Save your sweaters: How to stop cats from wool-sucking - Dr. Marty Becker

Save your sweaters: How to stop cats from wool-sucking

Thursday, Oct 15th, 2015 | By Dr. Marty Becker

two cats sitting under orange plaid and looking to camera

Wool-sucking in cats can be a destructive quirk and a sign your pet is stressed. A reader asks what can be done to help their kitty kick the habit.

Q: My cat loves to suck on my wool sweaters, and it’s ruining them. Not to mention it can’t be good for her. Why does she do this, and how can I get her to stop?

A: This condition, unimaginatively called wool-sucking, isn’t all that unusual in cats, although Siamese and other Oriental breeds seem to be especially fond of doing it. The behavior is a misdirected attempt at nursing that may occur in cats who were weaned too early or who are responding to stress in their lives. In the same way you might suck on your hair or bite your fingernails when you’re nervous or distracted, your cat sucks on wool.

The easiest way to stop her is to keep your sweaters where she can’t get to them. If your cat only sucks on your sweaters at certain times, see if you can figure out what’s triggering the behavior so you can change it if possible.

If you do catch her sucking on one (or any other wool or acrylic item), distract her with an unusual sound. When she looks up from what she’s doing, remove the item and focus her attention on something else, such as a treat, being groomed or getting a favorite toy. Reward her with praise and a treat every time you see her sucking on a toy or some other acceptable item. This may help her to kick the habit.

Some experts believe that adding a little fiber to the cat’s diet may help. It can’t hurt to add a couple of teaspoons of plain canned pumpkin (no sugar or spices) to her meals. That has the bonus of also helping to reduce hairballs.

Be concerned if your cat is actually ingesting wool, because this can cause an intestinal obstruction. See your veterinarian if this is the case; your cat may need a prescription for medication to combat depression or anxiety.

Read more, including about hiking with your cat and playtime for dogs, in the weekly Pet Connection!