Cats can also suck on objects, which is like thumb sucking in children: this behavior can indicate stress

Hangai Lilla

2023. September 3 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Suckling is a common is cats; usually harmless behavior that can occur in any breed and age. However, if this behavior turn up in an adult individual, it is worth paying more attention to it, as it can also be considered abnormal.


Suckling can be directed towards humans, in which case the cat takes the owner’s or other person’s fingers or any free skin surface in its mouth and chews and sucks on it. It is also a common phenomenon when the cat experiences compulsion on different textiles, such as a blanket or a towel. Understanding the behavioral components is essential to deciding whether the act should be regulated.

These may be the triggers

The direct causes of suckling in an adult cat are usually a behavioral disorder. These include lack of environmental stimulation, various anxiety disorders and stress. There is currently no known organ-specific disease with which it is related. However, if it starts quite spontaneously, there is a chance that it is the result of a toothache. You can be sure if you definitely visit the veterinarian, who can diagnose your pet.

A natural instinct

The suckling instinct is very strong in young kittens and they may try to take anything that is soft and warm into their mouths and suck it, especially if it somehow reminds them of their mother. This cat behavior can accompany them even into adulthood, and the kitten can use its instincts on anything that can be found in the apartment and, in its opinion, meets the purpose. This behavior is similar to thumb sucking in humans; it increases the feeling of comfort and calms the individual.


When a kitty is very relaxed or completely comfortable, it will usually start kneading. This is often followed by suckling. Both are normal and seem to be relaxing for cats. It is very often seen after the kitten has been weaned, as both movements can be used to get the milk faster.


When a cat is stressed, they may exhibit obsessive-compulsive behavior, which may include suckling. (This can also be observed in dogs.) Other signs of stress include excessive grooming, paw sucking, tail biting, or groin licking.


Oriental breeds such as Siamese, Balinese, Tonkinese and their crosses seem to be more prone to suckling as adults.


In many cases, the presence of obsessive suckling can be associated with premature weaning.

What can you do about it?

If the veterinarian has reassured you that there are no health problems behind the phenomenon, it is definitely worth thinking about whether your kitty is getting enough mental and physical stimulation, or whether there are any changes in their life that could cause stress. This could be a move or the arrival of a new family member. If this can also be ruled out or you have already eliminated the stressor and you see that the cat will not harm itself, then you don’t have to worry about the situation.

Balinese bored cat calm cat dental problems genetics Health lack of stimulation Siamese stimulation stress toothache

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