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Do You Know the Reason Why Your Cat Licks You?


Purring, meowing, cuddling...we, cat owners, genuinely adore the company of our feline friends and all the typical “cat” things they do. Cats are known for still being strongly connected with their wild ancestors and for being considered semi-domesticated. That is why we appreciate so much every small gesture towards us that can be deemed a sign of love and affection. An example of this type of gesture is when our cat is licking us. As you may already know, cats spend a lot of time licking themselves, as part of their grooming procedure. By licking their fur, they remove dirt and keep it neat. Are we right to think that our paw friends occasionally lick us to "groom" us and eventually demonstrate their affection to us, or is there another more plausible explanation for this behavior?


Your Cat Likes How You Taste

Let’s start with the most simple explanation, namely that your cat likes your taste.  Sweating and salty skin; lotion, shower gel, cream perfume applied to your skin can make your skin very attractive for your cat in some cases. Also, if you have already eaten, but some food remained on your fingers, your feline friend may want to lick the leftovers of your skin. 

If you are not feeling very comfortable with your cat licking you, you can simply wipe off any residue of the product you have applied to your skin, cover those areas of your body, and/or wash your hands prior to interacting with your kitty. 

Your Cat Is Marking You

Rubbing their heads and bodies against their beloved humans or any objects at home (like furniture) and licking are common behaviors in cats to mark their territory. Our feline friends use pheromones that glands in their cheeks contain to mark what they perceive as their own. Having said that, through licking you, your cat may just want to tell the outside world “This human belongs to me”.

Social Bonding

Cat mothers lick their kittens not only as a way to groom them, but also to show their affection to them. Kittens mimic this behavior and also use it to show their siblings or other kitties whose company they enjoy that they like them. When your feline friend licks you, he/she may want to show you his/her affection for you.

Sign of Love and Affection

When you pet your feline friend and cuddle with him/her, you show your love to him/her, aren’t you? It is the same with our cats-they have their ways to show us their love. As mentioned above, cats inherit “licking” as a type of behavior from their mothers, who used to lick their kitties to groom and take care of them. You can think of your cat’s licking as him/her kissing you because he/she loves you. It is so nice to know that your purring paw friend loves you, just like you do, isn’t it?

Attention Seeking

If you start petting your kitty and playing with him/her every time he/she licks you, he/she may adopt this behavior and continue showing it in the future to get your attention.

If you want to prevent your feline friend from licking you, when he/she is seeking attention, you should remain calm and not become overly enthusiastic ready to pour all your love and attention over your kitty. Also, you may need to consider getting toys, that will keep your kitty engaged throughout the day and not let him/her get bored.

Your Cat Is Trying to Tell You Something

Besides regular attention seeking, through licking your cat may want to tell you that something is wrong. Although only dogs can become service animals (or also miniature horses in some U.S. states), this does not mean that cats are unable to exhibit certain behaviors to notify their owners about an event that is going to happen. Very strong relationships between a cat and his/her owner are not a rare thing, and our feline friends may show some unexpected behaviors to protect us.

Your Cat Is Trying to Soothe You

Similar to the point above, cats may show certain behaviors as a response to any changes in the emotions of their owners. If your kitty has felt that you are anxious, stressed, or fearful, he/she may lick you to calm you down.


Your Cat Is Trying to Soothe Him/Herself

The calming effect that this behavior is likely to provide may not refer to you, but to your cat him/herself. If your paw family member is angry or anxious, he/she may look for ways to relax.

Your Cat Has Been Weaned Off Too Early

Cats who got weaned off too early or who got orphaned may develop excessive licking as a behavior to compensate for the missing oral stimulation from their mothers at a young age. This can be perceived as a reasonable explanation for persistent licking but is not likely to be the cause of an occasional one.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Licking You?

Some of you may wonder “Why would I want to prevent my cat from licking me, it is so cute!”. We agree with you, that this can be a very pleasant experience since your kitty is likely to show how much you mean to him/her. However, some owners do not enjoy getting their hands or feet licked. Also, they do not want to teach their cats, that they will immediately get food or attention every time they show a certain behavior.

The best way to gently show your kitty that you are not quite into that behavior is by redirecting his/her attention. Play with your feline friend and/or get him/her toys to stimulate him/her mentally and physically. Also, you can use treats as a tool to redirect his/her attention, but be careful! If you feed your cat treats right after he/she starts licking you, he/she may learn that “licking” means “treats”. Once that happens, the intensity of this behavior will increase instead of decrease. That is why you should not provide your cat with treats immediately.