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I have two 14 day old kittens. My cat died after she gave birth, so I have been feeding, cleaning and doing everything else for them since they were born. Now they are suckling and clawing on my neck, fingers, shirt, etc. Is there an alternative I can give them to serve as a pacifier instead of my neck, etc.?

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    Raising a 14 day old kitten requires some special care and methods. You should consult your vet. Also, you can search for web sites that give you more advice. They need a lot of care of very special kinds.
    – Boba Fit
    May 29, 2023 at 12:38

2 Answers 2

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[Note: I'm not a behavioral expert, so take this with a grain of salt.]

Cats learn not to bite from playing and social interactions. So as they grow up, they will naturally learn that biting doesn't feel good from playing with their siblings.

Clearly though, that's not good enough for your situation, so try this:

  1. Whenever they are looking for a nipple, wrap your pinkie in a cloth towel and dip the tip in a bit of milk. Let the kittens chew and suckle on this.
  2. Whenever they bite your neck: take them off, put them on the floor, and gently tell them "no". (Cats are pretty good at picking up on human vocal intonation, so you don't need to be too harsh.)
    • You want to make sure they know the right thing to suck on, otherwise you may find them chewing and sucking on everything, like Elmy described in her answer.

Doing both of these will:

  • Help soothe them
  • Protect your finger
  • And teach them what they can and can't chew on as they grow up

Also, (I haven't tried this, but) apparently using a toothbrush to stroke a cat's head simulates the feel of their mother's tongue and helps soothe them. Try doing so after every time you feed them with the towel. This way you can set a social hierarchy by making them see you as their mother, provide some positive reinforcement for correct behavior, and also teach them to lick themselves regularly (which is good for cleanliness).

Good luck!


Footnotes:

{1} To address the feedback I got in multiple comments: When I say "reprimand" I don't mean you should yell at your babies. Of course not! I'm operating under the assumption of sanity in the reader. Simply saying the word "No" in a monotone but not too loud voice is more than enough. Scolding kittens, or babies of any kind, is not acceptable! And I'll be happy to punch anyone who does. :)

{2} I know that the word "reprimand" caries a lot of negative connotations, but I checked its synonyms and they are all a lot worse. If anyone has any better suggestions, I'll be happy to make the change! EDIT: Made the change.

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  • @Allerleirauh I think you didn't read past the first paragraph of my answer. The rest of the answer is addressing your exact point.
    – Vladimir
    May 29, 2023 at 5:04
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    @Allerleirauh NP! The reason for point 1 is because when kittens bite their mom's nipple too hard, she mews at them and often moves away. The OP should mimic this behavior, so the kittens start to learn the correct feeding behavior.
    – Vladimir
    May 29, 2023 at 5:10
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    @Vladimir I'm not an expert either, but I think a human verbally reprimanding a 14 day old kitten is very different from a mother cat mewing at her babies. It sounds quite harsh to me. Maybe instead of "reprimand", the human surrogate could simply make a slight vocalization or maybe even a tsk-tsk sound generated with the tip of the tongue applied the roof of one's mouth. Those are off-the-cuff ideas, and not professional advice! May 29, 2023 at 14:07
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    @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket - I do understand what you're saying though: The word "reprimand" has too many negative connotations. If you have another suggestion that would fit well in this context but without the negative connotations, I would be happy to update my post with your suggestion. Thanks! :)
    – Vladimir
    May 29, 2023 at 20:18
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    @Vladimir I think your changes are really good. Your comment on speaking a human language instead of a cat language is intriguing. I've done both with a variety of species, with varied results. If you (or others) come across research on that topic, feel free to post links. Jun 6, 2023 at 8:13
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In addition to Vladimirs answer I'd like to add that sucking on their mother and siblings is natural behavior for kittens and works literally like a pacifier. It helps them form social connections with their siblings and mother, calms them and makes them feel protected.

I totally understand not wanting to be pawed at with needle-sharp claws, but depriving the kittens of their sucking behavior can lead to abnormal social behavior. We've once had a cat that was taken from his mother too early and he developed some obsessive sucking behavior every time someone lied down on the couch with a blanked. He absolutely soaked the blanked with saliva and didn't stop this infantile behavior even when he became an adult.

So I suggest you let them suck at you, but protect your skin from their claws and teeth with some clean cotton fabric. Maybe you have something like old cloth napkins, baby swaddling cloths or dish towels lying around that are easy to wash and can take some abuse. Have a few of them arms length wherever you usually interact with the kittens, fold them up to protect yourself against claws and teeth and wash them regularly.

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  • Yep! Totally agree with this. Towels work great because they are thin enough to protect your finger and pretty absorbent so you can dip them in a bit of milk for the kittens to suck on.
    – Vladimir
    May 31, 2023 at 14:47
  • I meant **thick enough
    – Vladimir
    May 31, 2023 at 14:56

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