Q: I have a healthy 6-month-old male Ragdoll kitten, 10-year-old female English Setter and a 3-year-old female tabby cat. They all get along fine, however, my kitten constantly follows my dog, Abbey, around and cries to nurse on her. How do I break the kitten of this habit? My dog luckily is very tolerant.
A: Some kittens will continue to nurse after they are weaned because nursing comforts them and helps them feel secure. Most kittens usually outgrow the behavior by around 6 months of age but some continue nursing into adulthood. Some will suck on objects, their own body or, like your kitten, another animal. Although the behavior can remain a relatively benign comfort behavior for the cat, it is usually annoying to the recipient — in your case, your dog, Abbey. The behavior also has the potential of becoming dangerous if your kitten sucks and chews objects he can swallow, causing intestinal blockage.
Although the odds are your Ragdoll kitten will eventually stop nursing the dog on his own, it is in the dog’s best interest that the kitten soon stop treating her as a surrogate mom. Activities, objects and toys will help stop the kitten’s fixation on the dog. Start by giving the kitten safe objects he cannot swallow. Dental health chew toys dipped in pure tuna juice are usually a hit with most kittens. Tall cat trees and condos, scratching posts, horizontal scratchers and interactive toys such as ball and tract toys and puzzle boxes will keep your little kitten entertained and focused away from the dog. Playing with your kitten in a way that imitates the hunt several times a day will also divert him away from the dog.
Adopting another kitten as a companion can also help stop your kitten from viewing the dog as mom. Even though your kitten has a good relationship with your other resident cat, the kitten’s play demands may be too intense for the older cat. When adopting another kitten, look for one who is about the same age and activity level as your resident kitten and who has a history of getting along with kittens, cats and dogs.