Cat Sucks When Petted

Cats often suck on their owner’s fingers or clothes when they are petted. Find out here what is behind this behavior and how you can deal with it.

Sucking is not usually a behavioral problem, even if people sometimes find it disturbing. This is normal behavior, especially for small cats.

Why Do Cats Suck When Petted?

The reason for the cat suckling is usually that it was taken from its mother’s care much too early – for whatever reason. As a result, the cat’s process of growing up is cut short by an enormously important experience that would have given it warmth, security, belonging, and thus emotional balance – at a time when this is most important for every living being. Namely during the embossing phase.

Because of This, Some Adult Cats Continue to Suckle

Most of the time, cats stop sucking when they reach sexual maturity. Occasionally, cats keep this behavior beyond that, in rare cases even until the end of their lives.

Under certain circumstances, this can have something to do with limited learning ability or learning opportunities: by pampering cat owners from time to time, they deny their cat the opportunity to act out the behavior appropriate to their species. That is, they nurture the eternal baby within her. This is common in kittens that have been bottle-raised without a mother.

Stroking As a Trigger For Sucking in Cats

Stroke is the trigger for sucking because it takes the cat back to the time when mommy’s tongue or the human foster mother gave her a comforting feeling of security while cleaning.

“Replacement Pacifier” For Small Cats

Small cats often look for a substitute for the mother’s teat when being petted. It can be:

  • Fingers or bare human skin
  • dress
  • Since sweat exerts a special attraction, cats also like to poke their armpits with their heads.

As a substitute for these things, you can try offering the cat a longer-worn (undyed) t-shirt or scarf. In addition, worn clothing (nothing woolly!) can be offered as a sleeping pad. The scent of the familiar human will help the kitten feel less abandoned at night. With young cats, there is no reason to stop suckling because it is usually only a short phase.

Smacking During Sleep in Adult Cats

Sometimes even adult cats half-asleep make smacking noises or the small half-curled tongue, ready for sucking, protrudes slightly over the lips. This is actually normal and can be seen in a great many cats who by no means had a difficult childhood. There is just a bit of baby in every cat for life.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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