Licking, as well as suckling behaviors in cats are fairly normal, but in frequent or intense cases, may be a sign of the cat having been weaned off its mother's milk prematurely. At the minimum, cats should not be removed from their mother and litter until they areÂ 6 weeks old, and ideally not until they are 7 to 12 weeks old.
Another reason for licking behavior in cats may be stress. In these instances, the licking is simply a mechanism for comfort, and may therefore be displayed during illness or periods of boredom.
Although it is rare, licking can become a compulsion in cats. If a cat continues to lick over prolonged periods of time, even despite distractions, then it is likely to be a compulsive behavior.
There are a number of things the owner of the cat can do in response to the licking behavior. These include providing the cat with more attention and stimulation, moving away from the cat every time it starts licking (without causing alarm) over a period of weeks or months, or else identifying and remedying the cause of its anxiety. This might be another family pet, strangers or isolation.
Licking behavior from an older cat that never exhibited the trait before may be related to hyperthyroidism, which is fairly common in cats over 10 years old. If this is suspected, a vet should be consulted.