Truth: When your cat applies his tongue to your bare skin, you may want to recoil. Not only is it a strange feeling akin to wet sandpaper but you also know where your kitty's tongue is usually applied, and it may not be the most sanitary of spots. Indeed, cats groom their entire body, genitalia included, with their tongue. So, as you ponder "Why is my cat licking me?"—remember that it could be because he feels you need some grooming as well. You can also take heart and know that dogs lick their owners much more than cats do, so at least you'll get less licking with a cat in the house.
Why do cats lick me?
As much as you say to your cat, "Please don't lick me," you're better off learning what's behind this tendency to lick. Some of the more common reasons a cat may lick her owner include:
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- She loves you: When you see a cat licking, it means that animal is showing affection. Licking a human owner, a fellow cat, or even a dog in the house is a gesture of love.
- She's marking you: By using her tongue on you, your cat is placing her own scent on your skin and claiming you as her own special person. It's nice to be wanted, after all!
- She's signaling you: Ahem! Cat licking can also mean your feline is trying to get you to pay attention to her. She knows that by giving you a lick, you may scratch her ears or offer a treat.
- She's tasting you: Human skin is salty, which appeals to cats. And if you've just eaten a tuna fish sandwich, she'll no doubt want to clean your fingers with her tongue. But don't let your cat lick your skin if you've applied topical medication or sunscreen, as these may be harmful.
- She's anxious: Licking can also be a nervous habit that may stem from being left alone or from big changes in the household, such as a new pet or new baby.
- She's used to it: Your cat may lick just because she like it or for no particular reason at all.
Why cats lick other things
Beyond simply licking to groom, cats may apply their tongue to various spots on their body that itch. Take note of this kind of licking since your cat could be itching due to allergies, ticks, fleas, or another irritant. Lots of licks may also indicate soreness or an injury on your cat's body.
Cat licking is also known to soothe since the action releases feel-good endorphins. Two cats together may decide to lick each other and then start a fight right afterward. (Don't worry; it's usually all in good fun.) Your cat might even lick you and then give a nip, which may mean he wants to play.
You may also spy your cat licking his bed, a blanket, or the couch cushion, again because it's soothing. Wool sucking is also possible, as it recalls your cat's kitten days when he used to snuggle up with his mom and litter mates. Does your cat lick plastic? If it's a bag that once held salmon rolls, this type of licking makes sense, but if your pet keeps licking items like wood, the walls, or the floor, check with the vet, as he could have pica, which is the compulsive urge to eat nonfood things.
Smart ways to curb cat licking
Try as you might, it's hard to stop cat licking since this motion is instinctive. Never scold your pet for doing what comes naturally, but you can certainly work to curb the activity if it becomes annoying. Start by offering a toy to distract your cat or simply remove her when she's licking you and put her in another spot. You could also attempt to ignore her licking or stand up and walk away. Head to the window and maybe she'll follow you to watch the birds flit around outside.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Why Cats Lick Their Privates
- Bottletree Animal Hospital: Why Does My Cat Lick Me?
- British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: How Do I Know if My Cat Loves Me?
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Pet Health Insurance: Why Does My Cat Lick Everything?