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Cats Sucks His Own Tail


I have a male Siamese cat, Gumbo, who is two years old.  He is a joy. But he sucks on his tail the way a kid sucks on a thumb.  He sits down, often in my lap, reaches his left front paw over to grab his tail, puts about two inches of it in his mouth and sucks on it.  He does this every day, mostly in the evening, and only when he is interacting with us.  His fur never falls out and his skin seems fine.  He purrs and makes happy trilling sounds while he does this.  Should I be concerned?


Dr. Nichol:

Many cats who were weaned too young suck on themselves, other household pets, their owner’s hair, ear lobes, beard, you name it. Tail sucking isn’t normal. It’s a sign that we humans have thrown a monkey wrench into the natural order of another species.


Free living cats usually mother their babies beyond the age of 12 weeks. We Americans force-wean them much younger, resulting in life-long incorrigible suckling for some, as well as a greater likelihood of aggressive behaviors. We believe we own other animals but we don’t always do what’s best for them. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.


There could be other reasons for Gumbo’s compulsive habit. It can occur in pets who are under-stimulated or from stress, conflict, arousal, or frustration. Repetitive behaviors like this may be perpetuated by endorphin release. You shouldn’t feel a need to stop his tail sucking. It may even help calm some pets.


Your boy Gumbo is an otherwise normal, well-adjusted fellow. It’s doubtful that he really needs any intervention. I say enjoy him for who he is. Anybody who is offended by his tail sucking should just learn tolerance for alternative lifestyles.