anything that wasn't me. I had a fleecy throw and just kept putting him on it every time he started kneading and now it's his safe place.
posted by annathea at 5:51 PM on January 20, 2017

Thanks for the suggestions so far. I've tried giving her a wool blanket and a wool pacifier. So far no luck. It's human skin or nothing.
posted by BenevolentActor at 5:54 PM on January 20, 2017

I'm guessing the wooly/fleecy things aren't working because she was taken away so early, fluffy isn't her comfort zone (in contrast, my 2 year old dummy suckles on fleece blankets and he was with momma until 8 weeks). What about a kitten bottle feeding nipple? You can stuff it with cotton and tape the back up to make sure she doesn't get tummy troubles from sucking too much air.
posted by kattyann at 6:07 PM on January 20, 2017

Have you tried Yeowww Catnip Banana? Cute rescue cat review video.
posted by amtho at 7:08 PM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe head to the dog toy aisle and look at the rubber dog toys that are available and see if any of them might suit? Puppy size, instead of adult dog, probably.
posted by umwhat at 7:45 PM on January 20, 2017

Whatever you do, don't redirect him to suck his own tail. My friend did that out of desperation (kitten was found abandoned at 4 weeks and she bottle fed him) after months of trying other things. It worked, but poor kitty sucked his last vertebrae out of joint, so his tail had a permanent kink at the end :(

My other friend has a cat who was successfully redirected to a fleecy stuffed buffalo that has a little shirt made out of an old shirt that smelled like her. Kitty would suckle the tips of the horns while kneading the body. Now that she's older, the suckling has stopped entirely.
posted by ananci at 9:12 PM on January 20, 2017

Be careful with rubber dog toys. I gave a puppy kong to a cat I used to have (Metachat folks may remember him as the "woolsucking fucker"), and he chewed it up to the tune of $3K in intestinal blockage surgery.
posted by matildaben at 9:26 PM on January 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Good luck. My youngest cat is almost four and she roots around my armpits like her life depends on it.
posted by wotsac at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Shortly before I adopted my kitten, I'd purchased a Snuggie blanket from Goodwill. It's the kind with the plush faux-fur, as opposed to Velloux. This kitten glommed onto that blanket like no tomorrow, and it's his now. I've made a nest of it on the couch, and he trots over there and jumps into it and goes at it.

Anther cat enjoyed a faux-fur stuffed dog, with very long shaggy hair. This was helpful, because he used to sit on the back of the couch and knead my head and suck on my hair, so the when he discovered the stuffed dog, I put that on the back of the couch.

I'd keep experimenting with various textures. I have a fuzzy angora type blanket and a microplush velour blanket, and this kitten ignores both in favor of the furry Snuggie.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:35 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just to close out this question - I tried most of the suggestions here, and none worked. This cat only wants fingers.

Thanks everyone who tried to help.
posted by BenevolentActor at 7:13 PM on March 5, 2017

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