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Do Cats Masturbate? Feline Behavior Explained

Some people are creeped out when their cats get jiggy with soft objects, but masturbation happens, and it's as natural for them as it is for us.

Written by: Jordyn Alger

Last Updated on March 15, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

brown cat licking grooming its genital

Do Cats Masturbate? Feline Behavior Explained

Sometimes, being a pet owner means dealing with awkward situations. Many dog owners complain about their pet’s tendency to hump objects, but did you know that cats can also display similar behavior?

Obviously, this can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant behavior to witness; however, it is entirely normal. While it isn’t usually a cause for concern, compulsive masturbation can indicate something is wrong. To learn more about why cats masturbate and when to be concerned, keep reading below.

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Why Do Cats Masturbate?

Masterbation in cats may simply be a form of self-pleasure, and because they enjoy it, and the pleasure they feel makes them likely to continue this behavior in the future. Masturbation is most often associated with intact male cats. It may be driven by hormones, specifically testosterone, which drive other sexual behaviors like spraying and seeking out females.

Neutered cats do not display this behavior as often because testosterone production drops after sterilization. Thus, their desire to masturbate or engage in other sexual behaviors is reduced. Cats who were neutered later in life may still engage in self-pleasure if the act has become a learned habit.

In some instances, neutered cats may masturbate due to stress, poor socialization, or even some health conditions. If you notice that your cat’s self-pleasure habits seem compulsive and excessive, reach out to your vet to ensure your pet is not suffering from behavioral or physical issues.

Cat Is Licking His Genitals
Image Credit: Ketut Agus Suardika, Shutterstock

Signs That Your Cat Is Masturbating

Sometimes, it is obvious that your cat is masturbating. Cats may knead, purr, or drool before engaging in self-pleasure. Other times, their behavior is much more subtle and difficult to spot. In any case, some indications that your cat is self-pleasuring include:

  • Excessive licking around the genital area
  • Humping
  • Rubbing genitals against objects, often bedding or blankets

As long as this behavior occurs only infrequently, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Masturbation is a normal, if awkward, behavior that our pets may engage in. Of course, if you are ever concerned for your pet’s well-being, there is no harm in reaching out to a vet. Sometimes, you may discover that your cat is licking their genitals not for pleasure but because something is medically wrong.

Licking Their Genitals Doesn’t Always Mean They’re Masturbating

You can’t stop a cat from licking their private parts, as they will do so even without the intent to masturbate. However, your cat may obsessively lick around their genitals due to a health issue, so keep a close eye on your cat’s behavior if you are concerned. If you believe your cat is struggling with any of the medical conditions below, reach out to a vet immediately.

Urinary Tract Infection or FLUTD

Bacterial urinary tract infections can occur in cats, but a more common issue is feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD. This condition includes many potential issues with the urinary tract and can show signs similar to UTIs such as straining to urinate, urinating frequently, only passing small amounts of urine at a time, bloody urine or making painful vocalizations while trying to urinate. A significant sign that your cat is experiencing some form of urinary tract issue is if they urinate outside of their litter box.

cat lying on the wooden floor beside litter box
Image Credit: Tanya Plotnikova, Shutterstock

Bladder Stones

Cats with bladder stones sometimes lick their genital area. If you notice your cat straining to urinate or excreting bloody urine, they may be suffering from a bladder stone.

Allergies

If your cat has allergies, they may experience itching around their genitals. This can be a food allergy or an environmental allergy. Either way, try to determine what is triggering your cat’s allergies so that you can remove the allergen from your cat’s environment. This will help reduce the itching.

Skin Infection

Many conditions can lead to a skin infection, such as an imbalance of bacteria. If your cat has developed a skin infection, you may notice signs such as itchiness, redness of the skin, skin swelling or wounds, and fur loss. Talk to your vet to determine what is causing your cat’s skin infection and how to treat it.

cat scratching its neck
Image Credit: Caren O, Flickr

Anal Gland Impaction

While it may appear that your cat is licking their genitals, it is possible that they are licking their rectal area. Many cats will lick this region or scoot their butt on the floor if they are struggling with an anal gland impaction. When your cat’s anal glands are impacted, they can become swollen and smelly. The anal glands, which are normally unnoticed, may become very obvious.

When Should You Be Concerned About Your Cat’s Masturbation?

Occasional masturbation is not something to be concerned about since the behavior is entirely normal. However, there are some instances where a cat’s masturbation may be compulsive and excessive. In some of these cases, it can be due to stress.

Cats are highly attuned to their environment, and the slightest change can set them off. Something as small as an unexpected guest or something as big as a cross-country move can upset your cat.

Like humans, cats seek ways to relieve their stress. Compulsive behaviors may help cats cope with their stress in the short term, and sometimes, the repetitive behavior that they choose is masturbation.

Other reasons that a cat may masturbate include health conditions such as cryptorchidism, adrenal tumors, FIP and some behavioral disorders. If your cat is masturbating frequently or has recently started, it may be a cause for concern that requires a visit to your veterinarian.

How to Curb Compulsive Feline Masturbation Behaviors

If your cat engages in self-pleasure infrequently, there is no need to curb their behavior. However, if masturbation has become a compulsive, excessive activity for your pet, then the first step that you should take is to talk to your vet.

veterinarian doctor holds cat
Image Credit: H_Ko, Shutterstock

Consult Your Vet

Speaking to your vet will allow you to rule out the possibility of any medical issues, including those discussed above. It will also alert you to an injury or disease your cat is struggling with so that you can intervene and give them the support and relief they need.

If your vet has determined that there are no underlying medical concerns behind your pet’s behavior, you should consider the potential stressors in your cat’s environment. Have there been any significant changes in your cat’s life? Has their routine been disturbed? If your cat’s environment is unfamiliar or chaotic, this may cause them to feel stressed.

Manage Your Pet’s Stress

To manage your cat’s stress, first establish a routine. Cats love routines since it allows them to expect when they will be fed and cared for. Without a routine, your cat may feel uncertain and agitated. Some events to schedule into your daily routine include when you change the litter box, when you feed your cat, and when you give them attention.

Another step to minimize your cat’s stress is to provide calming feline pheromone products that are designed to reduce your cat’s agitation. If there are specific stressors in your cat’s environment, you can also do your best to remove them.

Provide Entertainment

Besides managing stress, you can also provide enrichment for your cat. It is possible that your cat is masturbating due to boredom, so by providing mental stimulation, you can try to curb such sexual behaviors. Cat trees, toys, and scratching posts allow your cat to play independently when you are not around. Still, you should take time each day to play with your cat and give them the attention they crave.

Finally, always be patient with your cat. While a pet’s masturbation can be an awkward thing to deal with, you should never punish your cat or try to interfere. This will only add to your cat’s stress and potentially worsen their self-pleasuring compulsion. Even as you take steps to curb your cat’s behavior, it could take a month or more for them to break their habit. Give your cat the time and space they need to adjust.

bengal cat plays on scratching post
Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

 

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Final Thoughts

Catching your cat masturbating is awkward, even if the behavior is normal. As long as your cat is not engaging in this behavior excessively, you do not need to worry, but do not hesitate to reach out to your vet if you are concerned. Taking care of our pets is not always pretty, and part of being a responsible pet owner is accepting the good and the bad and refusing to ignore it.


Featured Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

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