Wool Sucking — 8 Ways to Guard Your Garments

cat sucking clothes
Cats love to suck at fabrics

Cats do the darnedest things. They fall asleep in utensil drawers. They unfurl rolls of toilet paper and shred them to bits. They indulge in catnip and stare at their reflection in the mirror.

Just when you thought you’d seen everything, you discover that your favorite feline has become a material girl: She sucks on sweaters, gnaws on carpets and chews on socks, gloves, towels and blankets. Your vet calls it wool sucking. You call it sheer destruction.

“Almost any kind of soft texture will do although wool is a favorite,” says John C. Wright, Ph.D., a certified animal behaviorist, professor of psychology at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine in Atlanta.

Vets aren’t sure what causes cats to become wool suckers, although it seems to be more common in those that were weaned too early. Siamese have a particular penchant for wool-sucking, vets say, but it occurs in other breeds as well.

To find a solution before you lose your shirt — or sweater, or blankets or anything else — try these tips:

Raise temptation. “The easiest way to keep your cat from munching your sweaters is to keep them out of her reach,” says Dr. Wright. Keep sweaters and other wool clothing in closed drawers and closets, he advises.

If your cat likes to suck on items that can’t be put away — the carpet or bedspread, for example — your only solution may be to keep her out of rooms where she does the most damage.

Toy around. Cats with plenty of chew toys may be less likely to set their sights — and teeth — on favorite clothing, says Dr. Wright. A variety of wool toys are available that will appeal to wool-sucking cats. “Experiment and see which work best,” he says.

Fix it with fiber. Switching your pet to a cat food that’s high in dietary fiber can help quell the urge, says Peter Borchelt, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist and owner of Animal Behavior Consultants in Brooklyn. “I’ve had cases where just switching the cat to a dry food seemed to make the cat’s desire for chewing wool diminish.”

Produce results. It’s not clear why, but giving your cat a little lettuce may take his mind off wool, says Dr. Wright. “Cats seem to prefer Romaine lettuce. Some really take to it and forget about their other habits.”

He recommends giving your cat a leaf or two of lettuce — whole or shredded, whichever she prefers — each day.

Go for the crunch. Cats that aren’t distracted by lettuce may respond to crunchier items like green beans, cooked potato skins or even a little bacon, says Dr. Borchelt. “Sometimes these things do the trick very well.”

Create a stink. To keep your cat out of trouble, try spraying at-risk clothing with pet repellent, suggests Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., a certified animal behavior consultant in Littleton, Colorado. She recommends products such as bitter apple.

When you spray you should also place a tempting wool toy nearby, she adds. “Your cat might come to realize that toys are good, but the object of her desire is too unpleasant,” she says. “It could change her behavior.”

Mix them with mothballs. The strong odor of mothballs in your laundry bin or closet can help keep destructive felines away, says Dr. Hetts. Be sure to put the mothballs inside a small sealed basket, since some pets actually have a taste for them, she adds.

Sound the alarm. Putting a motion-detecting alarm inside your closet can help keep sweaters and other clothing safe. “When your cat hears the alarm, she will get startled and back off or run away from the closet,” says Dr. Wright. “Eventually, the cat will think, ‘ Forget it.’ “

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