I have a healthy kitten ~9 weeks old, long-haired, seems to have good cleaning habits (I found her at 8 weeks).
She likes to jump up on my lap and clean herself, which is fine. Sometimes when she's cleaning herself she'll clean my hand or arm too (if my hand or arm are near where she's cleaning herself sometimes she'll just switch over to me for a while), which is also not causing any harm. Sometimes I'll pet her while she's cleaning herself if she's on my lap; because I want to reinforce good cleaning behavior (I don't want her to end up being Stinky McCrustybutt some day).
I have a few questions related to the risk of interfering with her normal cleaning habits:
How does a cat know when to stop cleaning herself? Do they stop when they are clean? Or when they have covered a certain amount of their body? Or do they just clean as much as they can in a certain amount of time?
When does a cat's cleaning behavior fully "set in"? That is, at 8-10 weeks, for example, can her cleaning behavior still change or is it pretty much done (and therefore nothing I do can make it better or worse)?
I read somewhere that sometimes cats interpret humans petting them as humans cleaning them. Is it bad to pet my cat while she is cleaning herself -- will she think I am cleaning her and so not clean herself completely because she assumes I'm doing some of the work? If she interprets it as praise is this also bad because she might end up never cleaning herself unless I am also petting her?
Is it bad to let her lick me while she is cleaning herself? Will this somehow use up her... "cleaning points" so that she spends time cleaning my hand when she should be cleaning herself instead? If I shouldn't let her do this, how can I stop her without discouraging her from being affectionate to humans in general?
Actually, 4b. She only really cleans the parts of me that happen to be near her, and only when she's cleaning herself. Does she actually know she's licking my hand (and not licking herself) or is she just sort of in robot-self-cleaning mode licking everything in range?