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One of my cats (the one who needs to be discouraged from biting, in fact) has, in the last few days, started licking papers that he finds around the house (mostly on my desk). He last saw the vet two months ago and all was in order then, and I haven't observed any other behavior changes or suspicious symptoms. We've made no (known) changes in his environment (indoor cat) or diet. He has toys to chew and otherwise play with (that he likes), and I try to make sure he gets enough interactive play time.

He's not chewing on the paper, just licking it. He seems to prefer photocopies and laser-printed pages to other sorts, and has shown no interest in newsprint, magazines, or books.

What might be prompting this new behavior? Or is it just that cats are weird sometimes and he's just going through a phase -- spring is in the air, or something like that?

Update: six months later he still does this (and I stop him when I see him doing it), so it wasn't just something seasonal. He's been to the vet since I asked this question and the vet found no problems in his mouth or his bloodwork. It is possible that he only does this when I'm around (I wouldn't know, not having a cat-cam); I now wonder if it's a weird way of demanding attention.

(Male, neutered, indoor-only, estimated age 6-7.)

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This could be a variation of the behavior mentioned in the article below.

Wool sucking behavior in cats (source):

If you’ve never heard of this, I know it probably sounds like a very weird and unappealing thing for a cat to do, but it’s actually relatively common.

What is Wool sucking?

The behavior consists of a cat actually sucking on items such as blankets, sweaters, shoelaces and even bathmats and carpets. The most common materials though are blankets and sweaters. There are also cases where a cat may suckle on another cat’s tail or other body part. Some cats actually even begin chewing on and ingesting the material and that’s when wool sucking transitions into pica behavior. Pica can lead to intestinal problems.

Wool sucking is usually seen in cats under one year of age. Typically, many cats eventually outgrow the behavior but some do continue to engage in wool sucking if there is no behavior modification or environmental change made.

I know that my cat lick lots of random things too. I have even seen him lick the floor. The interesting thing is, he only does it in places where food items have once been. Cats don't have great near-sightedness and are primarily far-sighted. So I believe that it may be their sense of smell messing with them. They also don't have great taste either so they do frequently rely on their amazing nose.

There could have, at one point, been something your cat would have liked near that paper that he is smelling on the paper and thinking it is edible. I would though still recommend seeing him to the vet as this could be a larger problem, or lead to a larger problem.

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White office paper contains small particles of synthetic rubber in it. It could be that he "smells" this as fat. I knew a cat named Sputnick who was fond of licking plastic and rubber.

Or it could be a texture fascination of his.

Or it could be a symptom of pica. On that you could take him to the vet and see if they can find any evidence of pica or not.

I'd try to keep him from doing that, paper is not a food item and some of the chemicals in it might not be the best for him to be licking up. It isn't as bad as lapping up coffee but I think it should be avoided.

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A friend of mine had to explain to a professor that the cat has eaten her homework... Well, not eaten, but chewed to bits. That cat was a paper punch with legs; best guess I had was that she just liked the feel of her teeth punching through.

Or it could simply be because the cat has noticed that this gets your attention. One of mine sometimes licks the pillow next to my ear, apparently just because it's hard to ignore the rasping noise.

Or any of the reasons others have suggested.

It's probably harmless to the cat, whatever the reason.

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