Cats are funny creatures that sometimes do strange things. Once of those weird cat behaviors is wool sucking.
Perhaps you found your cat sucking on your favorite sweater or blanket. She may have even chewed holes in it, and now you're unhappy with her. You want to prevent her from doing this not only to protect your favorite items, but to protect her as well. You don't want her accidentally swallowing wool and experiencing health problems.
Here are some reasons why your cat may be sucking on wool, as well as what to do about it.
Why cats like wool sucking
Your cat may be chewing or sucking on wool because she has pica, a disorder where she eats non-food items that have no nutritional value. Humans and other animals can get pica, too. She may have developed pica because she is nervous, anxious, or stressed out. Just like when humans bite their nails, she may be chewing or sucking on wool to self-soothe and distract herself. This could also be a compulsive cat behavior, or she may simply be bored.
There is a theory that cats develop pica if they are weaned too young; the standard amount of time for a kitten to breastfeed is up to eight weeks of age. If they never gained access to their mother when feeding or they were taken to a new home at a very young age, they could start sucking on wool.
In more serious cases, she might be lacking nutrition and look for it in other places, or (rarely but seriously), she could be experiencing an underlying medical issue like dental problems, leukemia, diabetes, brain tumors, or hyperthyroidism. For this reason, it's best to take her to the vet to rule out any medical conditions.
Is wool sucking dangerous?
Wool sucking itself may not be dangerous, but the underlying medical conditions could be. If your cat chews on the wool, then that's when you need to start worrying. If she eats the wool, then she could experience an intestinal blockage and have to go to the pet emergency room right away. Your cat may have an intestinal blockage if she is vomiting, not eating, has diarrhea, is weak and lethargic, has a cold body temperature, is crying, she has abdominal pain or swelling, and she won't lie down. At the vet, she may need laxatives, an endoscopy, and/or surgery.
How to help your cat if she is sucking on wool
If you notice any health issues in your cat, take her to the veterinarian or pet ER right away. However, if the vet rules her health as being OK, then ask them for advice on how to stop the wool sucking.
In addition, you could try relieving her stress and anxiety if you believe that's what's causing this cat behavior. If she is stressed and anxious, she may also tremble, attempt to escape, develop lesions and sores from over-grooming herself, destroy things, act aggressive, hide, and become less active.
You could buy her new toys like a scratching post or cat tree she can climb on. You could also play with her and cuddle with her more, if that's what she likes. A cat anxiety vest might help. Another solution is to either do behavioral conditioning with the help of a vet or cat behaviorist to desensitize your cat to a trigger, or remove the trigger altogether. For example, if she doesn't like to be around a loud TV, you could put her bed in a separate room where she can't hear it.
Of course, make sure you put wool items away so she can't get to them. You can store them in a locked room, in a drawer, or in a closet she can't reach.
Your cat may be sucking on wool because she has pica, she was weaned too early, or she's acting out of boredom or compulsive cat behavior. It's important to figure out the root cause and then treat it with the help of your veterinarian or cat behaviorist.