If you’ve ever been licked by your cat, you know it’s not the most comfortable experience, and it leaves you wondering why does my cat lick me? It’s a rough, scratchy feeling that can be a bit irritating. This is because, unlike us, cats have tiny barbs on their tongue that are meant to help pull out excess fur during grooming. It’s important to remember that cats don’t realize their licking can hurt us. It is often comforting to them so they think it must be comforting for us as well.
So why does your cat lick you?
Here are the top 5 reasons:
- To strengthen your social bond by “cleaning” you.
Okay, so maybe being covered in cat saliva isn’t our idea of clean, but it’s how cats create bonds with each other. When a group of cats lives together they groom each other to acknowledge they are part of the family. Your cat is essentially doing the same thing with you—letting you know you are part of their group.
- For Attention.
Like, little kids who tug on their mom’s clothes to get their attention, cats will often lick their owners as a way of saying “hey, pay attention to me!” This is often an innocent request to be pet or to play, but can sometimes indicate something more serious is wrong. If you have any serious concerns please contact your vet.
Just like humans have little stress habits (kids sucking their thumbs, nail-biting, leg shaking, etc.), cats use licking as a way to calm themselves during times of high anxiety. Some cats will lick themselves in one spot for so long they develop bald patches. They may also project this behavior onto you, so pay attention to their body language to get a better idea of what they’re trying to tell you. Need a refresher on cat behavior and body language, click here?
- Territorial Marking.
You may think you own your cat, but in reality, they own you, and licking can be one of the ways they show it. We all know cats use pheromones to mark their territory, but we’re more used to hearing about urine being the main marker. Cat saliva works in the same way, so if your cat has been licking you and you notice other cats start shying away from you, this is why. The other cats are acknowledging that you belong to someone else.
- You taste good.
Sometimes the answer is as simple as that. Salt naturally builds up on your skin during the day, so your cat may just be trying to get a tasty treat. Don’t worry, though. Most cats will only lick and won’t actually try to eat you!
Don’t feel bad if you don’t like the feeling of your cat licking you—you’re not alone! However, simply pushing your cat away may strain your relationship. Still wondering “why does my cat lick me”? Well, no matter the reason it means they’re comfortable with you. You don’t want to start punishing them for their affection—they might start to associate you in general with unpleasant experiences. The best way to avoid this is with distraction.
When you sense your cat is wanting to lick you, dangle a toy or some catnip in front of them. They’ll likely choose to play over licking you. If you’re concerned about excessive licking, talk to your vet or a cat behaviourist.