Stop Your Cat From Wool Sucking

Cat wool sucking behavior appears to be a compulsion some cats have to lick, suck or chew on non-food items. Most cats choose wool, though some may prefer other fabrics or even human hair, plastic or cardboard. Here's how you can stop your cat from sucking wool.

Causes of Cat Wool Sucking

No one really knows what causes cats to suck wool. The behavior seems more prevalent in Oriental breeds. Some think there may be a genetic basis for wool sucking behavior. Young kittens have a strong sucking instinct, and oriental breeds nurse longer than other breeds.

Kittens raised by breeders are weaned at six to seven weeks of age. It's possible that the shortness of this nursing period frustrates the sucking instincts of some young cats, promoting wool sucking behavior later in life. Cats of non-Oriental breeds have a shorter natural nursing period and are less likely to develop cat wool sucking behaviors when weaned at six or seven weeks of age. However, if they're weaned younger than this, wool sucking behavior can develop.

Most cats don't start sucking wool until they're several months old. Most will outgrow the behavior by the age of two years.

Risks Involved in Cat Wool Sucking

Most cats don't just lick or chew non-food items such as wool, plastic and cardboard, but will actually swallow pieces of it. Sometimes these objects pass, but there remains a danger of intestinal obstruction. If your cat develops vomiting or diarrhea, becomes lethargic or stops eating, call your vet right away.

Discouraging Your Cat from Sucking Wool

Often young cats will outgrow wool sucking, usually by the age of two years. You can discourage cat wool sucking by gently tapping the cat on the nose and saying "No!" when he engages in the behavior. A squirt bottle filled with a mix of water and vinegar may also help.

Training is most effective when begun immediately; start discouraging your cat from wool sucking as soon as the behavior starts. Make sure your cat does not have access to the things he likes to suck and chew when you're not around. Some have found that putting hot sauce on the objects the cat likes to chew can discourage chewing behavior. Others have had success with stopping cat wool sucking by changing their cats to a high fiber diet, or giving their cats dog chew toys to chew on.

Make sure your cat gets plenty of exercise. Set aside time several times each day to play with your cat. Try to provide plenty of environmental stimulation for your cat; offer plenty of toys, buy a fish tank or install bird feeders outside your windows.

In some cats this behavior is actually a compulsion. Prescription medications can be useful for treating wool sucking behaviors in such cats. Clomiprimine, fluoxetine and amitriptyline are some of the most commonly administered medications used to treat compulsive cat wool sucking. It may take a few weeks to see the effects of these medications, and dosages may need to be adjusted; some side effects are possible.