You may be asking yourself “why does my cat lick me?”. One of a cat’s most valuable possessions is its tongue. Cats utilize the curved spines on their tongues, which are covered in “papillae,” to brush themselves. They spend between 30% and 50% of their waking hours maintaining their fur. Given all of the time spent on hygiene, many cat owners are perplexed as to why their cat keeps licking them.
6 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Licks You
Although it might be impossible to know for sure, a number of explanations for why your cat might occasionally lick you have been put forth by researchers, vets, and cat behavior specialists. Let’s dive in.
1. Your cat licks you to show affection
For cats, licking serves both as a means of grooming and of expressing affection. Your cat is forming a social connection with you, other cats, or even other animals by licking them. Your cat’s mother may have licked the kittens when they were young to groom them and to demonstrate her love and care. Many cats continue to exhibit this behavior into adulthood, licking their owners to convey the same emotion.
Many cats continue to exhibit this behavior as they age, licking their owners to convey the same emotion.
2. Your cat licks you to mark their territory
Although cats utilize a variety of behaviors to “mark their territory,” such as cheek rubbing, clawing, and, regrettably, spraying, licking is another action they may use to stake a claim. In this instance, if your cat is licking you, it’s to let other cats or animals know that you are theirs.
3. Your cat licks you to groom you.
Your cat may not be aware that it isn’t really cleaning you but this behavior is entirely normal to them. As we previously discussed, mothers groom their children to educate them on how to do it on their own. It also shows them love, and to build a link. In fact, a group of cats living together frequently designate an “allo-groomer”—a cat that licks and grooms the other cats in the group, according to certified feline behavior and training consultant Marci Koski. Your cat may be attempting to perform their duties as the “allo-groomer” by cleansing you and establishing your membership in their group if you notice them licking you.
4. Your cat licks you because you taste interesting.
As obvious (and even foolish) as it may sound, it’s possible that your cat is licking you because it detects something intriguing on your skin. Your cat might enjoy the taste of whatever you spilt on yourself or came into contact with and left on your skin. If it’s warm outside or you’ve recently worked out, it’s possible that your perspiration has left behind a salty residue that your cat is attempting to taste. Intriguingly, despite the fact that cats’ tongues are designed for grooming, they have a far more subdued sense of taste than do people. The only mammals known to not be able to taste sweets are cats, which makes them one of the only ones.
5. Your cat licks you to get your attention.
Your cat can simply be licking you because they want your attention, as another possible explanation. They may lick you in an effort to get your attention, whether they want to be petted, fed, or otherwise attended to. Licking in this context is comparable to any other attention-seeking cat activity, such as pawing at you or meowing.
6. Your cat licks you because they’re stressed.
Finally, if your cat is stressed or anxious, they may lick you. Although excessive grooming or licking occasionally may point to a health problem, cats frequently lick you or themselves as a coping technique for stress or anxiety. You might notice this if you move into a new home or your cat experiences a shift in their environment. Unless your cat grooms themselves to the point that they develop bald areas, this type of licking usually isn’t a cause for concern. In this situation, you should consult your veterinarian to learn how to stop this behavior.
Why Does It Hurt When My Cat Licks Me?
Why does it hurt when my cat licks me? is a question that is directly related to “Why does my cat lick me?”. When it comes down to it, the solution is straightforward. A cat’s tongue is covered in tiny spines called papillae, as we previously described. The same material that builds up human fingernails—keratin—makes up these papillae. Cats’ tongues are designed to be strong enough to untangle their fur, remove impurities like dirt, and redistribute oils.
Therefore, it is likely to hurt a little when a cat repeatedly rubs its spine-covered tongue against your skin. Cats’ tongues are frequently compared to sandpaper because of this.
How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Licking Me?
Licking is typically nothing to worry about because it’s a normal cat behavior. This is true unless your cat is licking you excessively and grooming itself excessively. However, given the harsh nature of a cat’s tongue, it might be aggravating to constantly have them lick you. The best thing you can do to stop this behavior is to try to divert their focus. If your cat enjoys being petted, you might do so in an effort to divert them from licking. Similarly, you may try using a toy to get them to focus on playing instead of licking. Finally, if your cat starts licking excessively, you could just leave or move away.
Your cat licking you is usually nothing to worry about — and can even be a compliment. However, we advise that you consult your veterinarian for guidance if you ever have concerns about their behavior.