Expert Opinion - Why Do Cats Lick Me?

Expert Opinion - Why Do Cats Lick Me?

Author WCF Staff


No matter what kind of a pet you have at home, they will probably have some types of behavior you will struggle to understand. If you’re anything like us, you might have asked yourself, “Why do cats lick you?” You should know that you are not alone, and thousands of new cat owners wonder the same thing when it starts happening to them.

Why do cats lick you?

As you can imagine, a specific behavior can have a few explanations. Most of us believe that licking is a clear sign of affection. That might be true, but there are loads of other reasons cats might lick you. We were curious, so we spoke to Michelle Davis. This cat behaviorist helped us shine some light on this cat behavior. Here are 5 main reasons cats lick you.

1. Affection

The first reason Davis told us is - affection. This is something most cat owners guess on their own. The good news is that we finally had expert confirmation. Cats can lick you to show affection. When cats lick themselves, they use their tongues for grooming. In fact, cats spend anywhere from 30% - 50% of their time grooming themselves.

This type of behavior towards their owners or other pets in the household helps your cat create social bonds. Their mothers used to lick them when they were kittens, so the behavior probably stayed with them. Petting and licking is a sign of affection, and since cats can’t pet us, they will give us tongue baths. Unfortunately, their love can sometimes hurt.

cat licking owner hand

2. Marking you

When your cat licks you, it is showing you affection. However, at the same time, they are marking you as their “property.” This is another thing their mothers used to do to them. The cat mom used to lick her kittens to mark them as hers. It is an easy way of telling everyone in the feline kingdom, “These are my babies; stay away!”

By covering you with saliva, your cat is leaving a scent mark on your skin, clothes, or hair. You might not be able to smell it, but cats have 14 times more sensitive noses than we do. You can be pretty sure that all cats or dogs you encounter will be able to smell your cat’s “markings.” It is an easy way to mark you as theirs.

3. Grooming you

This is another reason your cat might lick you - it’s grooming you. Your cat will do that in the same way their mother did to them. They will “help” you get clean by cleaning you with their tongue. Too bad cats don’t understand their tongues have spikes on them and that by licking you, they can make you feel like someone is sanding your skin.

As we already mentioned in the first reason cats lick, this is a way of forming social bonds. It is pretty easy to see that with wild cats. Lions will groom each other in a pride. It will solidify their position within the pride, which is the same thing your cat does to you.

cat with human hand

4. You taste good

Another common reason cats start licking their owners is - they taste something nice. If your cat can taste something interesting on your skin, you can be sure they’ll lick it until it’s gone. Humans use lotions, creams, and scented shower gels. You might have some traces of food you were eating or preparing, or you simply sweat, and the cat can taste the salty taste of sweat.

It is entirely possible your cat can taste something on your skin, so they decided to dig a bit deeper and see what that is. Cats can’t taste sweet, so at least you can be sure nothing sweet on your skin will interest your cat that much. Their tongues are not that sensitive because they were made for grooming, so they might need a bit more licks to fully understand what they’re tasting.

5. Compulsive behavior

Not all reasons are sweet or cute. Cats can lick you because they are trying to deal with something. If your cat is anxious, it might start licking you compulsively. Most experienced cat owners know how to spot this type of behavior. Anxious or stressed cats might go into a licking frenzy, so keep an eye on other signs of stress and anxiety as well.

Knowing why your cat licks you is crucial, but you should know what to do once you know how to spot compulsive licking. The good news is that you have to shower your cat with love and affection. Pet it, use a calm voice, and make your cat feel safe and loved. No matter what causes them anxiety or stress, you can be sure the cat will feel better once you help them deal with their emotions.

World Cat Finder Team

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