You might be a loving cat owner and you’ve been wondering for some time “Is it a normal behavior for my cat to be licking me?”
While the answer is “Yes, it’s common”, it’s also important to understand that it could show both positive and negative signs.
That’s why we’re giving you this guide to help you figure out why your cat licks you.
Why Does My Cat Lick Me?
- Social Bond and Showing Affection
- Marking Territory
- Kittenhood and Petting
- Calmness or Anxiety
- Attention Seeking
- Tasting You
The Reasons Your Cat Licks You
Cats use their tongue as a way of expressing themselves. There are different reasons why a cat would lick its owner, some good and some bad.
In most cases, it’ll probably be due to one of these reasons.
Strengthening Social Bond and Showing Affection
Licking each other is a way of social bonding between cats. It helps them become familiar with each other and establish a friendly relationship.
You could notice this behavior in groups of cats; it’s called allogrooming. Cats, who aren’t necessarily related, will groom each other and exchange their scents to strengthen the social bond in the group.
The same thing works between a cat and a human. Cats lick their owners to show affection and to increase your bond.
(at least, that’s how it works from the cat’s perspective)
It’s also a way to show love and affection. It’s the same thing as hugging between humans. It’s not only between cat and owner, though. Cats like to lick other animals that they’re comfortable with as a sign of affection.
Like all kinds of animals, cats like to establish their territory and claim things and places they strongly feel as their rightful properties. Each type of animal does it differently.
Cats use licking as a means of achieving this objective. By licking something, the cat transfers its scent to the item and marks it as their own.
The same way a mother cat would lick its kittens to show that they belong to her, your cat will lick you to signal to other cats and animals that you’re also theirs.
That way, other cats would keep away from you when they smell your cat’s scent all over you.
Kittenhood and Petting
When cats are still kittens, their mothers groom and clean them by licking them. It helps in keeping them calm and relaxed as well. It’s also a way of teaching them to clean themselves when they grow up.
A cat will often do the same for their owner. It’s because they remember these memories from their kittenhood. It shows that they accept you as a member of their family, and they feel safe around you.
It’s also an indication of taking care of you, grooming you and teaching you how to stay clean. Your cat might also be licking you when you’re stressed or having a bad mood, as a way to try and calm you down and make you feel comfortable.
Another reason is that licking for cats is similar to petting. Sometimes, cats like to act like humans. That’s why they try to pet you back when you’re petting them, except they do it through licking. It’s a sign of care and affection.
Calmness or Anxiety
The licking could be confusing sometimes. It could be for one of these two opposite reasons.
Your cat might be licking you because it’s feeling comfortable and calm around you. It’s an indication of security. It also helps the cat become more relaxed and feel at ease.
On the other side, the behavior might be because your cat is feeling highly anxious and stressed. There are many varying reasons why a cat would experience such high anxiety.
It could be a trauma, a bad memory from kittenhood. The cat might also be afraid or worried due to some recent events.
In these cases, cats usually lick themselves or their humans. By concentrating on licking you, your cat is trying to alleviate the anxiety and get some sense of safety.
The main way to distinguish between these two reasons is the posture of the cat when it’s licking you. If your cat takes on a more relaxed and stretched stance, it’s feeling comfortable.
On the other hand, if its body is tense and the licking is excessively aggressive for a long period, it’s probably an indication of anxiety.
Cats are attention seekers by nature. When they want you to take care of them or pet them, they’ll let you know. One way to get you to pay attention is licking.
It could be that they just want some pampering. However, it could also mean that they’re anxious and want you to pet them to bring them some comfort.
Cats are very sensitive creatures. They can sense if you’ve applied any supplements to your skin, like a lotion or cream. The cat will usually lick you to get a taste of it. Make sure to prevent them from licking your skin if you use any non-pet-friendly substance.
Some cat experts also say that cats enjoy the taste of salt that results from human sweat. That’s why they’d lick your arms to taste the salt that accumulates over your skin.
Why Does Cat Licking Hurt?
You’ve surely noticed that your cat’s licking could be rough and even hurt you sometimes. The cat’s tongue has backward-facing hooks called papillae. They’re made from keratin, the same material as their claws.
The cat uses it as a comb during grooming, to clean its fur from dead hair, debris and dirt. It’s also helpful in scraping the meat off the bones of their food.
If your cat’s licking becomes excessive or obsessive and showing signs of stress, it’s best to immediately visit a vet, as it could be indicating anxiety or illness, and should be professionally and promptly treated.
Alternatively, if your cat is just showing you love and affection by licking you, it’s a bad idea to scold or punish them for that. It’d be better to distract them instead, using any toy they like to play with.