Why Do Some Cats Lick When You Scratch Their Backs?

Cuteness may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Feline tongues tend to have coarse textures.
Image Credit: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Many cats love being petted and gently scratched by the humans in their lives. It feels good to them, and they show their appreciation by cozily purring, kneading and occasionally even dribbling from their mouths. Felines typically adore being stroked everywhere, from the sides of their faces to their backs.

Tidying You Up

Cats associate the concept of grooming with love and belonging. As little kittens, their mama cats meticulously groom their coats, extracting every single miscellaneous thing that might be lingering around. By licking you as you scratch his back, your cat might be doing his part in nurturing the connection you share. He might be expressing to you that he feels secure and peaceful in your presence, essentially telling you that you're swell. It could even be his way of exchanging personal odors with you -- and therefore labeling you as being his and only his. Remember, as sweet as they are, felines can sometimes be highly territorial and possessive creatures.

Sign of Respect

By licking you as you scratch his back, your cat might even be conveying to you that you're the head honcho around these parts, in charge of it all. Dogs frequently partake in this type of licking, too. Your cat might not only be expressing that he enjoys your company, but that he truly respects you, too.


If your cat diligently licks your skin as you scratch his back, it could mean nothing more than that he has convenient access to you and that you happen to taste extremely good at the moment. It could be a remnant of sauce on your arms from a day in the kitchen or even the natural salty flavoring your skin gives off. Either way, your cat's probably lapping it up because he thinks it tastes super, nothing much more complex than that.


When your cat responds to your scratching his back by instantly licking you, it sometimes means that he likes that you're stroking him and kindly wants to reciprocate. Your cat is elated that you're taking the time to relax and scratch him, and he lovingly and considerately wants to do the same for you.

Be Careful

Always be watchful of any potentially immoderate licking actions, whether they're directed toward you or another person or random objects in your home. Inordinate licking behavior can sometimes signify emotional issues in pets, including frustration and tedium due to insufficient social interaction. If you're worried in any way about your cat's licking behavior, take him to a veterinarian immediately. A veterinarian might recommend a variety of management options for your cutie, and might even recommend that your cat meet with a professional expert in animal behavior.