Why Does My Cat Lick Me?

Why Does My Cat Lick Me?

Have you ever been lying down, watching TV, or just relaxing, and suddenly, your cat comes over and starts licking you? If so, you're not alone. Cats lick their owners for various reasons, some of which are still being studied. But don't worry, most of the time, it's a sign that your cat loves you!

In this article, we will explore all of the reasons why your cat might lick you, as well as what you can do if you don't appreciate the slobbery kisses.

Is Licking Normal Cat Behavior?

Licking is typical behavior for cats - who spend up to 8% of their waking hours grooming (and 50% napping).

Any cat parent who has been tongue-bathed by a cat will tell you that a cat's tongue is more like a sandpaper loofah than a soft sponge. This is due to the presence of hundreds of tiny, stiff, backward-facing papillae on your cat's tongue. These barbs aid in the removal of dirt and loose fur when your cat grooms themselves.

Why Do Cats Lick People?

A woman feeding her cats treats

There are a few reasons why your cat licks you; below, we will explore some of the most common ones.

Expressing Affection

Your cat's licking might be a friendly, kind gesture. Mother cats groom their kittens, and cats groom one another; this behavior is known as allogrooming. Allogrooming strengthens the bond between cats and also helps to keep them clean and free of parasites. When your cat licks you, she might be trying to show you how much she cares about you.

Trying To Get Your Attention

Cats are very good at getting what they want, and if licking is what gets your attention, then that's what they'll do. If your cat is trying to get your attention by licking you, it might be because she wants to be fed, she wants to play, or she's just looking for some love and attention.

Marking Its Territory

When cats groom themselves, they spread their scent all over their bodies. When they groom you, they are doing the same thing. By licking you, your cat is claiming you as her own and marking her territory. Cats mark territory to make other cats aware that this area is already taken and to keep them away. If you have more than one cat, this is probably the reason why your cats lick you.

Anxiety

Licking might be a displacement behavior (a behavior used to relieve tension). Stress frequently causes cats to over-lick themselves, but the licking can also be aimed at you.

Try to examine any triggers, such as guests at your home or loud noises. If your cat's anxiety isn't addressed, the behavior may transform into a compulsive one, with the licking taking over your cat's life.

Your Cat Likes Your Taste

Cats have a powerful sense of smell, and they might just like the way you smell or taste. While this behavior might seem odd to us, remember that cats are different from us in many ways. The next time your cat starts licking you, try not to think of it as gross or weird; instead, think of it as a sign of love from your furry friend.

A Medical Issue

While it's not common, there are some medical conditions that can cause a cat to lick excessively. These include allergies, boredom, anxiety, and feline hyperesthesia syndrome. If you think your cat might have a medical condition that's causing her to lick excessively, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Is It Safe to Let Your Cat Lick You?

 A cat licking its paws

It depends. But for the most part, it is safe to let your cat lick you. However, there are a few things cat parents should keep in mind.

First of all, as we mentioned before, a cat's tongue is covered in tiny spines. While these spines help to keep your cat's coat clean and free of parasites, they can also irritate your skin. If you have sensitive skin or if your cat licks you too vigorously, you might experience redness, swelling, or even an infection.

In addition to the irritation that a cat's tongue can cause, there is also the risk of contracting an infectious disease from your cat. The bacteria and viruses that cause these diseases are usually spread through contact with saliva or feces.

Some of the diseases that you can contract from your cat include:

While the risk of contracting an infectious disease from your cat is low, it's still important to be aware of the potential dangers.

How To Discourage Cat Licking

 A cat licking itself

Whatever the reason for your cat's licking, you may find it distressing or even distasteful. But one thing you should note is to never use punishment, including physical punishment, to try to stop your cat from licking you. This will only serve to increase your cat's anxiety and could make the licking worse.

Instead, here are a few things you can do to stop your cat from licking you:

Make Some Changes in Your Home: If your cat is anxious or stressed, making changes in your home might help stop the licking behavior. Try providing your cat with hiding spots, such as boxes or blankets that it can hide under when it feels scared or overwhelmed. You might also want to consider investing in a diffuser, which emits calming pheromones that can help to reduce your cat's stress levels.

Try Redirecting the Behavior:If you can't seem to stop your cat from licking you, try redirecting the behavior. When your cat starts licking you, offer them cat toys, cat trees, or food-stuffed puzzle toys. With enough patience and consistency, you should be able to train your cat to stop licking you and start playing with her toys instead.

Give Your Cat Some Attention: Another way to stop your cat from licking you is to give it some attention. Cats crave attention and love, so if it feels like it's not getting enough from you, it might start licking you as a way to get your attention. Try spending some time each day playing with your cat or brushing its fur. This will help it feel loved and appreciated, and it might just stop the licking behavior.

 Cats licking themselves

Use A Deterrent: If you've tried all of the above and your cat is still licking you, you might need to resort to using a deterrent. There are many commercial products available that can help to stop your cat from licking, including bitter sprays and gels. You can also try making your own deterrent by mixing water and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Spray or rub this mixture on the areas of your skin that your cat likes to lick. The unpleasant taste will deter it from licking you.

Offer More Entertainment:If your cat is bored, she might start licking you as a way to entertain herself. Try providing her with more toys and opportunities to play. If she doesn't have enough space to run and explore in your home, consider taking her to a cat cafe or letting her outside (if it's safe to do so).

Contact A Vet:If your cat is licking you excessively, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition as stated above. If this is the case, she'll need to see a vet for treatment. Excessive licking can also be a sign of stress or anxiety, so if you're concerned about your cat's behavior, talk to your vet. They can offer advice and guidance on how to stop the licking behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

A cat licking its paws 

Here are some frequently asked questions about why cats lick their owners:

Do cat licks mean kisses?

It's a common misconception that when cats lick their owners, it means they are trying to kiss them. However, this is not the case. Cats often lick their humans as a sign of affection, but they also do it for other reasons.

What does it mean when a cat licks you and then bites you?

If your cat licks and then bites you, it might signify that she's feeling playful or affectionate. However, it could also be a sign of aggression. If your cat is biting you hard enough to break your skin, this is definitely aggressive behavior, and you should seek professional help.

My cat licks me but doesn't let me touch her. What does this mean?

If your cat licks you but doesn't let you touch her, it might be a sign that she's not feeling well. It could also be a sign of anxiety or stress. If you're concerned about your cat's behavior, talk to your vet.

Conclusion

 A cat staring off into the distance

There are many reasons why cats lick their owners. It could be a sign of affection, stress, boredom, or an underlying health condition. But we hope this article has helped shed some light on the topic.

Do you have any questions about why cats lick their owners? Leave them in the comments below!

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