A gray and white cat, sucking and kneading on a blanket.
A gray and white cat, sucking and kneading on a blanket. Photography ©Silvia Jansen | Alamy Stock Photo.

Is Your Cat Nursing on Herself, Blankets or Other Objects? Should You Worry?

Is your cat kneading or wool sucking? A cat nursing herself or other objects might be completely normal — or not. Let's find out.

I adopted my Cornish Rex, Carson, when he was about 4 months old. He was a sweet, affectionate kitten, with an unusual behavior. He would suck on his chest and stomach, most often in situations where it seemed he wanted to comfort himself. Caron, particularly did this, when he was adjusting to his new home. When I asked my vet about the behavior, he said that it was likely caused by Carson being weaned too early. He advised me to keep an eye on the behavior to ensure Carson wasn’t making himself bleed or severely irritating his skin. In my case, the most damage my cat ever caused was to make the fur on his chest and stomach pretty damp. So, what’s up with cat nursing behaviors and when should you worry? Let’s take a look:

Wool sucking

A cat sucking on a blanket.
Wool sucking in cats is a common self-soothing behavior. Photography ©ElenaBoronina | Thinkstock.

The name most commonly used to describe this cat nursing behavior is “wool sucking,” as the kittens who engage in this activity may suck on items such as sweaters and blankets (hence the “wool” in the name) as well as shoelaces, ribbons and other fabric-like items including carpet. The kitten might also suck on himself (as in Carson’s case) or another animal’s tail. Wool sucking typically indicates that a kitten was separated from his mother too early, explains Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant and author of Naughty No More!

“But there are other reasons for the behavior,” she says. “Separation anxiety and stress can also trigger cats to wool suck and nurse. Stressors include sudden changes, new pets and neighborhood cats.” Other events like too many pets in the home or the sudden absence of a family member (such as through divorce or a young adult moving out of the home) can also trigger the behavior.

Don’t worry: As my veterinarian mentioned with Carson, a cat nursing himself typically does not cause himself any harm. Krieger says that most kittens outgrow the behavior as they mature.

“Most kittens will gradually stop nursing after they are introduced to solid food,” she explains. “Kittens should remain with their moms until they are 12 weeks old. Some will continue to try to nurse on their mum but will eventually grow out of it.”

Be concerned: Wool sucking, however, can become more serious if the kitten or cat prefers to suck on fabric items. “There is the danger of chewing and ingesting the material, possibly resulting in an intestinal blockage,” Krieger says. She also cautions owners to be concerned if the behavior extends past the cat’s first year of life.

“It’s important to determine the reasons behind the self-comforting behavior,” she explains. “Owners should first have the cat evaluated by a veterinarian. Although substituting something that is safer for the cat to suck can help, it’s important to identify and deal with the source of the stress. In addition to identifying and dealing with the triggers, people can help through enriching the [cat’s] environment.” Krieger cautions against trying to force a cat to stop wool sucking. “It creates more anxiety and stress for the cat,” she says.


Another behavior associated with cat nursing is kneading. In our house, we call this activity “the kitty dance,” as it looks like the cat is practicing a feline tango routine. Jack, my 9-year-old red tabby, is the most frequent “dancer” in our household and often performs this activity on a soft pillow on our couch just before curling up for a nap.

Krieger explains that cat kneading often accompanies wool sucking and cat nursing and is another self-comforting behavior. For example, kittens knead when they are nursing to help stimulate their mother’s milk production.

“Feral cousins of our household kittens often knead to make a soft place amongst the vegetation for napping,” Krieger adds. “One theory states that kneading is also one of the ways that cats might mark their territories. They have scent glands on the bottom of their paws. When they knead, they are activating these glands and leaving their scent.”

Don’t worry: Kneading generally is recognized as a way cats express their happiness, and many cats will continue to knead throughout their lives (as Jack likes to demonstrate on almost a daily basis). In fact, cats almost always purr when they knead and may even involve all four paws in the rhythmic up-and-down activity.

Be concerned (but only for yourself!): Many cats associate their owners’ laps with happiness and may begin to knead while relaxing with their humans. The happier your cat becomes with this situation, however, the more intense the kneading may become, and if your cat involves his claws in the activity, it could become a bit painful for you!

Tell us: What strange cat nursing behaviors does your kitty have?

Thumbnail: Photography ©Silvia Jansen | Alamy Stock Photo.

This piece was originally published in 2017.

About the author

A lifelong cat owner, Stacy N. Hackett writes frequently about cats, cat breeds and a range of pet-related topics. The inspiration for her writing comes from her four cats — Jack, Phillip, Katie and Leroy. And her Cocker Spaniel/Labrador Retriever mix, Maggie.

Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home. 

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85 thoughts on “Is Your Cat Nursing on Herself, Blankets or Other Objects? Should You Worry?”

  1. Found this article after googling because my new kitten does this on his blanket. He was a bottle baby so the reasoning makes perfect sense. I’m glad for the most part the behavior is okay and he will likely grow out of it. It’s really cute though :)

  2. Our tuxie, Alex, would settle in behind me on the back of my parents’ love seat, start nosing thru my hair, then start “nursing” on his front arm through my hair…the only time I’ve ever had a kitty experience quite like this. Miss that silly little goofball. 🖤🤍🖤

  3. I have a 3 year old cat whose Mama died while giving birth. I starting with an eyedropper all the way till he was eating solid food. He will be three in July and every time he comes in has to get on my chest before he goes to sleep and suck on my shirt. So sweet but, THOSE CLAWS! LOL

  4. We got two kitties when they were 16 weeks old. The male has what we call Chronic Baby Syndrome. He nurses my arm and has since we got them. But they were with their momma until the day we took them home with us. He also licks bags ALL of the time. He has chosen me as his person. But he has never met a stranger and will present his belly for anyone to rub.

  5. My cat Gretel used to nurse on nothing at all. At first, I thought she was panting but then noticed she was sucking like she was trying to nurse. But not on anything. Just looking straight ahead. She grew out of it but it was so funny (once I stopped being concerned).

  6. I have a wool sucking cat with a bit of a weird habit, he has only one blanket that he uses for his sucking and at night he cries until I produce his blanket. If I fail to produce his his cherished blankey he resorts to running around the house like a deranged psycho with ADHD all through the night. And when I say deranged I mean it, I’ve woken up to lamps on the floor, pictures knocked off the walls, every roll of toilet paper shredded paper towels too, I mean he really gets wild… So he was weaned far to young but that could not be helped, I have always attributed both behaviors to the fact that he was weaned so young well and normal high energy curious kitten behavior, however he is now two and the behavior still continues strong as ever and does seem to be interconnected. Is this common for cats or he just as special as we seem to think he is since we put up with his shenanigans and love him anyways.

  7. I just got a kitten looks to be about four Months old she’s continually trying to nurse on fingers neck ears anything. She’s very gentle and never shows her paws or what I mean by causes clause even when she’s media but it’s becoming irritating how can I breaker and why is she still doing this

  8. My kitty is around 3-4 months old and was born outside. Momma was a stray. There was 4 kittys to begin with and two disappeared along with the momma around 6 weeks. My father brought the last two kittys inside and they were eating hard food already. But I believe she was separated way too soon from her momma because she kneads and sucks on soft blankets all the time.

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