Why Do Cats Lick People?

Licking: cats are absolutely obsessed with it. In fact, research suggests an adult domestic feline can spend up to 8 per cent of their waking hours grooming their body with their tongue. Licking can also play an important social role with felines, with adults often licking each other just before copulating.

This type of licking is similar to a cat-to-cat behaviour known as allogrooming, which is basically mutual grooming. Its basically to clean the kitten and strengthen social bonds, says Dr David Sands , expert in animal psychology with over 25 years of clinical experience.

If in doubt, consider the University of Lincoln study tactfully titled Domestic Cats Do Not Show Signs of Secure Attachment to Their Owners . The researchers concluded: These results are consistent with the view that adult cats are typically quite autonomous, even in their social relationships, and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety. While this sounds complicated, this is essentially the very simple idea that a cat will like you because theyre interested in whatever scent is on your hand.

Cat taste buds are so sensitive they can pick up scents from our skins that could include pheromone secretions from other animals, says Sands. In fact, they love their own unique scent which acts as an airborne fingerprint so much they think it should supplant all others. As Sands explains, this is why a cat may lick themselves after your stroke them its purely to get rid of your scent! he says.

He adds: People always think cats rubbing themselves against you or things you touch are expressing love.

Why does my cat lick me so much?

Some cats will lick humans because they feel anxious and/or fearful. Licking their humans is a way to calm themselves 3, somewhat like how humans will chew their nails when they feel anxious. This behavior is also observed in cats that were too young to be taken away from their mothers.

Should I let my cat lick me?

No, you should never lick your cat. They will feel confused if you do this as your saliva has proteins and chemicals which are different from their saliva. Also, they will not appreciate it as you will mess up their fur.

Is it OK for cats to lick humans?

Hair licking is unlikely to harm your feline. “Unless the cat is eating the hair or obviously becomes sick after licking human hair, this is usually not something to worry about,” says Dr. Christensen Bell.

Why does my cat lick me when I pet him?

Your cat may be licking you when you are petting her to show affection but more so to claim ownership of you. Cats mark their territory by transferring pheromones through their scent glands and their saliva, thus, the licking. By marking you as their own they are signaling to other pets around that you belong to them.

When I adopted Bambu, my adorable orange kitty with arguably the worlds poofiest tail, I was immediately taken aback by the extent of her licking. I left all of our snuggle sessions with my hands, arms, and face covered in kitty saliva.

Scientists have not fully figured out the reason why cats lick people, but here are several possible theories. If your cat was weaned too early, they may have started licking you as a way to seek the comfort reminiscent of nursing.

Your cat may lick your skin or hair to investigate interesting scents or odors, like an appetizing lotion, shampoo, or other topical product. Determine if there are any triggers for the licking, like visitors in your home or loud noises. Never use punishment, including scolding, squirting water, shaking a jar of coins, or applying bitter-tasting spray.

Cover your skin with long-sleeved clothing or a small towel when you interact with them, and provide a food puzzle or toy. If it does not stop after a week, there is likely another motivation for the licking that needs to be addressed, and you should talk to your vet. When your cat interacts with you without licking, reinforce the behavior by rewarding them with praise, petting, or play.

If your cats licking persists or is excessive, then they should be evaluated by your veterinarian to ensure there isnt a medical or emotional disorder underlying it.

Many people assume that cats lick them as a sign of love which isn’t really that far off. While it’s hard to determine if cats feel complex emotions like love, licking is a sign of affection. Cats usually lick themselves in order to groom. Mother cats will lick their kittens as a part of the grooming process as well. However, cats will also lick each other as a sign of affection. Cats actually lick humans for one of several reasons, but most of them come down to displays of affection.

This is because cat tongues have backward-facing hooks that are meant to pull and clean their fur the way a comb would.

