My Cat Has Issues

First, here’s Zeus trying very very hard to get his way into the drawer in which I have my stash of catnip. There are two things going against him here. First, the contents of the drawer are heavy enough that he has no chance of pulling it open with his teeth, and second, he lacks opposable thumbs. The catnip is safe. However, I do occasionally open the drawer, just do he knows it’s in there, and then close it as he bounds up. Because I’m a mean human, that’s why.

Second, I’m come to the conclusion that Zeus may have been weaned too early, because he exhibits the following truly annoying characteristic: In the middle of the night he will attempt to burrow under the covers, grab onto a limb (or an ass), and start biting on it. It’s really kind of freaky.

My first thought was that we had him chopped too late and he was trying to get out some latent randiness, which is disturbing on its own. I would suspect that humping your owner’s leg would be beneath a cat’s dignity and something better left to those degenerate dogs. But, without getting too much into it, nothing else about the activity presents as a mating exercise. I continued to be flummoxed until it hit me that his activity was very much like what a kitten would do when it was trying to get fed from its mother.

This is, of course, also disturbing, for various reasons. I understand that some animal behaviorists believe that cats see humans as some sort of weirdly-shaped mother figures, but this is really going too far with the metaphor. Also, you know. I don’t know what Zeus thinks he’s going to get attempting to nurse from my ass while I’m sleeping, but whatever it is, I suspect he’s going to end up rather unpleasantly surprised.

This wouldn’t be the first cat I had with mother issues. When I was ten years old, we had a cat named Doheny, so named because we found him as a stray kitten at Doheny Beach. Doheny was adorable but he was also not quite over nursing when he found him, because what he liked to do was latch on to people’s necks or arms and nibble while making those little pawing motions nursing kitten make. We thought it was too cute for words. And you would end up with these itty bitty little hickeys that were very amusing to explain to other people.

Well, it was amusing when I was ten; now that I’m 38 I’m less enthused. Doheny eventually outgrew the behavior; and Zeus is still a kitten, so hopefully he will too. And if he doesn’t, he’ll be sleeping outside a lot. Because I have better than to do with the hours between 11pm and 6am than to have them be prime feline ass-biting time.

58 Comments on “My Cat Has Issues”

  1. Our cat Norman was probably weaned too early… he has a tendency to suckle shirts. While we’re wearing them. It’s very… messy. There’s kneading involved as well.

    Biting can be play, as well.

  2. Itty Bitty Kitty Hickey is my next band name.

    Our cat George Foreman did that alot for a while. Got really bad. He earned the nickname Dr. Furioso von Humpenstein because of it. His actions are definitely sexual, though there are some bits that are the weaning issue.

    Now that he has to share the house with a puppy he hates all humans more than Bender.

  3. Because I have better [things?] to do with the hours between 11pm and 6am than to have them be prime feline ass-biting time.

    Crazy talk! Name one thing.

  4. ::sigh::

    I thought you had some command of logic.

    1) Keep kitteh’s stash, um, stashed.
    2) Taunt kitteh with stashment.
    3) Get bit on the ass in the middle of the night by kitteh.

    I’m sorry, there’s some mystery?

    The disillusion, it hurts.

  5. There’s a very wise saying: Two cats are easier than one. Right now, you are his only playmate/object de focus. Another cat, about the same age, could reduce the problem greatly by giving him a playmate who is on his schedule and plays the same way he does. Two of the times cats really like to play is evening/early night and early morning. With another cat in the house, he would just play with the cat while you are sleeping.

    Works “most” of the time. Some cats are just downright weird.

  6. O Heartless Scalzi, the Executive Committee of The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club has pondered your ass-sucking dilemma and has come up with the following solutions.

    You can allow TempCat Zeus to associate with the Beauteous Ghlaghghee and allow Her Perfection to correct his behavior. The risk you run is that Her Infinite Patience may be tested and be, well – not so Infinite. But if She smites him, that will solve your ass-sucking problem.

    Or you can buy the Catsifier from

    You can thank us for these suggestions by posting a few dozen pictures of Magnificent She. Perhaps one or two of Lopsided Cat, who we have heard too little of lately.

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  7. Jeff Hentosz:

    Yeah, but he also goes after Krissy, who is completely blameless.

    Linda Lindsey:

    We actually have three cats. He’s just a bit of a freak .

    Chang not Chang:

    Ghlaghghee does indeed occasionally wap the crap out of Zeus when he gets too rambunctious. Let’s hope it takes.

  8. John,

    Practical solution: topical capsaicim (or other source of un-scented capsicum). One good bight of that and kitteh will be well and truly done with that trick. The warm to heated sensation at the point of application, while great for muscle pain, may discourage you from this approach…


  9. Nights are still cold in Ohio, I think. So go for the topical capsaicim on your ass, John!

    Then come back and tell us about it, but I don’t think your tale of woe will stack up against John Cole’s.

