Suckling Instinct

Young kittens have a strong instinct to suckle which can even last through adulthood. Older kittens and some adult cats like to suckle anything warm, soft and fuzzy, like blankets and socks. It recreates the experience of suckling their mother.
Kittens suckle after they’re separated from their mother because they need to recreate that secure, comforting experience. In most cases, it’s perfectly normal for an adult cat to suckle. It’s a comforting, familiar ritual for many cats. However,
suckling may indicate stress and become a compulsive behavior in adult cats. If you’re concerned about your cat’s suckling, your instincts may be right. Here is a look at normal suckling and compulsive suckling.

Suckling for enjoyment

If your adult cat suckles when they’re content and calm or laying next to you, then this is a positive activity for them. They’re not stressed. They’re simply associating the security they feel with you with the security they felt with their mother. Oriental
breeds, like the Siamese are genetically predisposed to suckle as adults. European cat breeds generally do not have a predisposition to suckle.

There aren’t any diseases or illnesses connected to suckling but it may indicate tooth or gum issues. Pay attention to your cat’s eating to see if this may be the case. In most cases, adult cat suckling not associated with enjoyment indicates a behavioral disorder.

Cat suckling as an adult
Cat suckling as an adult

Suckling as behavioral disorder

Cats need routine to feel secure and balanced. Without the stability of a routine, your cat may become stressed, insecure, and confused. This can lead to behavioral disorders, such as obsessive suckling. This is called “adulthood cat suckles.” Cats are very sensitive and any change can upset their inner balance. Life is full of changes. Some changes are expected and planned and others arrive on their own. You can help your cat feel secure through life’s changes.

How to help a cat when a routine is changed

There are many things you can do to help your cat through transitions and changes, such as moving, having or adopting a child, and changing your work schedule.. You can purchase a synthetic cat pheromone diffuser to help decrease stress and help them feel calmer. Spend extra time playing with and giving affection to your cat to reassure them. Reorganize or create a special area for your cat. Ideally, the area you create should be in the area your cat gravitates to normally. It should also be a quiet place out of the way of foot traffic and somewhere they can see you. To create the special area, place your cat’s bed or favorite blanket in a cozy spot and put their toys close by. If you can, it may help to buy your cat a new toy to stimulate them and distract them. Scratching posts and tools are great for reducing stress and getting some exercise. Vary special time with your cat between play and quiet affection. Your cat needs exercise to reduce stress and quiet comfort to calm their nerves.

Cat suckling

When your older kitten suckles

When an older kitten suckles a surrogate mom or object, it can be a sign the kitten wants to recreate the feeling of joy and security they experienced suckling from mother. It may also indicate boredom or even stress and the suckling is a self-
soothing activity. Cats are social and sensitive creatures and they can pick up your moods and be affected by changes in their environment. Suckling in older kittens is a common coping method to stress and change.

Kittens are too young to know other self-soothing strategies so the inclination to suckle is strong. It is a very normal reaction that sometimes becomes a long-life habit. There’s no reason to be alarmed by a kitten suckling when they are happy.

How a kitten is weaned

Kittens are weaned around one month old. It is a gradual process and may take up to 1,5 months for a kitten to be completely weaned from their mother. If the mother cat is available and allows it, kittens will suckle longer. Some mother cats are patient
and it feels good to let their kittens suckle. Even when kittens are older than 2.5 months and eating hard food, suckling is a pampering, comforting experience.

We can say natural suckling ends:

1. when a mother cat loses her milk
2. when kitten loses access to the mother

What’s your experience?

Cats owners share many experiences. There are cases where a cat has a second litter and an adult sibling from the first litter will suckle with the new litter. Indoor cats live different lives from outdoor and street cats. Indoor cats may suckle to deepen
their enjoyment during affectionate times or to relieve stress. It’s important to find out why your cat suckles but not to judge. Like us, cats are individuals with unique personalities and needs.

Cat suckling as an adult

Suckling: good or bad?

Every cat is different. Suckling can be a healthy normal behavior or it can signify a behavioral disorder from stress or boredom. Does your cat suckle in moments of contentment and security or did the suckling begin after a change in the cat’s
routine? Is the cat behaving normally or has their eating or litter box habits changed? If you’re unsure or know something will be changing in your life, talk to your vet.