Our pets often give subliminal clues to indicate why they act a certain way, we have to put the pieces together to figure out what that behavior means. Dogs often engage in some questionable behaviors (like eating grass and living in fear of your neighbor’s trash cans); cats often confuse us more.
Why does my cat lick me? Many pet parents are not quite sure why cats indulge in such stereotypical dog behavior.
Questions like these intensify if your cat doesn’t typically lick you and suddenly begins to do so. You love your cat, but the licking isn’t exactly pleasant.
If you want to learn more about cat licking habits, you are in the right place.
Steps to solving this mystery
Like a detective solving a cold case, pet parents and animal care professionals need to look at all the presenting details. It’s not just the licking that we need to investigate, but all the other factors as well: mood, body language and more.
Subliminal clues, largely seen through body language, can help narrow down the cause of your cat’s licking. The cat’s age and their specific relationship with you may also contribute to what they do and why.
Studying animals is often tricky. Our pets can’t tell us how they feel or what they want specifically. Dogs are known to be stoic, hiding pain from their canine companions and their human families. Cats can be just as tricky to investigate, largely due to their independent nature.
The CAT scan: Communicating with your feline
A handful of scientific case studies show how tricky it can be to understand cats. Take a look at this 2005 study on how cats and dogs interacted with their people. Cats and dogs were declared equally adept communicators. Interestingly, the cats were more likely to drop out or lose interest.
Despite their often cool or unbothered demeanor, we know that our feline friends are friends for life. Cats adore their people, even if they don’t always show it in the same way other domesticated animals do.
Licking is a common trait amongst the animal kingdom. Let’s look at the cat counterpart: Dogs. So why do dogs lick people?
Dogs might like their humans to show affection or to get a taste of that peanut butter sandwich. This habit might also be from their DNA, courtesy of their wolf ancestors, even a form of dog OCD.
Maybe you love it when your dog or cat licks you. Maybe you are wondering what you can do to get your cat to stop this behavior. Perhaps you are wondering if you should be concerned about your cat and their very active tongue.
The licking mystery, solved
Learn more about some of the most prevalent reasons cats lick you. Find out what you can do when your cat licks you and why it hurts.
For the interested parties, this article will review how you can get your cat to stop licking you. Remember that there are various reasons why cats lick, so try not to judge your furry friend too much for feeling the urge to lick you.
Continue reading to learn more about what you need to know regarding cats licking you.
Why does my cat lick me?
Have you watched your cat be so fully entranced by a dust speck floating through your kitchen they don’t seem to notice anything else? That is a true “What is going on inside your head?” moment. The same goes for the constant licking.
Because your cat can’t answer you (and might not even if they could), let’s cover the reasons now.
A whole slew of things could be causing your cat to lick you. It might be an adorable little quirk, or maybe they are trying to tell you something because they need your help pronto.
Your cat licking you is an indication they are content and happy. Additionally, a cute pink cat tongue can communicate more specific feelings.
If you feel that your cat’s licking habits have changed recently, consider reaching out to your vet. Licking indicates a negative underlying feeling or situation.
It is only through reaching out to a vet and discussing your cat’s health address it properly and swiftly. Continue reading to learn about some of the main reasons cats lick you — especially when they are going a little overboard.
Reason #1: They are showing you affection
The first of these seven explanations is a positive one. Perhaps one of the most prevalent reasons why kittens decide to lick their owners is because they want to show you how much they love and care about you.
If you find that your cat is licking you a lot, they might consider you their kin. Your cat has unlocked a new level of feeling secure with you, as cats really only lick people that they trust. Not only that, but the licking sensation reminds the cat of how their mother cat used to give them a cleaning when they were a kitten.
Months or years later, your cat is replicating that behavior with you. As an extension, they are showing you that they really love you. They are giving you the “Feline Family Welcome”!
Cats think of licking as an affectionate behavior. When they emerged from their mother cat’s womb, they immediately got licked by their proud momma. If you have several cats in the house, you might notice that your cats lick each other.
Once again, this is a sign of love and affection. Think of it this way: your cats show other felines affection by licking them. Because they consider you to be part of their family, they are showing you the same affection they would to other cats. As a result, you will get some cat kisses.
Reason #2: They are self-soothing
In some situations, your cat is licking you to show their affection and that they consider you one of their family members.
In other cases, it is a self-soothing behavior for pets to help reduce unwanted stress or overstimulation. Your cat might be licking themselves (or you) to soothe their anxiety.
