Cats lick themselves clean, but does your cat seem to lick every fabric surface in your home too? If so, you can stop this unwanted behavior by enriching your cat's environment and redirecting your feline companion's attention to more acceptable items to lick, like cat toys. First, though, you'll need to visit your veterinarian to see if something more serious is at play, like pica or a dental issue.
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Cats lick and bite at fabric for a number of reasons, usually due to boredom, being weaned too early, anxiety, or an illness. To help combat fabric licking, preventing access to fabrics and making your cat's environment as fun and stress-free as possible can help reduce and eventually eliminate this strange behavior.
Stop inappropriate fabric licking
The easiest way to stop inappropriate fabric licking is to block your cat's access to the items that she likes to lick. For example, for cats licking slippers, place the slippers in a closet that your cat can't access. If your cat has a particular blanket that she licks frequently, put that blanket in a closed drawer.
Keep as many fabric items out of your cat's reach as you can. Ensure all clothing is put into closed drawers and closets. Remove any area rugs, throws, or other fabrics that your cat licks.
Young kittens may eventually grow out of this behavior if these items are simply removed from their environment for a few months.
How to stop a cat from licking furniture
Unlike slippers and blankets, you can't exactly keep upholstered furniture out of your cat's reach. For large items like this and things like draperies, use a bitter pet deterrent spray on the fabrics. These types of sprays taste unpleasant to cats and will discourage licking.
Note that you'll need to reapply the bitter spray every day to keep it potent. Before spraying it on your furniture or other fabric items, test it on a small corner to ensure that it won't discolor the fabric itself.
Redirect cats licking fabric
Once you've removed or sprayed as many of the fabric items as possible, it's time to redirect that behavior to something acceptable. Start by providing your cat with a bevy of toys. If your cat is only licking and not ingesting fabric, give him some fabric toys containing catnip. He will enjoy licking the fabric and smelling the catnip.
Give your cat a puzzle toy filled with his favorite kibble. This will help occupy your cat during the day as he eats. You might also want to switch your cat to a high-fiber dry cat food. High-fiber foods keep your cat feeling fuller for longer in case he is licking at fabrics because he is hungry.
Install cat shelves along your walls or provide your cat with cat trees and condos to climb. These items will provide safe spots for your cat if anxiety is causing him to lick fabrics (especially if another pet in the house is bothering him). You'll also want to engage your cat with interactive play sessions two to three times a day to keep him busy and tire him out so that he won't want to sit around licking fabrics.
Cat licking fabric and eating it
Do you see any holes in your fabric items? While some cats simply lick or suck on fabric, others will ingest it. This is likely caused by pica, a condition in which cats eat nonfood items, like fabric, litter, or plastic. Oriental breeds, like Siamese, Tonkinese, and Burmese cats, are most prone to pica and fabric licking in general.
Pica is a potentially dangerous condition because your cat could experience an intestinal blockage after eating fabric. To deal with a cat licking fabric and eating it, you'll need to visit a veterinarian right away.
The veterinarian can run tests to rule out a medical issue as a potential cause of pica, such as a nutritional deficiency or illness, like cancer or hyperthyroidism. She can also prescribe anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication for your cat to help curb her desire to eat fabrics.