Kittten suckling at four months old

by Angela
(Pennsylvania, USA)

Hi, I recently adopted three kittens, all aproximately 4 months of age. One of the females, Kiara, was found with her brother, Kimba, and mother and taken to the shelter where I found them. The other female, Libby, was found as a stray and also taken to the same shelter. All three kittens were about 8 weeks of age when they were found.

Here is my question. At the shelter, the volunteers told me that Kiara and Kimba would at times suckle from Libby, and sometimes Kiara would suckle from Kimba. I adopted them a week ago, and Kiara has been suckleing from Libby when the two kittens have been on my lap. Thinking that this was not good behavior, I gently discouraged it and Kiara has discontinued suckling from Libby. However, she has taken to suckling from herself when on my lap, which is more difficult to discourage as she starts by cleaning herself, then starts to suckle. Naturally, I don't want to do anything that would interfere with her cleaning herself, but I'm not sure what I should do, if anything, about her suckling from herself. I have not seen this behavior when Kiara is not on my lap.
I guess what I want to know is what would cause this behavior in a kitten of her age, and is it harmful to her in the long run? Should I stop this behavior, and if so, what can I do to stop it? I am a new cat owner and have no experience with cat behavior. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you

Answer from Kate

it is a little old to be suckling but it is not unknown especially in kittens who have had a tough start in life.

This sort of behavior is also sometimes associated with anxiety. However my guess is that it is a throw back to her shaky start in life.

It should be discouraged as it can cause sores to form. All you can do is to try and distract her with something when she starts to do it. She should eventually grow out of it.

best wishes Kate

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