DEAR JOAN: My senior Maine coon, adopted in early 2020 before COVID, is an indoor and deck cat with perfect manners.
He is now 14 and a lovely cat indeed, but he has a very curious habit. He likes to suck on the side — not the end — of my pinkie finger while sitting in my lap, usually following a meal. It’s like he’s nursing, and there is lots of tongue action on my finger, which he holds delicately between his teeth — he never bites down.
When he really gets going, both his ears start wiggling. This is not at all hurtful, but I find it very curious as well as amusing. I’ve looked in a couple of cat behavior books but have never come across any reports or discussion about such a behavior.
Judging from the earlier records that came with my cat, it appears he liked to do this with previous owners (they weren’t thrilled), but no explanations for the behavior itself.
Any ideas what this is about? My vet doesn’t seem to know.
Karen O., Woodside
DEAR KAREN: Although the location — the side of the pinkie finger — is unique, the action itself is quite common. You are correct that it’s a nursing behavior.
As with most things cat, the reason isn’t clear. Some experts say that when kittens are removed from their mothers too early, they develop this suckling behavior as adults. Others say it’s an indication the cat is bored, and still others say it’s a compulsion.
What is clear is that the action is comforting — to the cat, anyway. That’s not to say your cat is stressed, but we all, animals and humans, have comforting, relaxing behaviors.
I had a cat, Andy, who would nurse on the tip of his tail. I didn’t mind it, except when he really got going, he made a rather unpleasant noise. I’d just gently push his tail away and that was that.
As you don’t mind the suckling, there’s no harm in letting your cat continue. If it ever becomes an issue, just move your hand away when he starts and look for other ways of offering comfort, such as stroking his silky fur, rubbing his ears or scratching under his chin.
September pet fair
The entire month of September is dedicated to pet adoptions during Pet Food Express’ virtual and in-person pet fair.
More than 7,000 rescued animals are available for adoption from more than 100 California rescue groups. Last year, two cows, Miracle and Freedy, and two emus, Clyde and Thing 1, found homes, along with scores of more tradition pets.
This weekend, Sept. 11-12, in addition to adoptions at Pet Food Express stores throughout the Bay Area, you’ll also find an assortment of online activities, including cat yoga with Cat Town Oakland and seminars with experts such as Animal Planet’s Jackson Galaxy. You can find an event line-up and adoptable pets at www.petfoodexpress.com/petfair.
For every animal adopted through the pet fair, Pet Food Express will donate $25 to the rescue or shelter adopting out the animal. New pet parents also will receive a gift bag containing products to begin caring for their pet.
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