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Why Does My Cat Suck on My Fingers? 3 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on June 9, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Why Does My Cat Suck on My Fingers? 3 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

VET APPROVED

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Cat parents understand that felines are peculiar creatures who sometimes engage in odd behaviors, such as napping in tight spaces, head-bumping you, and chewing or suckling on bizarre objects, such as blankets and towels. Cat suckling is generally harmless and can occur in cats of all breeds. However, when it occurs in adult cats, the behavior is viewed as odd, as most kittens grow out of the behavior.

If your cat sucks on your fingers and you’re wondering why and if you should worry about the behavior, you’ve landed on the right spot.

In this post, we’ll get to the bottom of this behavior to learn the three common reasons why your cat sucks on your fingers and if it’s a signal for concern.

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The 3 Reasons Why Your Cat Sucks on Your Fingers:

1. Weaned Too Early

One common reason for this behavior stems from your cat having been weaned too early from their mother. Weaning is an important step in transitioning kittens from their mother’s milk to solid food. The weaning process allows kittens to become more independent, mobile, socialized, and non-reliant on the mother.

Most veterinarians agree that the weaning process should begin at 4 weeks of age. Kittens weaned before this time are more prone to developing behavioral problems later, such as anxiety, aggression, or suckling on your fingers.1 Sometimes, a kitten is weaned too early because they may have been abandoned by the mother or orphaned and this may make stereotypic behaviors such as suckling more likely to occur into adulthood.

Cute kitten biting or suckling a human hand
Image Credit: XINN, Shutterstock

2. Sign of Distress

Distress can result in obsessive-compulsive behaviors that can involve your cat sucking your fingers. Distress may or may not accompany other odd behaviors, including paw sucking, tail chewing, and over-grooming. When a cat is distressed, all of these behaviors can be self-soothing. However, it’s advisable to have your vet examine your cat to rule out possible underlying medical issues that may be causing pain and anxiety if your cat shows signs of distress.

Other signs of distress in cats are:
  • Increased vocalization
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Aggression
  • Low energy
  • Hiding
  • Low appetite/low water intake
  • Vomiting and diarrhea


3. Pica in Adult Cats

Pica is defined as the consistent chewing, sucking, or the consumption of inedible or inappropriate materials. Such materials may be fabric, paper, cardboard, plastic, plants, wood, and rubber. Such activity can become dangerous if your cat ingests an inedible object or chews and sucks on a poisonous plant. In these cases, a trip to the vet is necessary to try and deter the behavior due to its possible effects on the cat’s health.

Pica is not very common, and the disorder is not well understood yet. Pica isn’t always a sign of a medical issue, but it’s crucial to rule this out with blood work, urine, and fecal samples. There are a plethora of possible causes of pica ranging from gastrointestinal diseases to hormonal diseases to behavioral conditions.  Treatment is complex and will vary depending on the cause.

Conditions that may cause Pica are:
  • Behavioral conditions, such as boredom, compulsion, stress, and anxiety
  • Early weaning/lack of socialization
  • Genetics
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Endocrine diseases (anemia, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, liver disease
  • Neurological diseases
  • Parasites
  • Poor nutrition
  • Teething issues
  • Pyruvate kinase deficiency

hand showing the teeth of blue tabby maine coon cat
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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What to Do About Your Cat Suckling Your Fingers

Cat suckling is typically no cause for alarm and is considered generally unharmful. However, this potentially compulsive behavior can become a problem if your cat sucks not only your fingers but on other inedible objects, like fabrics, cardboard, paper, etc.  There is a risk that your cat might swallow parts of these objects, which could result in a gastrointestinal foreign body, which is a veterinary emergency.

The first form of action should be a veterinary consult to ensure no underlying medical issue is present. If no underlying issue is the culprit, then there is usually nothing to worry about unless the sucking turns into a compulsion and causes stress or the ingestion of inedible objects.

If your cat is sucking your fingers, it could simply be a great source of comfort and contentment for your cat, and it could be hard to deter your cat from this behavior as an adult. It’s important to keep potentially harmful objects out of reach in case your cat decides to suck on something else, like a poisonous plant.

Ensure Your Cat’s Needs Are Being Met

If you attempt to deter this behavior, it’s vital to assess your cat’s needs and ensure you are meeting those needs.

Ensure your cat has plenty of mental stimulation, is eating a nutritious and appropriate diet, and has plenty of hiding places, like a cat tree. If you feel your cat is stressed, try to determine the cause of the stress; you may need to enlist your vet’s help to figure out the stressors.

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Hepper Mouse kicker toy white cat playing on a scratching postscratcher
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Conclusion

There are several reasons why your cat is sucking on your fingers, including having been weaned too early, pica, and general stress. Some cats may grow out of the behavior, and others never do. If your cat sucks your fingers, especially if the behavior is new, it’s vital to have your vet check your cat for any possible medical issues.

It’s also important to keep harmful objects out of reach to prevent ingestion of inedible objects, like cardboard, fabric, towels, plastics, etc., as these objects can lead to gastro issues or intestinal blockages.

See also: 

 


Featured Image Credit: SerPhoto, Shutterstock

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