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Health Talk: So-Called “Wool Sucking” Is a Cat Form of OCD

Siamese and Birman breeds are more susceptible to this oral fixation with nonfood items.

Jackie Brown  |  Aug 4th 2016


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

Not everyone knows that animals can suffer from compulsive behaviors similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans. In cats, this often manifests as something called “wool-sucking,” an oral compulsion that causes cats to obsessively chew, suck, or swallow nonfood items like wool or plastic. The disorder is commonly seen in Oriental breeds, including the Siamese and Birman.

Researchers recently studied this phenomenon and published the results in the November/December 2015 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. Much about this disease remains a mystery; however, the scientists found some increased risk factors in Birman cats, including early weaning and small litter size. Siamese cats who had a medical condition also had an increased risk of wool-sucking. All cats in the study who exhibited the wool-sucking behavior also had unusually intense appetites.

For more information on the causes of so-called wool sucking, see our post, “5 Reasons Why Cats Nurse on Blankets or Clothing.”