There's nothing quite so incongruous as seeing a big old former street cat sitting on top of a pink sweater, blissfully kneading with her front paws and sucking away like a tiny kitten. Although called wool sucking, cats who display this type of behavior may go after other kinds of fabrics as well. At the very least, they can snag it, slobber on it, and shed hair all over it. But wool suckers are also prone to chewing and can destroy items such as expensive clothes, blankets, and comforters faster and more efficiently than moths or small children.
It's not completely clear why cats do it, although some behaviorists suspect it's more common in cats who were weaned too young. Certain breeds, most notably Siamese, are more prone to wool sucking, so it probably has a strong genetic factor.
If your cat is a wool sucker, don't despair; there are several guidelines you can follow in order to guard your garments from destruction.
Take temptation out of her way. It may be cute to see your cat all cuddled up in your sweater drawer, but if she turns out to be a wool sucker, you may end up having to replace your wardrobe. Get into the habit of putting clothing, blankets, towels, and other textiles away in securely closing drawers, closets, and cabinets.
Either way, it's fiber. Sometimes, a cat's desire to suck and chew fabric fibers can be curbed by giving her more dietary fiber. A crunchy dry food is higher in fiber than canned food and may provide the oral stimulation that a wool sucker craves. If your wool-sucking cat shows an interest, you can also try tearing up a leaf or two of lettuce for her to munch on instead of your cardigan.
The old switcheroo. When you see your cat heading for your favorite wool sweater, replace the sweater with a chew toy or a wool-covered toy. Providing your cat with plenty of toys to chew on may prevent her from going for your expensive garments.
Age before beauty. As a preventative measure, before you get another pet, consider the cat's age. Since there might be a connection between early weaning and wool sucking, you may want to consider adopting kittens who are at least ten weeks old and have been with their mothers the whole time. Although weaning often occurs around six to seven weeks of age, a ten-week-old kitten is sure to have made the transition completely.
When to Call the Vet
Wool sucking usually doesn't require any veterinary attention. However, keep an eye on your cat to make sure she doesn't swallow any loose strings; this can cause intestinal problems, which require immediate attention.
While cats can make wonderful companions, they can also be a real headache. If your cat has an annoying habit that is driving you up the wall, hopefully you now know how to handle it.
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