Are you fed up with a feline that stopped using the litter box? Concerned for a cat who’s sleeping a lot? Or, not sure if what your kitty does is normal? These are all questions you should ask a veterinarian. Dr. Liz Bales is here to answer your kitty questions about health, wellness, and behavior!
Please give Dr. Bales your warmest welcome to The Catington Post, then go LIKE her on Facebook by clicking here. If you’ve got a question about YOUR cat, leave it as a comment below and Dr. Bales just might answer your question next!
Hello Dr. Bales,
My cat, Boo, has started sucking on a blanket. She is 13 and has never done this before. Is this a sign something is wrong?
Hi JoAnn! Thank you for taking the time to send this terrific question.
First, let’s talk in generalities, then we will talk specifically about Boo.
The behavior that you describe is called “Wool Sucking.” Although wool is the most common material chosen for this behavior, cats can suck on clothing, shoelaces, bath mats or blankets, like Boo. You must watch closely to make sure that this sucking does not progress to chewing. Pieces of these objects can be chewed off, swallowed and become intestinal foreign bodies, which can be a life threatening emergency.
There are lots of theories about where this behavior starts. For young cats, this condition may arise from being weaned from their mother too young. These young cats find comfort in wool sucking which simulates the comfort received from nursing their mother. Many of these cats grow out of this behavior by about a year old.
As cats age, this can become an compulsive disorder that can result from conflict, anxiety or illness. Wool sucking is more common in certain breeds – Siamese and Birman.
It sounds like this is a new behavior for Boo. It might be worth a trip to the vet to make sure that she is in good health. If she gets a clean bill of health, it could be that she is experiencing a new environmental stress. What is stressful your cat may not seem like a stress to you at all. Have you had more guests over to the house lately? Are you doing construction on the house? Have you been working more than usual? Are you redecorating or re-arranging furniture? Lots of changes that we see as part of normal life can be stressful when seen through the eyes of cats.
There are a few things that you can do that should help decrease anxiety. If you can identify the source of the stress, eliminate it from Boo’s world. And, for now, it’s best to remove the items she is sucking on so that they don’t make her sick. You might help Boo decrease her anxiety by creating a structured routine in her day that she can expect – playing, grooming, together time. (Take a look at my ongoing 5 part series on Environmental Enrichment for tips on creating a cat friendly indoor environment for your cat at www.TheCatvocate.com)
Some kitties need a little pharmacological help to get past this anxiety. Your vet may prescribe some medicine to help Boo through this difficult period.
I hope this helps and that Boo is feeling better very soon.
For more cat health and wellness information, check out my website at www.TheCatvocate.com.
Dr. Liz Bales, The Catvocate, is a practicing veterinarian with 15 years of experience. Dr. Bales has a strong interest in feline wellness and behavior. She believes that by understanding the natural state of the cat we can create an indoor environment where cats thrive and our bond with them grows.