If you think your cat is licking as part of an anxiety response, you don’t necessarily need to be concerned. Your cat might not actively be trying to reduce unpleasant feelings. This action is just second nature to them. It’s almost like the people trait “I just need to occupy my hands” even when they aren’t feeling worried.
A situation might be causing your cat some significant stress or discomfort. Indulging in this self-soothing behavior could help an anxious cat feel happier or more relaxed.
One way to tell that your cat is licking for self-soothing reasons is to consider what they are licking. If they are licking themselves and not you or another person, bring them to the vet to make sure nothing else is going on.
Remember: Cats have to rely on their behavior to indicate that something is up to their owners.
Reason #3: Your cat is marking their territory
If your cat is not self-soothing or trying to show their affection by licking you, they might want to establish to others that you are their personal territory.
Licking is a way for your cat to establish that you belong to them. When your cat licks you, they leave their scent on you. The result is a sign that you, their person, belong to the cat. This type of licking is thoughtfully intended to repel other animals who want to claim you as their own. Take it as a compliment.
Wondering where your cat got this behavior? Your cat licks you to claim you as their person because their mother cat likely licked them to establish your kitten and their siblings as hers.
Your cat believes this to be how they can indicate to the outside world that you belong to them. You might notice that your cat licks another cat from a different litter. This probably means that the cat believes the other cat to be a friend and licks as a way to indicate social bonding.
Reason #4: Your cat was prematurely weaned and developed an oral fixation
Similar to human beings, cats can develop an oral fixation. This could lead your cat to lick excessively. The reason why this occurs is that your cat was probably orphaned or weaned before the appropriate time.
Many people believe kittens can be separated from their mother and littermates at eight weeks old, but new research is suggesting that waiting is better. Animal behaviorists believe that these mini-family units should stay together for 12 to 13 weeks.
Orphaned or prematurely weaned cats miss out on suckling. As a result, they did not have an appropriate outlet for the behavior. The closest your cat can get is licking, which can help them experience and relive those comfortable, soothing feelings they experienced during the nursing process. They may also suck on blankets or toys to fill this biological need.
Are they kneady?
If your cat is kneading you, purring, or appears happy, this is another sign that they were separated too early in the weaning process. Be patient with your cat at this time, as it is not easy for them. Being a responsible pet owner means loving your pet through all of their stages — even some of the more tricky ones.
Kneading, in general, is not something to be concerned about. Many adoring owners call this “making biscuits.” Next time it happens, love on your cat a little and ask if they made enough biscuits to share with everyone.
Reason #5: Your cat thinks you (or the products you use) taste good
Your cat might enjoy licking you because they like how you taste.
Humans wear lotion and perfume and have salty skin sometimes (usually from sweat), which is appetizing for some cats. As a result, you might be a licking magnet for your cat. Horses and dogs can also be attracted to the salt on our hands, arms, faces, and more.
Cats find the way our sweat tastes to be appealing. This is because it has both sugar and salt in it. Cats love these tastes just as much as we do.
If this is why your cat is licking you, you can easily make it stop. Simply take the time to remove your sweat and cool down before greeting your cat.
If you are an avid lotion and perfume user, consider keeping your cat out of the space when putting on products. You can also cover the parts of your body with these appealing products on them.
Reason #6: Your cat is telling you that they feel anxious
Your cat might be experiencing anxiety and is trying to tell you that they are struggling with it. They communicate this feeling with licks.
Sometimes, this is difficult because pet owners write off licking cats as pesky. Owners sometimes also assume those cats want their attention or want to play. Sometimes your cat is trying to get your attention so you can help them ease their anxiety.
Say your cat does not typically lick a lot. Perhaps you see that at a certain time of day, around a certain person, or when they are in a particular situation, they are constantly trying to lick you.
Take notes of when your cat is licking you and try to put the pattern together over time. If you know which stimuli make your cat anxious or what leads your cat to begin licking, you could work to eliminate the stimuli. The result could be your cat, a lot happier and MUCH less stressed.
Pretty much every pet has a stress trigger, very similar to human beings. If it is getting to a point where it is difficult for your pet to function regularly, more drastic steps might need to be taken. Otherwise, trying to figure out the stress trigger and eliminate it is the best thing that you can do for your cat.
Playtime and behavior modification
To help reduce your cat’s stress levels and overall make them happier, try ensuring that your cat has designated playtime during the day. This will help get their anxious energy out.
Make sure they have both scratch pads and perches throughout your house. Cats enjoy engaging in these behaviors. By letting your cat know they are allowed to engage in these behaviors in your home, you could make a significant difference in their stress levels.