  10. Rather than slathering capsaicim on my ass, maybe I’ll just close the bedroom door.

  11. Works at our house. Kick ’em out, shoo ’em down the stairs, and shut the door.

    Problem is our biggest cat prefers to sleep on my wife’s pillow (leaving her only about 1/4 surface area for her own use). So imagine a 17 lb battering ram hitting your door at 3 AM. We named him “Klunk” for a reason. :)

  12. Chang, that Catsifier is beyond creepy. Where do you find these things?

    I have an acquaintance who has a cat in the same situation as Zeus. Except he encouraged the suckling behavior and even to this day (he’s about a year and a half old) he’ll come up and suckle on my acquaintance’s lower lip. Yes, he is very odd.

  13. My first thought, critter42, was “oh, the cat’s trying to reach the…bacon box? bacon cookbook? what the heck is that?!”

  14. John,

    Where’s your sense of adventure? Shouldn’t a purveyor of fine fiction (and fine science fiction at that) opt for the experimental (dare we say progressive) choice vice the tried and true conservative approach?

  15. Rodney Graves:

    I am strangely conservative when it comes to blister-capable oils in the vicinity of my ass. Call me crazy.

  16. Maybe you could leave for Zeus a saucer of coffee (I recommend decaf) at the foot of the bed. After all, you say that that tastes like ass.

  17. Back when my runt-of-the-litter cat was still nursing on things randomly, he went for actual nipples.

    This is Very Startling.

  18. Plus, he’s leaning against the draw he’s trying to open. Oh sure, cats are excellent at theoretical physics, it’s the applied physics part where they fail.

  19. John, my cat, Zoe, is one and a half, and still has weaning issues.

    She was abandoned when she was a little over a month old, and pretty much after we got her (she was 2.5 months old), she adopted the fleece blanket on our bed. Apparently fleece blankets feel like cat mothers. The poor blanket, which may give up the ghost one day, is known as blanket-mommy.

    She really, truly thinks it’s analogous to her cat mother. She purrs at it. She nudges it into positions so that she can grab an upper fold of the blanket in her mouth as a “nipple”. She kneads the blanket while sucking on it, and purring vigorously. She sounds like a small hooting owl, while doing so, because she’s purring with a mouthful of blanket. She also grooms the blanket, I kid you not. (She then grooms me, if I’m lying on the bed with her, so I’m not sure what that says. Am I the same as a blanket or a cat?)

    If I wash the blanket, she gets very, very upset. It gets washed anyway.

    If I cover the blanket, she runs around the bed, purring and upset like crazy, until we take the quilt off the top of it and let her nurse.

    I’m told that she’s probably going to do this for the rest of her life.

    Good luck with Zeus. =)

  20. I don’t think it’s a matter of being weaned too early. We have 4 cats, two of which were weaned at 3 months by their mother kicking them repeatedly in the head. One of the kickees sucks on sweaters and fleeces like mad, the other has no interest whatsoever. I’d assume their mother brain-damaged the one who likes to suck except that in all other ways he’s the smartest cat I’ve ever known. It’s just one of the many ways cats mess with people.

  21. My guess is that it’s not weaning issues, but rather he is trying to start a “tickle” fight with you. In feline society, biting is a perfectly acceptable way get get someone’s attention. I had another cat who’s mother abandoned him and his litter mates at 2 weeks. He had weaning issues.

  22. We had a cat with weaning issues. He used to suck on stuffed animals and my husband’s neck. Then he became a revenge pee cat. Yes, we rescued a kitten and found said kitten a home. Darien responded by peeing only on my clothing, my side of the bed, towels I used, my shoes, etc. Nothing of my husband’s. We tried kitty xanax. It didn’t work.

  23. Friend of mine had a Siamese who’s previous owner, a 9-year-old girl, cut his whiskers off, which drives a weaned kitten back into nursing behavior. He chews and gnaws on wool blankets until there are holes in them, and has never stopped eating wool blankets. Which is a terrrifying choking hazard. Zeus is ahead of the game.

    (I also lived with a cat — a very, very LONG cat, who could stand on his hind legs and open doorknobs, opposable thumbs be damned. Beware!! Catnip is srs bznz. :-D)

  24. I mean, I’m lucky because, unlike you, my cat’s not chewing on my ass. However, I’m not lucky that I have to witness the violation of a blanket several times a day.

  25. Our cat, who is about as manly a cat as you’re going to find, bites. I’ve had a number of cats over the years, and males tend to make those little bites as signs of affection.

