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behavior problems and creative solutions

suckling of skin and clothing
There are two approaches to this problem. One is to let the kitten suckle, in the hope that the kitten will quit of his own accord; the other is to discourage suckling. Whichever path you choose, it is important to be consistent.

If the suckling does not bother you, then I suggest letting the kitten suckle when he wants to. He will probably realize that you do not produce milk and give up on it.

If, on the other hand, you find the suckling to be annoying, then you can go the "discourage" route. If the kitten is keeping you up at night attempting to suckle, I suggest shutting the little suckler out of your bedroom so you can sleep. You may want to try putting "Bitter Apple" on your suck-able skin. "Bitter Apple" is a product that you can purchase at most pet stores. Is is a spray bottle filled with a liquid that is safe but tastes really bad. If you spray some on your skin, it should discourage the suckling. You don't want to yell at the kitten or make him feel unloved, you just want to discourage the suckling. When you are cuddling with him, try keeping his mouth off your skin by holding his chin gently with your hand, and petting his face.

Many kitties outgrow this by age six months. Mine did not, but he has cut back a lot (he's six years old). At times, I have removed him from my lap when he starts suckling, I don't know if this had made a difference or not. It's really up to them whether or not they stop suckling.

I haven't heard much about cures for this. There is a connection between too-early separation from the mother and suckling fixations. This happens because somebody has an unexpected litter of kittens, they get sick of them and take them to the shelter as soon as the kittens start eating solid food. For some kittens this is okay, but for many, it is not. Ten to twelve weeks of age is really the best time to separate kittens from their mother.

If the kitten does not outgrow the suckling, he is likely to cut back on it as he grows older. It's not so bad when it is an occasional activity.

I am conducting an informal study on suckling behavior. I will publish the results on an ongoing basis.

Click here
to view current results of this study.