Why Does My Cat Lick Me?

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of a sandpapery lick from your cat? If so, you may be wondering what is so enticing about you that your cat couldn’t resist a taste? 

There are a few reasons why cats choose to lick their owners and most of them have to do with affection. Just as a mother cat lovingly grooms her kittens by licking them, your cat licks you to show just how much they like you. 

However, there can be other reasons and at times this behaviour can be frustrating or problematic. Let’s delve a little deeper into understanding why your cat always licks you and what to do if it's causing issues. 


Reasons Cats Lick Their Owners

To Create Social Bonds

Cats don’t only lick their humans, they have also been known to lick other cats and animals that share their home. They will not, as a rule, lick strangers or other unknown animals. Why? 

Licking is usually only reserved for those within your cat's core social group. It not only demonstrates affection but creates a bond between your cat and the recipient. It shows that they like you and enjoy spending time with you.  


What better way to get your owners attention than by giving them a nice lick! Many cats initiate contact through licking in the hope that you will then pat, play, feed or talk to them. 


Cats instinctively groom themselves through licking, multiple times a day. This very natural behaviour may also be transferred to you or other pets in your home. 

If your cat grooms your head area, this is yet another sign that you are one of their preferred peers, and they wish to give you a groom too. 

You Taste Nice

The natural salts on our skin, our perfumes, lotions and potions can all be enticing to cats. 

If you’ve ever been licked after a workout or straight out of the shower as you apply lotion, this means your cat is drawn to how you smell and taste. While sweat won't harm them, avoid letting them lick lotion or perfumes which can contain harmful chemicals. 

Stress Or Anxiety

Licking can also be linked with stress and anxiety in your cat. It is quite common for animals of all kinds to lick excessively as a means of managing their stress levels. 

If your cat has not previously been inclined to lick you or other things obsessively and suddenly begins to, it's time to seek help from your vet. 

To Claim Ownership 

Cats are notoriously territorial, licking you is an effective way to mark you as belonging to them. By leaving their scent on you, they are claiming you and making sure other cats or pets within the home know this. 

Territorial behaviour within the home can become an issue if you have more than one cat or have other pets. Be sure to still make it clear who is the actual boss - you! 


Why Does My Cat Lick And Then Bite Me?

Given licking is primarily a means of showing affection, why do so many cats follow up a loving lick with a painful bite? They may even do this while purring which is supposed to indicate contentment. So what does the bite mean?

Strangely enough, these small bites are another way in which your cat is telling you that they like you. It can also indicate a desire to start a playful game with you. 

Just as kittens tend to bite each other in play, grown cats will often bite playfully too.

So long as the biting is not causing serious injury or becoming too intense, this is nothing to worry about. If your cat is inclined to bite, keep some toys nearby so you can quickly redirect these cheeky nips away from your hands. 


My Cat Only Licks Me - What Does This Mean?

Does your cat only ever lick you and not your husband, wife, kids or any other important member of the household? If so, you should feel extra special! 

Cats are known to show favourtism towards their preferred people and opting to lick only you is a good indication that your cat feels especially connected to you. 


Is It Safe To Let My Cat Lick Me?

As vets, we recommend you discourage your cat from licking your face or near any open wounds. Remember, your cat also licks their genitals during grooming and nobody wants faecal pathogens near their mouths! 

Cats also carry several harmful bacteria in their mouths which can cause infections in humans, especially in those who are elderly or immunocompromised. 

Additionally, due to the extremely rough texture of your cat's tongue, licking could even cause abrasions or irritation in those with sensitive skin. 

Just as you should wash your hands after patting your cat, it is advisable to thoroughly wash any areas of skin your cat licks while grooming you.


What To Do If Licking Becomes A Problem

If your cat’s licking behaviours starts to exacerbate or get out of control, this can be an indication of a bigger problem. As mentioned above, the most common cause of this is stress and anxiety. 

Seeking advice from your vet can help you pinpoint the cause of this change in behaviour and gives you the ability to address it properly. 

If it is simply the nature of your overly affectionate cat and you dislike it, you can take steps to discourage the behaviour. You can do this by:

  • Walking away from them when they begin to lick you
  • Distracting them with something fun such as toys or catnip
  • Moving them elsewhere such as their bed or scratching post
  • Wear long sleeves or cover yourself with a blanket when sitting with your cat

Ultimately, your cat licking you is rarely cause for concern and is a natural behaviour that virtually all cats will exhibit towards their owners. 

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