    I believe that neutering really young will keep the behaviour from developing (that, and fighting), but once they’ve gone past kitty-puberty, you’re probably stuck with it.

    Just take it for what it is. He wuvs you in his kitty way.

  26. He may just be trying to wake you up so that you can play/pet/feed him. Several of my cats suckled wood, and/or suckled noisily in their sleep when dreaming: but biting? Zip tries that when she’s really, really desperate for me to wake up. Doesn’t usually get her very far, I am a heavy sleeper.

    Good luck training him out of it, anyway.

  27. Dan, my cat goes at it with the blanket, too. At first I thought it she was just really enjoying her pussyfootin’, but then I realized that it involved far less foot and far more…well, you get the idea.

  28. Dan, I just checked out the picture of your cat and she looks an awful lot like my cat. Uncanny, really. Same black and white pattern, both blanket molesters.

  29. Freaky, Kelsey. But, my cat’s a HE, and maybe we should get the two together so they can have a little kitty “blanket-party.”

  30. I was just thinking John could avoid the ass-munching by sleeping on his back.

    “my cats suckled wood”

    Maybe not.

  31. I had the same behavior from a similar looking cat. Maybe it’s in the breed. And I think there are some aspects of play and of dominance in the behaviour as well. Just some factors to think about.

  32. One of my cats does exactly the same, though she seems to have a fondness for necks and shoulders. A few of my other cats used to do the same, but luckily they started doing this on each other instead. Nursing on a human I can understand, what I do not understand is that a grown up male cat lets kittens suckle on him after their mother got fed up with it! One of our female kittens also lets other kittens suckle on her.

    So my advice, get a friendly surrogate suckle recipient cat. How to train them I’ve got no clue.

  33. One of my two cats (the one WITH opposable thumbs, by the way – no kidding) used to try to nurse off my t-shirt. He’d hop up into my lap and start pawing at my stomach, then grab a fold of my shirt and go to town. Cute, indeed; and easier to explain than a cat-hickey.

  34. You have three and he still torments you? Poor thing. I guess he qualifies as one of those weird ones.

  35. When one of my cats was little, my brother (then her owner) would wake up with her attempting to suckle his eye. She outgrew the suckling.

  36. I have a seen this in my cats, and many years ago I asked a vet about it. According to her, sometimes cats do this when they are upset, kneading and biting on to something reminds them of nursing and comforts them.

    I did a little searching and reading, and apparently it can also be a sign of contentment – that the cat is comfortable with you. Perhaps the little fellow’s just trying to tell you he feels at home?

  37. A friend of mine’s (neutered male) cat had a whole routine that he used to do with a favorite stuffed animal. He’d bring it in, with lots of meowing, drop it in the middle of the floor, then make passionate noisy love to it. This would last for several minutes, then the cat would walk away in triumph. Usually he liked to do it when there were guests over, heh heh.

  38. He’s obviously going for that bacon wallet. Who needs your catnip when Zeus can buy his own (with your money)?

  39. Back in the 80s and early 90s, there was a bookstore on South Street in Philadelphia (the Book Trader?) that boasted an intriguing collection of used books, and a little black cat that loved attention. If you picked him up, he would lunge straight for your earlobe and suck on it. Quite startling.

  40. We had a cat who would suck fingertips— that was directly attributable to being rescued as a feral kitten and the college students responsible for the rescue only having one eyedropper, so they’d dip their fingers in milk to placate the kittens not being fed right that moment.

    He twitched his ears while sucking. So very cute. Of course, you had to wash your hand when he was done, but we all put up with it.

    My parents’ current cat drools while he’s purring. Less cute.

  41. My late second cat would, as a kitten, nurse on my late first cat whenever cat #1 was lying on his back. Cat #1 jumped up and ran away the first couple times (which cat #2 was perfectly used to, as his mother did the same thing), but eventually gave up and would just lie there and let cat #2 nurse — for 10-15 minutes at a stretch. Clearly it was giving cat #2 some psychological benefit…. Eventually cat #2 outgrew it.

  42. I’m surprised no one has pointed out the stash of Scalzi books sitting there on the shelves. If they are all first printings, someone could make a bundle on Ebay, even more if they were signed….

  43. My tiny fondling kitten that is now a huge giant cat still suckles now and then. With added bonus kissing noises and kneading of paws and drooling… oh the drooling. He’s mostly grown out of it at 10 months. Thankfully I got him to transfer the affection to shirts and clothing rather then skin when he started doing it as a kitten. They do grow out of it but it depends heavily on the cat.

  44. i think that my kitten has the same nursing issue, he does it to my male pittbull i believe he was weened too early but im not sure if i should let him keep sucking on my dog and make his tummy more raw or if i should get him like a small pacifier or something which is going to be hard to find. any ideas?

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