Picture this: You’ve finally reached the end of a long day of work and errands. You’ve finished your house chores, eaten dinner and gotten into your pajamas and your favorite fleece bathrobe. You settle back in your favorite chair to enjoy your drink of choice and watch some guilty-pleasure TV shows, and your cat hops onto your lap and settles in. “This is total perfection,” you think.
That is, until you realize that your cat’s gentle kneading is taking on a more frenetic quality and his hips are starting to twitch in an unmistakable way. Finally, after several of those jerking motions, your cat hops off your lap and starts to lick his little "red rocket."
Yes, that’s right. Your cat has just masturbated. While sitting in your lap.
Plenty of Americans would be completely grossed out by this. After all, we’re a nation where many people can barely tolerate the idea of humans masturbating, and the idea that a cat would enjoy getting his rocks off from time to time is downright gag-inducing.
But I’m here to tell you, if you have a cat that likes to jerk off, you’re not alone.
I recently got a spate of letters to my cat blog from people who were more than a little uncomfortable with their feline friend’s fapping and wondered what they should do to correct the behavior.
I told them what I’m going to tell you: Masturbation is perfectly natural. Every animal that has genitals does it. Why? Because it feels good!
In fact, I myself live with a cat who loves my fleece bathrobe. I mean, he realllly loves it.
I’ve had my share of evenings like the one I described at the beginning of this article.
Did I get grossed out? No. Did I yell at him and push him away? No. And why didn’t I freak out and try to "correct" the behavior? Because masturbation is perfectly natural. I’d no more shame a cat (who honestly has no idea what the big deal is anyway, because animals just don’t get hung up about sex and sexual activity like the esteemed citizens of the Puritan monolith known as the United States of America do) than I’d shame a human child for asking questions or exploring his body.
I view Thomas’ behavior with scientific curiosity rather than revulsion. It’s not like Thomas’s efforts drench my robe with bukkake-esque quantities of ejaculate. In fact, I’ve yet to see them yield any kind of liquid at all.
But why do neutered cats masturbate? Don’t they need to be sexually stimulated to engage in sexual behavior?
Whether you’re a cat or a human, you don’t need testicles or ovaries to enjoy a pleasant sensation. Very old as well as very young animals (including human animals) masturbate: The body reacts to genital stimulation in the same way, regardless of whether or not sex hormones are present.
The fact of the matter is, there’s nothing wrong with masturbation. The only time it could become a problem is if your kitty starts masturbating obsessively. Stressed animals will seek release from overwhelming negative emotions such as anxiety and fear, and they can adopt an array of self-soothing behaviors, including overgrooming, overeating, and compulsive masturbation.
If your cat is masturbating to the point where he’s irritating his genitals, talk to your vet and take some steps to reduce your feline friend’s stress level. (And don’t be embarrassed to have this conversation: Veterinarians really have pretty much heard it all when it comes to our companion animals’ behavior.)
Otherwise … don’t harsh your kitty’s buzz. He’s not doing anything wrong, and he’s sure not going to understand why you’re getting all freaked out over it.
Do you have a kitty who likes to get jiggy with fabric or other objects? How do you react to it? Have you known a cat who masturbated compulsively? How did you and your vet deal with that? Share your answers in the comments!
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.