You may have observed that your cat, although an adult, sometimes starts suckling like a baby. He suckles on a fabric or an object and kneads a soft support like a blanket or your belly with his paws, all while purring. This behavior, resulting from a reflex of his childhood and the mother’s suckling, has the function of helping him to calm down, to reassure himself and to comfort himself.
How to identify this behavior in his animal vis-à-vis similar attitudes? What are the reasons ? Should we be worried to see him suckling like a baby? What to do about this phenomenon? Our answers in this file.
Why does my adult cat suckle like a baby?
How to identify suckling in cats?
We are talking here about the behavior of the cat who suckles like the kitten does with its mother. The little feline is then calm and kneads the suckling surface of its paws as it does on its mother’s belly to stimulate milk production. It is not uncommon for the cat to purr, because this practice gives him pleasure and a feeling of well-being.
This attitude, which recalls the kitten clinging to the mother’s teats, is to be dissociated from the cat which pinches and tramples more aggressively, even truly brutally. In this case, it is not a feeding, but a simulation of a sexual act that pushes the cat to prepare for mating with a female. Indeed, the animal seizes the nape of the cat’s neck and pinches it before trampling the ground to balance itself in order to mate. This is an instinctive behavior present in some uncastrated males and it is necessary to stop. Firmly push the animal back and say “no!” “. No need to be brutal, because the cat would not understand and could instead develop abnormal behavior. On the other hand, the repetition of your refusals will help him to break this habit.
Why is this behavior observed?
Not all cats adopt this behavior reminiscent of kitten suckling, but some need to practice it even if they have been weaned for years. This phenomenon seems to be linked to the need for appeasement that the cat feels, because it is clearly observed that the tomcat purrs, sucks on a fabric or an object and kneads its surface as in evocation to its earliest childhood, when it suckled its mother. to feed, comfort and soothe. Thus, if the cat has the image of a zen animal capable of calming the human, he too may need to be comforted.
But why such a need? The answers diverge.
- Early weaning: some put forward the idea of too early separation and weaning with the mother. When the little tomcat is adopted too early or separated from its mother before the age of ten to twelve weeks, it has not yet been properly weaned and it has not had time to acquire the behavioral codes that it he had to learn. This hasty separation can lead the adult cat to continue this reassuring suckling behavior that takes him back to his childhood and brings back happy memories.
- The benefits of sucking: the sucking of the cat is compared by some to the sucking of the thumb practiced by the small child. This suction indeed leads to the secretion of endorphins, hormones of pleasure and appeasement. There is therefore nothing abnormal in the fact that the cat suckles to relax and calm down.
- A remedy for stress: this idea derives from the previous ones, because it seems that this phenomenon is more important when the animal feels stressed or anxious. Breastfeeding allows him to calm down in the event of a change or in any other difficult situation to live with (moving house, arrival in the home of a new child or a new animal, loss of a loved one, etc.) . In this case, if sucking can be dangerous – especially if he sucks on objects that could hurt him – and if he has certain behavioral problems such as pulling out hair, consult your veterinarian to put in place an appropriate solution.
- Predisposed breeds: it seems that certain breeds of cats are predisposed to the practice of this behavior. The Balinese, the Siamese or the Tonkinese are particularly more inclined to suckle in this way. These breeds of cat experience a later weaning, of the order of 12 to 15 weeks. Maybe this is a lead?
What should I do if my cat suckles like a baby?
This behavior which evokes the kitten is practiced by the adult cat in a desire for appeasement. This is a reflex attitude that should not worry you too much. Do not punish your animal, scold it, humiliate it or bully it. Violence has no place in his education and it would seem particularly unfair to your little companion, in addition to being counterproductive. Apart from losing your feline’s trust, you will have nothing to gain.
There is nothing you can do to stop this behavior if it bothers you. Your cat will stop itself if it wants to. However, you can help him feel more peaceful by identifying the source of his stress or anxiety and correcting it. Don’t hesitate to provide him with a more serene environment and to devote time for cuddles and play to help him calm down, feel comforted and be entertained. Offer him a quality and well-balanced diet, preferably purchased from the veterinarian or pet store to ensure that his nutritional needs are met and avoid deficiencies that can lead to stress and various diseases.
If you don’t like this behavior, leave the room, but let your animal satisfy this need, which does not hurt anyone. On the other hand, remain vigilant, because your cat can begin to suckle or knead dangerous surfaces, likely to injure him, or fabrics and objects that he can ingest and which risk causing an intestinal obstruction.
Moreover, if this behavior proves to be too repeated and your pet develops certain disorders such as excessive licking, do not hesitate to consult the veterinarian, because he may then suffer from significant stress, or even depression. Do not underestimate their consequences, because depression can lead the animal to let itself die. If in doubt, seek the advice and advice of your veterinarian.