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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16231
Experience:  Small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats, happy to discuss any questions you have.
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We have a 9 week old male kitten. We have had m 2 weeks and

Customer Question

Good evening,
We have a 9 week old male kitten. We have had him for almost 2 weeks and have noticed that he suckles the tip of his tail. He seems to enjoy it and purrs himself to sleep, however he gets very restless when we try to take it away and frantically tries to find it to continue suckling. He does this multiple times throughout the day. There is no irritation yet, but we are worried that of he continues to do this, some might present.
Please help.
Thanks, Shae
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 12 months ago.

Hello & welcome, Shae. I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

This is not an uncommon behavior in young cats that have been potentially weaned too soon and those that are adjusting to their new lives away from their feline family. This is essentially a comfort behavior and understandable as he won't understand why his life has had so many dramatic changes as of late (new home, new owners, loss of his family, mum, etc). Now we don't usually find that they do cause themselves significant dermatitis (and the area can be cleaned with salt water or dilute chlorohexidine between times to offset that + make it not a very tasty area to nurse). But if you wanted to deter the behavior, you would be better to give him reason to reject the tail as opposed to taking it away from him. To do so, you can use the unpleasant taste of a safe antiseptic like the chlorohexidine or there are OTC taste deterrents (ie Bitter Apple) that you can get from your local pet store to use here. The aim of these is that if he finds the tail less desirable to nurse, then he will stop the behavior (as opposed to straining your relationship arguing with him about the behavior.

Finally, since it isn't a destructive habit and is one that can bring him comfort (like a baby sucking their thumb), you can give him an alternative to use. Some cats will defer the behavior to a favorite toy or blanket. Or there are even specially made pillows for the nursing behavior (example @ http://www.catsifier.com/). But again this is a comfort behavior, so they do often outgrow this as they become secure in their own home but we can use the above if we do want to deter the behavior for Hunter.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

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