Is my kitten insane, or just very strange?

Hi there all, hopefull you can help me out with a questinon about kitten behavior. I’ve got a kitten, and I think he’s about three months old now. Very healthy, very playful, but also, from what I can tell, very crazy.

To start off, he likes cheerios. I mean really likes 'em. He’ll knock a box over and try to get into it if he knows cheerios are inside. Forget eating them with milk, he’ll just crawl inside the box and eat the cereal. Something tells me this isn’t normal, and none of the cats I’ve ever had liked grains that much. There can’t be any nutritional value in cheerios for him… right? Does this indicate that he’s just got strange eating habits, or that he’s a bit looney?

In addition, he likes licking me. And he kneads me with his claws while doing so, and purring. He’ll use that flex-one-paw-then-the-other thingy, and purr like mad while scratching me with his little sandpaper tongue. He will meow horribly if I don’t let him do this. He seems to like it more than he likes cheerios, if you’ll believe it. At first I thought that maybe he liked the oils on my skin, or the salt in my sweat, but he’ll have at me even when I’m straight out of the shower.

If I sit in my computer chair, chances are very good that he’ll walk up to me and meowl at me until I pick him up, and which point he’ll find some exposed skin and start licking away. I’ve started to close my bedroom door at night, because he seems to take me lying down as a signal to start licking me like crazy. I literally can not lie down with him awake and the door open without him running in and, more often than not, forcing his head as close to my neck as possible before he starts the whole licking-and-clawing routine. Needless to say it makes getting to sleep rather difficult.

And letting him lick for just a bit won’t stop him. He can keep it up for much longer than I can endure it, evidently. And if I throw him off my lap or try to stop him from licking me in bed, he’ll immediately start meowing. Hell, if he’s busy licking my face while I’m in bed but I won’t let him lick my neck he’ll start meowing -while- purring. Damndest thing I’ve ever seen.

So, I ask you, is my lick-happy cheerios eating kitten a lunatic, or is this just some weird facet of kitten behavior I’ve never encountered?

Sounds like a perfectly normal kitten to me. Licking and kneading is what he’d do to his mama to get milk… just means he thinks of you as his mama. As for the Cheerios… well, they are pretty cool.

Naw, he’s just a kitten. Just because the Cheerios have no nutritional value for him, doesn’t mean a thing. Do you like candy? Cat’s, just like people have odd likes and dislikes, at times.

As far as the licking goes, it sounds like a nursing behavior. My cat sleeps in my hair and nuzzles my neck while kneading and purring. They knead their momma to stimulate milk production.

Thanks both of you, very interesting… so do you think he’s trying to tell me that he’s hungry when he starts in with the licking? Or is it just an instinctual behavior that he doesn’t really understand? He suuuuure seems upset if I try to stop him from licking/clawing me.

I’ve also noticed him trying to ‘bury’ uneaten food once he’s done with it, even though the food bowl is on linolium. Maybe just one of those things?

I had a cat that went ga-ga over pumpernickel bread – would bat a slice out of your hand or knock the loaf off the counter and chew through the wrapper. Cheerios seems to me to be well within the range of normal for a cat.

I’ve always understood that the behavior of kneeding with the paws was related to nursing. I don’t know what the licking behavior is linked to, but I have a 14-year-old cat that does it still – licks and purrs loudly until I can’t stand that raspy tongue on my skin any longer.

Your kitten is definitely not insane, nor even very strange. But, just to make sure, you probably ought to post pictures to facilitate a visual assessment. :wink:

No, the licking and kneading doesn’t mean he’s hungry. It’s more of a social thing, his way of bonding with you. Many cats keep doing it even after they grow up- both of mine do. It’s his way of saying he loves you. And that you should keep the cheerios coming.

And there is a rule, on the Straight Dope, that no one can post a kitten thread without linking to a picture of said kitten. Don’t make me report you to the mods.

Why am I always the last one to know? :smiley:
Now that people are telling me that, I think I may’ve made the behavior worse. A month of so back, he’d wake me up in the mornings by licking/kneading me. And, of course, I’d feed him in the morning once I’d woken up. Maybe this solidified the relationship in his little kitten brain between the whole licking/kneading thing, and food. D’oh!

Oh, I started a thread on the kittens about a month ago. It should have plenty of pictures. His name is Spamzo.

That’s good to know… so even though it’s connected to nursing behavior, he just does it because it’s a thing he’d do with his mama? Sounds better than begging for food, I suppose.

I actually have to go buy some more of those, but he had lots of fun using the box as a fort once it was empty.

Done and done :slight_smile:

This one strikes me a more MPSIMS than General Questions.



