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kitten's frustrating behaviors (suckling)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hello everybody! I am new to this forum and excited about having a kitten/cat support group!

I have 2 5 month old kittens, both males from the same litter (Sammy and Pippen).
My issue is with Pippen. From the start he had litterbox issues (he was peeing outside the box, under the bed, etc.). I took him to the vet and they were treated for fleas and worms and the problem stopped.
That started my frustration with him though.
He is a very lovable kitten, don't get me wrong. But he is difficult to bathe/give medicine to. His brother is not. I know I should not compare them, but I do!
The worst of it is that he is not apt to clean his backside and runs around smelling like poop. I've been wiping for him, trying to stimulate him to do it, but it doesn't seem to work. The vets say some cats are just poor groomers.
And then, the top of the mountain of frustration is his habit of "milking" his brother! He'll do it until Sammy is completely soaked with his saliva and Pippen's nose changes color from being wet. It drives me crazy!! I am trying, praying, talking about it with others, to try and let it go and let him do it. If Sammy (his bro) wants him to stop, then he'll stop him. Otherwise, I should just ignore it, right? But it drives me completely mad! It gets right under my skin. Why does he do this? Why does it bother me so?

Right now he is sleeping on my lap like the sweet kitty he is.
My issue is that these behaviors of his and my reaction to them are driving me to be angry quite often with him and punishing him for other, less important things. Things that if Sammy did, would not bother me. It is the build up of my feelings towards all these other behaviors that causes me to want to punish him or be mean to him.

If anyone has experience, suggestions, encouragement, please do share!! I hope to get through this and have a healthy relationship with both of the kittens.
post #2 of 6
Poor Pippen is needier than his brother. And your reaction is only making things worse.

Remember his sweetness, because that is part of his personality as well. He needs to be approached as someone who needs a little more love and reassurance, as well as little more coaching about what you expect from him.

You say you shouldn't compare them; and I agree. So don't do it. Part of the problem can be your own frustration with him being more babyish than his brother, but he can't help it. Turn your mind around so you respect his needs; that is, after all, part of what makes him so sweet!

I would fuss over him more, giving him special attention, letting him know he is loved. That way, his self-soothing behaviors (the suckling, the distraction that keeps him from taking care of himself) will moderate because he won't be so insecure.

Some of his behavior is your causing it; making him insecure will only make matters worse. After all, if a child came to you because they are frightened, being angry at them for being frightened will only make that problem worse.

You might also look into yourself; why does Pippen's neediness make you so upset? Being honest with yourself about why this makes you feel this way will help both of you.
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your reply. I agree that in some ways Pippen is needier, but in others he is more independent than his brother. For example, both will sit on my lap and want love, but Sammy definitely does it more. If I try to put Pippen on my lap when he doesn't initiate, he will jump right off. He doesn't like to be held, whereas Sammy does. Also the fighting me when it comes to bathing/medicine. So in some ways he is more of the typical cat. The milking definitely signifies neediness though and of a different sort than what Sam does. So it is something I need to accept and love.

I definitely fuss over both of them. Certainly when Pips uses the litterbox and any other time he approaches me.

I appreciate your response. I definitely agree that my behavior is only making it worse. I know this while I am doing it, and am finding it hard to stop doing it!

Are you saying you think the suckling is taking the place of cleaning himself? Is there anything I can do about the suckling other than accept it? I certainly don't want to scar the kitty...
post #4 of 6
Chloe suckles really soft blankets as if she were nursing from them, maybe if you give Pippen a blanket he can use that instead? Chloe was bottle fed from 4 weeks until she was weaned and I suspect that her habit of sucking the blanket has to do with her being bottle fed. (She was an orphan kitten). She's over 4 months now and still does it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, it's certainly nothing to get worked up over. How old were your kittens when they were weaned?

I love the names, I'm assuming they are after Sam and Pippin from Lord of the Rings?

Also, you can't punish cats. It just doesn't do anything but create hostility between you and the cat.
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Yes they are named after Lord of the Rings.
I have a feeling he would not prefer a blanket when he has his long-haired brother around, you know?
Yesterday I just sat and watched and pretended like there was a one way mirror so I could not intervene. I wrote about how it made me feel. I think I will do this more often, it's helping me to process why it angers me so much! Also, they are still young, maybe he'll grow out of it?
I don't know how old they were weaned at, I got them at about 12 weeks.
post #6 of 6
Cats are not pre-programmed to make people happy like dogs are. And they don't respond to love like dogs do - we don't have a single kitty that wants love when we feel like giving it - they all take it only when they want it, and we accept them the way they are.

To help your kitty feel less anxious about things, you can consider purchasing Feliway Spray (or plug-ins). These mimic the "friendly" markers in cats' cheeks and help them be more calm: http://www.catfaeries.com

I agree with the extra attention - if he doesn't want it in the form of pets, give it to him in the form of play.

Also, to "punish" kitty - when he's jumping on counters or doing what he shouldn't be doing, blow a short, sharp puff of air into his face. This is speaking to him in a language understands (his mom or another cat would hiss at him) and it won't make him scared of you.

While his brother may not mind the suckling now - he may at some point. The best thing to do is to take a small sack of cotton and soak it in warm water that's had a SMALL bit of sugar added to it. When he's suckling on his brother, give him the replacement. You can also consider using a small bean bag toy and just soaking the leg or or something in the water (make sure you rinse it out afterwards). He may end up transferring the behavior to the bean bag toy - or just growing out of it with time.

You can also look into purchasing a snuggle kitty. This works really well for a lot of suckling cats: http://www.snuggleme.com/cat_product...le_kitties.htm

I'm sorry it angers you so much. I'm glad writing about it when it happens is helping. It's obviously not bothering his brother!

At this age, it's kind of like a 6 year old sucking a thumb. Punishing them won't work - you have to help work through the need issues. And no - it's not taking the place of him grooming himself. While your vet said that some cats just aren't big groomers - we've found that ours all took different amounts of time to be fastidious about it. Until he decides to do it himself, keep those kitty wipes handy.

But yes, he may grow out of both the suckling and grow into grooming himself. With your help and understanding, the suckling may end sooner rather than later.

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