Stopping Suckling Behavior in Kittens
I have a 4 month old kitten who is a suckler and I have tried hard to break this habit. Do you have any suggestions on how to stop this habit? (Vicki Couvillon - Virginia)
Suckling behavior is very common in cats up to around 6 months, and some cats never grow out of it. Some behaviorists think that compulsive suckling behavior is an indication that the kitten was removed from its mother too early or too abruptly, and there is no really persuasive argument about whether stopping this behavior or not is better for your cat. Most cats do grow our of this behavior, but it can take months or even years. In order stop this behavior the most important thing is to be consistent - if you are going to disallow this behavior you must try not to ever allow her to do it again.
You should never scold your kitten for suckling since she may feel rejected - after all she is simply being affectionate or doing what comes naturally. What you want to do is to discourage her behavior by making it unappealing to her. If you want to stop your kitten from suckling on an inanimate object you can try using deterrents such as Bitter Apple, which simply gives the object a bad taste. If you want to stop your kitten from suckling on you or your hair, you could try providing for example a Teddy Bear for her to suckle. This works best if your kitten is trying to suckle you when you're in bed at night. Alternatively, you can even put deterrent on your skin or hair.