Why Does My Cat Lick Me? 12 Real Fascinating Reasons You Didn’t Know
(Last Updated On: July 8, 2021)
Why do cats lick you? Some people hate it (no thanks for the sandy exfoliation!). Some people accept it as a kind (and rare) outward gesture of affection.
Cats are actually different from dogs and many people don’t understand why their cat is licking them. Is it affection? Or is it jealous? Or what other underlying reason could it be? What does it mean when a cat licks you?
Cat licking, very often, is not very enjoyable. Thanks to the sandy, rough surface of their tongue. If you wonder why it hurts or why cat tongues are so rough, it is because they have bristles or papillae on the surface. These are actually crucial to help them clean or loosen their fur and help them eat.
Cats need them to pull off the flesh from bones and to get rid of dirt or even food from their fur. Even more impressive is the fact that these spikes or bristles help them to drink by pulling water up in their mouths in the form of a column. Amazing fact, isn’t it?
Reasons Why My Cat Licks Me?
To a cat, licking can be like being patted. After the love and attention that you’ve given your purrfect little pet, they figure they might as well return the favor. But there is an even more scientific answer to the question. They’re marking their territory. Your cat is rubbing its scent on you by licking and pawing your body.
It’s telling all the other cats that they aren’t willing to share with anyone. This is very much like cats licking their kittens to mark their ownership and also, to bond.
If your cat was removed from its litter too soon, they might suffer from some anxiety. Licking, grooming, nibbling and suckling are all signs of anxiety. Other possible causes can include a big change in environment recently (eg. if you have moved, or added a new member to the family/house).
My cat licks me whenever I have friends or new people in the house. If your cat does these quite often to you, try and distract them. A good distraction is a great way to relieve some stress, and get a little closer with your cat. Petting and cuddling will also help reduce your pet’s stress level.
Licking Is Like A Pacifier Is To A Baby
If your cat was suddenly orphaned at a young age or weaned early, it is possible for your cat to become fixated with licking. It’s comforting, soothing and makes up for all the suckling that they missed out on.
Licking is like the next best thing and is almost like a pacifier for a baby. If your cat also kneads you and purrs, then this might be the reason. Just pure comfort craved from a lost childhood.
Look At Me, I’m Lonely!
Your cat is in dire need of some attention and feels lonely. This could be especially true if you’re always away from home. Play with them a little, pet them, scratch them, brush them. It never hurts to expand their energy (and yours, too).
We all know playing with your pets is an awesome stress reliever for yourself. But did you know it is beneficial for them too? If you feel that you can’t meet your cat’s bonding needs, consider getting a playmate for it!
Your cat loves you. While living with a cat, you’re going to have to put up with quite a few things:
Moments of staring without something being there
Excessive running during the nighttime (while you’re trying to sleep)
Toe biting (yes, while you’re trying to sleep)
We have to admit, the last one can be quite painful. The licking is a definite sign of affection. While in a litter, your cat received the same kind of treatment that it’s giving you. The licking, is actually cleaning, and the occasional nibbles are signs of affection.
Licking could mean that your cat is in quite a bit of stress. Your cat could start doing it compulsively. If it does so, you can ease its stress by giving it a little more attention and trying to soothe it.
Beware of Cat
Overstimulation can be as quick as a split second. Or as long a few minutes, so be on the lookout. Licking, nibbling, and rubbing on your body could quickly turn into your worst nightmare.
Your cat’s overstimulation can become deadly. Not really. But we know how vicious a territorial cat can become towards their human. If you see these signs with your cat, it means you should, stop what you’re doing and let them be: Tail wagging, Ears back, or Stiff Body.
All Work And No Play
Excessive licking could also mean that your kitty wants some play time. If your cat was removed from its litter too soon, then it doesn’t know restrain. If this is your case, the playing can be almost as deadly as trying to pet your kitty’s belly.
If your cat gets too rough, then all you have to do is walk away. Your cat will learn not to be rough, especially if you are consistent.
Trying To Groom You
We know that cats love to groom themselves. And that could be what your cat is trying to do for you – groom you as well! Being the very clean animals that they are, they could lick you to try to make you clean, healthy and looking good too. Try to appreciate the kind gesture and take it as a sign of concern!
Using You To Clean Its Tongue!
It might not occur to you but your cat could be using you! So much for the rare gesture of affection.
You would know your cat’s tongue is not the smoothest. It has papillae to help them get meat from bones. It also comes in handy when they need to groom by getting dirt out and loosening the fur.
Why does my cat lick my face? Why does my cat lick my hair? Well, perhaps some traces of your meal are on your skin or face! Maybe it’s just a lingering aroma. Maybe it’s even a fragrant cream you slathered on. Whichever it is, your cat just wants to indulge in tasting and exploring.
Related: Read this article on whether Cats Can Eat Chocolate. What Kinds of Chocolates Are The Worst?
A Trip To The Vet Could Be Needed
Why is my cat licking me so much? If your cat licks too much, too frequently or too excessively, it could mean something is wrong.
Licking itself, or even you excessively, could mean several things. Skin irritation, fleas, insect bite, or an infection.
Excessive licking could also mean your cat is in pain. Look out for signs and patterns. If your older cat has never been much of a licker but is suddenly licks excessively, then pay attention. It could be telling you it’s in pain or discomfort. If this happens to be the case, see a vet.
If you cat is licking, biting, nibling or suckling on your skin or your clothes there are simple answers. They might be showing you some affection.
It’s actually quite common for them to show affection this way. It’s what their mothers would do when they were a few days to weeks old.
Another possibility is that they’re extremely stressed out. They need something to relieve their stress. Unfortunately, this can be they ways that they relieve that stress.
Nibbling, biting, suckling and licking are habits for your cat that they have.
Curbing your cat’s habit of licking, suckling, biting and nibbling can be quite simple. The best way to do this is feeding their hunger for a playmate. Play with them, and they should learn not to bite, or like excessively.
Distraction is key. Try to observe patterns and learn to detect when your cat is about to lick you. Once you understand this pattern, distract it before it can lick you. Use a toy, a sound, whatever you can to take its attention off your tasty arm or leg!
Relieve its stress. As mentioned, a cause could be stress so try to soothe and calm your cat through playing (which also helps you to bond).
Apply these to your arm/leg. Cats dislike and detest that citrusy, sour taste. Try lemon juice, or even apple juice that is bitter. That will put your cat off after a while.
Assure your cat and make it feel safe & secure. Instead of pushing your cat away when it tries to lick you, just try to move away and then pet her. This will help to discourage her in a more gentle, passive way. Don’t be harsh or punish her – it could cause a bunch of other problems.
In conclusion, your cat licking you could be a sign of wanting attention, loneliness, stress and more. If you’ve always wondered why on earth does my cat lick me or why do cats lick people, we’re pretty sure you’d find your answer in one of the above.
As an established writer in the Pet industry for the last 7 years and building a career at a couple of reputable Californian vets, Leigh has written countless pet articles to contribute to the industry's wealth of knowledge. She is dedicated to helping readers and enjoys nothing more than exploring the outdoors with her children and pets. Find out more.