Should You Worry if Your Cat is Wool Sucking?

Algonquin Cat

Have you ever seen a cat suck on wool? It may sound like a strange question, but it’s a lot more common than you might think. Kitties love to knead or ‘make biscuits’ on things, and wool certainly feels more like cat fur than our hair or the furniture, so it’s not so out there that our cats would find comfort in this everyday activity. As kittens, they enjoy the kneading because it helps their mothers express milk. Not every adult cat keeps the habit, but a lot of them do. Should you be worried if your cat is wool sucking?

Naming Names & Making Deals

The first thing we need to clarify about this mysterious cat behavior is that not all ‘wool’ sucking involves actual sheep, alpaca, or rabbit wool. The term is more general than that, though sheep’s wool is one of the most common things cats like to nurse on. That probably has to do with the source. Texture and scent are both incredibly important to our cats. They’re surprisingly sensitive. Cats see us as surrogate mothers regardless of our gender. In normal wild cat evolution, behaviors like kneading and meowing are mostly reserved for the very young. A mother cat will wean her kittens off this behavior as they grow because they need to learn to hunt and fend for themselves. However, house cats are a different story.

Sometime around ten thousand years ago, or more, cats came down from their napping perches and started wandering into human settlements. They chose to do this because people had a problem that they saw as an opportunity. Humans who settled down to single locations had a universal pest issue. We stored food, grew crops, and kept livestock, which was all very appealing and nutritious to bugs, rats, and other unsavory problem creatures.

What humans saw as a severe issue, felines saw as lunch and an opportunity to sleep even more than they already do because hunting had just gotten as easy for them as the metaphorical shooting of fish in barrels. After an unknowable amount of time, people moved away from merely tolerating cats or distantly appreciating, and began letting them in. In short, we paid them for their services by providing them with more comfort and affection, health care, milk, and even foods they didn’t have to hunt at all. It was a win-win for both species. Because we babied them and asked so little compared to what a mother cat might expect, they allowed us to adopt them and began treating us like mommy. Hence they transitioned to managing our homes and things as theirs because we made a deal. Part of that deal has always been access to our stuff, like wool socks and warm blankets that feel a bit like mommy.

Not Quite Natural

If cats lived outdoors and avoided us the way most wild creatures do, then we wouldn’t notice their strange affinity for sometimes sucking on fuzzy things as adults. However, as a result of our mutual relationship, people do see the behavior, and in many ways, we foster it. Certain breeds of cats are more prone to wool sucking behavior. Asian cats like the Tonkinese, Siamese, and Burmese kitties are especially likely to develop the habit. Naturally, they are not alone, but it’s noteworthy that they are a bit more likely to practice this particular bit of feline oddness. Plenty of cats without a trace of Asian kitty blood pick up the habit because it feels good to them. Cats who weaned too early are also more prone to wool suck. Additionally, some of our feline friends do it because it helps relieve stress. Yes, even fuzzy lovey kitties who sleep twenty hours a day and lay around the house, the other four get anxious. The reason is less important here than the result.

When to Worry

If you adopted your cat at eight weeks old, as many pet owners do, then your cat was weaned a little too early. It’s not a world ender, but it’s more likely that your kitty will have wool sucking behavior. You’re more of a surrogate mommy than you would be if the cat had been older. They’re domestic animals, and we’re not trying to imply you did anything wrong or abnormal. It is, however, a fact that these early adoptions are more prone to surrogate nursing behavior. Most cats who knead and suckle are just fine. There’s nothing for you to be seriously concerned about. Especially if you have a cat whose personality is a bit high strung, or who had a sad past, they are just soothing their feelings. Regardless of their reason, you should be able to tell if the behavior is ‘frequent’ or ‘obsessive.’ If it’s the latter, then you may need to worry a bit. Your cat may be expressing a serious anxiety issue or OCD by wool sucking too often and vigorously. If you’re worried, then please go talk to your vet. Felines can have mental health issues, and you need to be attuned to your pet’s needs.

Next Level Wool Sucking is Worrisome

If your cat is chewing on or eating the wool or other soft things they like to suck on, then you should pay attention. PICA is another condition that isn’t human exclusive. The desire to eat non-nutritive and non-food substances isn’t healthy. Moreover, too much wool can cause blockages in your sweet pet’s intestines. Feline PICA is not easy to handle, but with love and persistence, plus some help from your vet, you can help keep your cat healthy and work on weaning them off the wool. Sometimes it’s the result of a serious need for fiber or minerals in the diet, but it can also be challenging to pin down and treat the source.

Final Thoughts

The average kitty is not doing anything too strange when they do a little lite recreational wool sucking. Even a feline with a devoted interest in nursing on fabrics isn’t always in trouble, but it’s never worth risking your pet’s health on an uncertainty. If the behavior seems excessive, then have them checked out. Otherwise, toss a blanket over your lap, the furniture, or whatever the cat insists on using, and let them have their comfort.

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