Have you ever wondered why cats lick us? Naturally, when our pets lick us, we assume they are merely showing love. But just how accurate is that assessment?
Reason 1: Cats Lick Us Because They Feel Secure With Us
According to petmd.com. perhaps your cat is giving you a tongue bath because she sees you as a member of her tribe and feels secure when she is with you. She may recall how her mom gave her cleanings as a kitten. Now, your cat is emulating that behavior towards you as an act of nurture, keeping you clean and claiming you as one of her own.
Reason 2: Cats Lick Us To Establish Territory
Another reason your cat may lick you is to establish her territory. Licking allows her to mark her scent, telling others to back off because this is her property. Just like mother cats lick their offspring to mark them as their own, your cat licks you to declare to the world that you are hers. (Remember! You don’t own your cat; she owns you!) Licking is also a bonding mechanism.
Reason 3: Weaned Too Early or Orphaned
Cats lick us because they may have been weaned too early or were orphaned, developing an oral fixation making them excessive lickers. Without an appropriate means by which to get the same comfort that nursing gave them, they turn to licking, which is the closest they can get to that sensation.
Reason 4: It’s Cat Version of Petting Us
Licking is also a cat’s version of petting you, another form of affection she has towards you. Because she can’t really pet you, she lets her tongue do the work for her.
Reason 5: Anxiety
Excessive licking on your cat’s part can be attributed to anxiety. This may be a sign she needs to be petted and cuddled to relieve her stress. If your cat does seem to be licking too much, offer her more attention and affection.
Check for Skin Irritations
When an older cat who has never shown her affection for you in this manner suddenly begins licking you or suckling at your clothing, take note.
Some cats initiate vigorous licking trying to get relief from a skin irritation, fleas, an insect bite or even an infection. Examine her skin and fur for the source of the problem. Check with your veterinarian as to proper treatment.
While there are varied reasons as to why your cat might lick you – and we know it can hurt at times – never punish or reprimand her for doing what is natural for her. If you need to distract her, try massaging her a bit or engaging her with a catnip toy.
Aside from all these reasons, I think we also just plain taste good! My dogs like to lick me when I am sweaty from running (ick, lol!)
And another reason–cats only groom other cats/dogs (and humans) they trust, and this shared scent marks all as “family.” So when kitty licks you, she’s also cementing family ties.
My cat Peanut Butter loves to lick my son-in-law, who isn’t a fan of cats. I suspect she simply likes establishing that he has to tolerate her when he visits our house. It could be affection, but….;-)
Our neighbor’s dog whom we babysit often licks us a lot,specially when he gets anxious. Now I know why!
Too funny! I never knew why. Similar with dogs! Our family cat sometimes gives kisses. 🙂
Interesting! I have never really considered a couple of these, so that was not what i expected!
I didn’t actually know that over-licking of humans could be a sign of anxiety. Our cat Rosie occasionally over grooms herself but not us.
I think Mr. N mostly licks to show affection. He does tongue flicks when he’s stressed but he doesn’t really lick then.
My cat Puck would lick me all the time. He adopted me as his momma early on and was my shadow cat. But he was also territorial and your post makes a lot of sense that perhaps he was in some way marking me as his.
How interesting! Our cat is always licking us when she wakes up from a nap, I’m guessing she’s claiming her napping territory! lol
Very informative post! Some of my dad’s cats have been known to be lickers and I always thought it was an interesting behavior for a cat. When you add the sandpaper like feel of a cat’s tongue, I can see where the issue lies. I love your advice to not reprimand the cat, but rather re-direct him if it gets to be too much. Great advice!
This was an interesting article. Lola licks me constantly! She doesn’t appear to be anxious, so the other four could be her reasons.
What an “a-peeling” post! While we don’t have any cats in our home right now, dogs lick for some of the same reasons. Licking as a sign that we are part of the pack is my favorite!
Our cat Jasmine licks me every night during her mandatory snuggle session right before we go to bed. She waits for me to lie down and hops up on my chest for love and kisses.. painful sandpaper kisses! I don’t know exactly why, but it’s a bonding moment for us and I love it, even if it hurts!
I never thought about the licking being a result of anxiety. Truffle has always licked me and she came to live with me at 3 months of age. Brulee rarely licks me, so when she does, I take it as a compliment.
It is interesting to learn the reasons why a cat might lick. I remember the first time a cat licked me, I was in shock that his tongue was so rough! Our cat isn’t much of a licker and that is okay with me.
I never considered this before, very interesting. I always attributed almost exactly the same causes for kneading behavior as well though. Would that be a correct assumption?
These all make perfect sense. Licking is nice but excessive licking can be a bit of an issue. Thanks for sharing!
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
Very interesting! I hadn’t thought of some of these reasons for a cat licking! I wonder how many of these reasons overlap with why dogs may lick people. Thanks for sharing this resource for pet owners who may not know this information!
I would imagine at least a few overlap……will have to research that one!
So interesting! I was that weird kiddo who liked when her cat licked her hands, haha. It’s exfoliation! 😉
I always though Nala licked me as she was comfortable, she loved me and sometimes I was salty.