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C2003-53

Dear Christopher Cat

Tonka, our 10-month-old neutered male Tonkinese, likes to suck hair. When my wife is in bed, he sucks her hair, ruining her hairdo with his saliva.

When friends visit, he jumps onto the chair and sucks their hair. How can we stop this behavior?

Christopher Responds

I do not engage in this behavior, perhaps because I am a domestic longhair cat, also known as a mixed breed cat. But I’ll do my best to make suggestions.

Cats who suck choose wool or cotton more frequently than hair, so they are often called wool suckers. The most common breeds to engage in this behavior are Siamese and Burmese.

The Tonkinese breed was developed by crossing Siamese with Burmese cats, so Tonka’s hair sucking may have a genetic basis.

Suggest that your wife wear a bonnet or night cap when she sleeps. If Tonka sucks on her cap, you may need to keep him out of the bedroom at night.

When Tonka begins to suck hair, interrupt the behavior by giving him something else to do. Most Tonkinese enjoy fetching, so throw a small ball or cat toy.

When Tonka cuddles without sucking hair, reward him with a treat. Gradually lengthen the time until he receives the treat.

Provide alternative oral stimulation, such as dog chew toys or bulky, dry or chewy cat food. Consider a cat-safe herb garden.

Make feeding sessions more stimulating by letting Tonka hunt for food. Hide small meals throughout the house, and put some of the meals inside a toy or feeder that opens only with manipulation.

If these suggestions fail, medication prescribed by a veterinary behaviorist is often effective.

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