Why Do Cats & Dogs Lick People?

By Kayleigh Roberts

Does your pet love to greet you with sloppy kisses when you get home from work? Or when you wake up? Or when, well, you literally do anything together?

But why does your pet lick you? We, humans, tend to interpret it as affection — but is it? Sometimes, yes, but sometimes ... not exactly.

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Why dogs lick humans.

Communication

When dogs are puppies, their moms lick them to communicate and, yeah, to show some affection. The habit sticks and your dog might give you licks because they want to feel close to you or say, "Hey, love you!"

Submission

Another reason dogs lick humans is to show submission. In the wild, dogs lick their mothers and high-ranking members of the pack as a submissive gesture. Since your dog probably considers you the head of the pack at home, it makes sense that she wants to give you kisses.

Nom nom nom

We're not saying that your dog literally wants to consume you, but he does love the taste of your skin sometimes. Dogs are big fans of the salty flavor of human skin. Not that that means your dog doesn't love you too, but he also thinks you taste delicious.

Dog bites the girl's nose.
credit: Fly_dragonfly/iStock/GettyImages

Stress relief

It sounds weird, but licking your skin could actually be very relaxing for your pup. "Licking releases pleasurable endorphins which gives dogs a feeling of comfort and pleasure — like the feeling people get when they are biting their nails — it relieves stress," Animal Planet explains.

Why cats lick humans

Kitten licks human fingers
credit: Tycson1/iStock/GettyImages

Affection

Believe it or not, your cat's kisses do mean affection. Cats lick their kittens as babies and they grow up associating the act with affection. They are kisses.

To groom you

Cats are social groomers, which means that their licks might be their way of grooming you. This is another kind of affection though, not a not-so-subtle hint that you need a shower.

Because they're anxious

When cats get anxious, they tend to over-groom, and this could extend to you if they're especially into kissing.

Girl in Field With Kitten and Affectionate Puppy
credit: adogslifephoto/iStock/GettyImages

To mark their territory

Cats also lick to mark their territory. When we think of animals marking their territory with pheromones, we think pee, but saliva gets the job done too. When your cat gives you lots of kisses, he's letting other cats know that you're taken.

Would you like to learn more about what you're reading? Scroll through this article about what it means when a dog humps your leg. Also, follow us on Facebook for the latest pet behavior information.