Important Question–is this kitten Siamese?

Naw, he’s a generic longhaired cat.

What brand/type of food are you feeding him? (He should get good quality kitten chow for the first year of life.) It probably is just a unique food like, but it may also be that his diet isn’t quite what it should be, maybe not enough roughage or something? Can you plant some sweet grass for him and see if his craving lessens? The licking and kneading is normal, it’s his way of calming down and relaxing. It’s nursing behavior, and fairly common.

I have a cat that loves to give “kisses” - she will lick the skin off of your face if you hold still long enough. And purr loudly while doing it.

Kneading, or “makin’ biscuits” is an “I love you” behavior - they did it with mama to stimulate milk flow and it seems to carry on to show affection/comfort in adults. Trimming the tips of the claws can make it a bit more comfortable for the one on the receiving end.

About the Cheerios…I really don’t know. I’m very wary about feeding mine anything other than their kibble, an occasional can of cat food as a treat, or the water out of the tuna or salmon. Next vet visit, you might want to mention it. I don’t think it will hurt him, but kibble is better for him.

Cheerio boxes? The goodness of a cardboard box and crunchy waxed paper all in one? The perfect kitten toy! Mine like the rings off of the milk jugs, also. That way he’ll have a balanced playset.

We give him Science Diet Kitten dry food, and, up until recently, I think IAMS canned food. But that’s a bit pricy, so we’re trying to get him used to just the dry stuff.

I don’t think I could plant any, but they do sell a similar product at the local PetSmart. I suppose I’ll go pick some up tomorrow.

Well, with that being the case, how on earth do I get him to stop? Or do I just have to wait from him to grow out of it?

My black cat does the exact same thing you’ve described. He is at least 5-6 years old now and has mellowed out a bit but still loves to knead and lick me. I’ve been told that kittens that are weaned a little too soon tend to take it to the extreme like yours and mine. If you want some peace at night, get a spray bottle such as a plant mister and fill it with water. Keep it handy (I hang mine from the bed post) and give him a spray when he starts in. I don’t even need to spray mine any more, just shaking the bottle gets him to stop.

I keep a spray bottle next to the computer for those times when he’s determined to stand on the keyboard or wrestle me for control of the mouse.

Adding, what Bosda was getting at is cats (usually ones with Siamese/Oriental heritage) can be “wool suckers”. Our Rhiow is one. You have to be very diligent and careful if your cat is a wool sucker, because they can eat enough of the cloth/fuzz to cause a blockage and put their life in danger. It’s an extreme of nursing behavior, it has crossed over to pica, and may be a form of OCD. If your cat isn’t licking fuzzy blankets, or stuffed animals or eating Q-tips (which is what Rhiow prefers, she’d steal them and eat the cotton fuzz) than I wouldn’t worry. Most cats only knead on a human or a fuzzy blanket and go no further, they don’t actually suck the blanket or eat the fabric.

On preveiw Finnagin, he might not ever completely stop but you can “wean” him. Try the suggestions on one of the pages I linked to help him find other ways to calm down and feel more confident and at ease. Right now though, he is still young, and lost his mother at a young age. He still needs “mom”, so you are sort of stuck as a surrogate for now. Gradually work to lessen this behavior and maybe he will stop on his own, or at least not need to do it so desperately so often.

On further reading of both threads: Is there an animal behaviorist at the SPCA where your ladylove works? Maybe they would have some more insights into how to help the little guy feel better so he doesn’t have such a desperate need for that kind of nurturing? There probably is a way to at least lessen it if you work patiently in time. Losing their mother young makes cats need more reassuring and nurturing and nursing is what they turn to for comfort and to de-stress/relax. I bet you can help him grow to be a confident cat, who isn’t anxious and so doesn’t need to “milk walk” to console himself.

Unfortunately that was just a summer job, and she goes back to working at Cornell in a little bit. Maybe she can make a phone call though… (she’s down in Texas visiting family right now).

I can probably make an appointment with the local vet. Or would I need to specifically see a behaviorist?

Thanks for the help in any case.

Some vets might, it depends on the person. You might have to seek out a behaviorist, I’d trust an SPCA one, since they work with so many needy critters and have to rehabiltate them to get them into good homes.


You mention in your kitten thread that these kittens had to be bottle-fed, so they were not yet weaned when they were brought in. One of my cats, Ishtar, had a similar start, and at 10 years old, she still has that kneading/licking pattern, though she is not upset when I shoo her away.

My other cats, both weaned and eating solid food before I got them, don’t display the same kind of pattern, the most they ever do is “almost knead”, push gently with their paws, no claws. Ishtar still does it with passion.

BTW, your cats are absolutely beautiful!