Cats are not known for being big lickers. But, when it happens, it can make cat owners scratch their heads as a flood of questions fly through. Do I taste good? Did I finally do something right? Are they doing a test run for biting me later? Am I their next meal!!? Wow! That spiraled fast. All jokes aside, though, why does your cat lick you? There are many different reasons why Felix has bestowed the honor of being licked upon you. Unlike dogs, cats have many reasons for their affection, which are all tied to their social behaviors.
Social behaviors in cats range from licking to the less desirable biting and the ever-adorable kneading 'biscuits.' So naturally, feline owners want to know why their furry friends display each behavior. Granted, the most perplexing is the licking. They often lick each other and sometimes their dog roomies. It must mean our cats love us, right? There are five reasons experts tell us cats lick you, and don't worry- they are all positive!
1. Social Bonding
Veterinarian Melissa Brock says, "The reasons why a cat licks you can be varied." Cats are very sensitive and don't form bonds as easily as dogs. "If your cat is licking you because they want to groom you, then this is a good sign that your cat feels comfortable with you. This can help foster a strong bond between you and your pet," said Brock.
If your cat licks you, then you also need to reciprocate that behavior and show him some love in return!
Cats form tight-knit bonds with those around them. According to Dr. Chyrle Bonk, "Cats in colonies will socially groom each other as a way of showing that they belong."So naturally, as their owner, you have become a part of their family. So they will lick you to strengthen the bond between you two.
3. Licking Compulsively= Anxiety
Animals tend to lick obsessively when they're stressed. This also goes for dogs too. Some cats get so stressed that they begin licking compulsively, and cats who lick themselves bald are often trying to comfort themselves because they're stressed. If this is the case, you should consider your cat's routine and if anything has changed, ranging from food, the loss of another pet, or even a move to another house.
4. Claiming You!
Cats use pheromones to mark their territory. They also knead their human, and their scent glands rub off on the clothes or blanket they're kneading! So by licking you, they are claiming you as part of their property! This can't be all that surprising! It also may be as a reward. You fed them, cleaned their litter box, and they appreciate it. "If your cat is licking you because they want to reward you, then this is also a good sign. Cats will sometimes give other cats or humans a lick as a way of showing affection and appreciation," said Brock.
In this case, curiosity did not kill the cat. You may taste good and left some 'tasty' morsels on your shirt after dinner. Brock said, "If your cat licks you because they like the taste of you, then this can be rather off-putting! But don't worry—it's probably not something that's going to hurt them." Cats are curious and will pick up all sorts of information by licking your face or shirt.
Your cat's tongue is also rough, like sandpaper! So if this excessive licking is bothering you, then find an interactive toy or something you can play with as you never want to punish this behavior.
An animal behaviorist will tell us that catnip may be a fun distraction. A cat's licking is mainly a sign of affection so embrace this body language as it's super positive! Cats groom each other, and if they want to groom their cat owners and other family members, then they must be pretty special.
This feline behavior is evidence of cats' strong social bonds with their owners, which should be celebrated. But, of course, it's no different than purring.
Does your cat lick you? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page!
This article was originally published on December 18, 2019.