Reason #7: Your cat feels unwell and is asking for help
Our human-cat interspecies relationship has a bit of a language barrier. This could potentially explain why a cat that, for years, has not had a history of licking is suddenly licking their loving and concerned owner excessively.
If you notice that your cat is licking in a way that is out of the ordinary, seek medical attention. Even if there is (hopefully) nothing wrong with your pet, you will have peace of mind that they are safe and healthy.
You can never go wrong by reaching out to a vet you trust and asking them to examine your pet if they are licking you excessively.
To figure out why your cat is excessively licking themselves, pay attention to their grooming habits. Is there one portion of their skin that they are repeatedly licking? If so, you can take this as a sign that your cat might need some medical attention — especially if their licking is extraordinary considering your pet’s regular behavior.
Ouch! Why does it hurt when my cat licks me?
Cats’ tongues are not exactly the softest. Your cat’s tongue might feel uncomfortable when they lick you, but keep in mind that they are not trying to harm you. On the contrary, they might think they are doing you a favor.
They are not trying to hurt or bother you — simply to get your attention.
Why exactly does it hurt you when your cat licks you? Is it because their tongue is simply rougher than ours is, or is it because your cat is being forceful? Or maybe, it’s something entirely different.
A hairy solution
Your cat’s tongue is more powerful than a human’s would be. In fact, cats’ powerful tongues are actually able to remove strands of hair.
Your cat’s tongue has sharp pieces that resemble hair on it. These are referred to as the “papillae,” which are keratin-formed hooks. The result is a surface that feels a bit like sandpaper.
Cat tongues are not the most pleasant for human beings to get groomed by, but they are useful for cats when they are going about their grooming routine. Your cat’s papillae function in a way like a comb. They can separate hairs and fur and remove underlying dirt.
Nevertheless, it’s understandable if your cat’s licks are painful and you would prefer them to stop licking you excessively. To do that, you’re going to have to get to the root of why they are licking you in the first place.
Continue reading to learn more about how you can get your cat to finally stop licking you.
How can I get my cat to stop licking me?
Your cat might love licking you, but you do not share the same enthusiasm, despite how dearly you love your cat. It’s understandable if you find your cat’s licks to be a little painful.
Their super-powerful tongue is capable of removing hair. Don’t worry; there are ways that you can get your cat to stop licking you quite so much.
Find the clues
We want to caution you against ignoring your cat licking you. Although it might not be the most enjoyable sensation, they are doing it for a reason. They’re trying to tell you something;you must listen to what they are trying to express to you.
Ask, distract and redirect
After you have worked with your vet to figure out the underlying reason why your cat is licking you, and you are sure that they are bodily safe, take steps to get your cat to stop licking you. The way to do so depends on why they are licking you in the first place.
For instance, if your cat is licking you due to your highly fragranced perfume, it could be as simple as ensuring your body is covered when you snuggle with your cat.
Alternatively, you could look for distractions for your cat. If your cat begins to try to lick, play with catnip. You will pique your cat’s attention soon enough. Or provide them with a scratching post to instead focus their attention and energy in a more productive outlet.
There are ways to tell your cat respectfully that you would prefer they do not lick you. For one, you could simply redirect their mouth (gently) when they attempt to lick you. Offer your cat a toy. Consider simply getting up and walking away when your cat tries to lick you.
Is it safe for your cat to lick you?
Some people might be concerned that cat licks are not safe or healthy. Your cat licks might not be the most pleasant experience to deal with, but they are certainly safe, with a few exceptions.
For instance, if you are wearing a beauty product with a harmful substance for your cat to ingest, you could find that your cat licks are not safe for your furry friend. In this case, you should keep them far away—or simply toss out the product to keep your pet safe.
Another trouble spot could be if you are allergic to cats. If you are, you might find that you have a more difficult time with your cat licking you. You might have to take steps to reduce the chances that your cat will lick you and potentially give you an allergic reaction.
In a spot of trouble? Here is a spot of help.
Being a pet owner is a lot of responsibility, so let us make it easier for you. You will be happy to learn that Spot Pet Insurance is always here for you in your effort to support your pet. No matter what you need, we’re here to make it easier.
Reasons Why Your Cat Licks You | The Spruce Pets
Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts. But is anyone brave enough to study them? | Science | AAAS
Why Do Dogs Lick People? | The Spruce Pets.
How Long Should a Kitten Stay With Its Mother? | The Spruce Pets