Animals Pets Why Do Cats Lick People? By Laura Moss Laura Moss Writer University of South Carolina Laura Moss is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing about science, nature, culture, and the environment. Learn about our editorial process Updated August 7, 2019 Excessive licking and nibbling could be a sign your cat is stressed. Pashin Georgiy/Shutterstock Share Twitter Pinterest Email Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species Adult cats spend about half their waking hours grooming themselves. While friendly cats and littermates often groom each other, felines may also groom their humans by licking their skin or hair. Sometimes they may even nibble or suckle clothing and drool profusely. Your cat may give you an occasional lick just to show affection. Just as mother cats lick their young, grooming communicates a cat’s fondness for a person, as well as a sense of belonging and a social bond. The licking marks you as a member of the animal’s family and spreads the cat’s scent. Just as adult cats scratch certain places to mark their territory, licking your skin or hair is a way of claiming you. Of course, if your cat grooms your hair after a shower or your hands after you’ve applied lotion, it could simply be that your shampoo or lotion has an enticing scent or taste. If there’s excessive licking, your cat may have been orphaned or weaned too early. Some experts believe that kittens taken from their mother too early show infantile behaviors like this as adults. However, licking, nibbling and suckling can also be a response to stress, anxiety or illness, or it may simply be a comforting behavior for the feline. In rare cases, these actions can develop into a compulsive disorder. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a behavior is typically considered compulsive if a cat has trouble stopping, even when you try to distract him with another activity. If your older cat has only recently started licking or suckling you, take him to the veterinarian. Hyperthyroidism is common in older cats and can cause many behavioral changes. How to stop licking Try giving your cat a bit of catnip or a toy to stop them from licking you. Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock If you find your cat’s grooming or suckling is so frequent that it’s bothersome, there are ways to get your cat to stop licking. The easiest way to do this is to get up and walk away whenever your cat begins to lick. Don’t move so abruptly that you frighten him simply remove him and leave the room. For such behavior modification to be effective, you’ll likely have to keep this up for several weeks or months. You can also distract your cat with treats or toys, or provide him with something to chew or suckle instead of you, such as grass, catnip or a thin piece of rawhide. Your feline friend may simply require more exercise or mental stimulation, so mental stimulation and playtime can help curb the undesirable behavior. If you suspect your cat’s licking or suckling is stress-related, try to determine what provokes it. It could be a recent household change, such as the loss of a feline friend, other family pet or visitors to the home. Once you’ve identified the trigger, help your cat find a way to cope. For example, if visitors or a new pet are making your cat anxious, make sure your pet has a safe place to hide where he can be left alone. Most importantly, as you work to discourage this behavior, don’t raise your voice or physically punish the animal. Grooming and suckling is often caused by stress, so this could actually intensify these actions. If your pet’s behavior seems interfere with the animal’s quality of life, talk to your veterinarian. A vet may suggest consulting an animal behaviorist to determine what’s causing the licking and suckling and how best to resolve the issue.

Why Do Cats Lick You?

Scientists have not fully figured out the reason why cats lick people, but here are several possible theories.

Your cat is seeking attention.

Your cat may have learned very quickly that licking gets attention, as you have likely inadvertently rewarded your cat’s licking by talking to, petting, or in some way interacting with them when they lick you. Some cats even find negative attention, like being reprimanded or pushed away, to be better than no attention.

Your cat is displaying kitten-related behavior.

Kittens knead and suckle when nursing. If your cat was weaned too early, they may have started licking you as a way to seek the comfort reminiscent of nursing. In this case, your cat may also knead and purr as they lick you.

Your cat likes your taste.

Your cat may lick your skin or hair to investigate interesting scents or odors, like an appetizing lotion, shampoo, or other topical product. Human perspiration also contains sugar and salts that cats may find appealing.

Your cat is anxious.

Licking may represent a displacement behavior, which is a behavior that a cat performs to alleviate stress. Stress more commonly leads to excessive self-grooming, but the licking may be directed toward you, too.Determine if there are any triggers for the licking, like visitors in your home or loud noises. If your cat’s anxiety is left untreated, the licking may progress to a compulsive behavior, at which point the licking takes over your cat’s life.

Your cat has a medical issue.

Your cat may lick you and/or objects in the environment due to a medical problem. Nausea, pain, or discomfort can lead to licking. In Bambu’s case, we discovered that inflammatory bowel disease was the cause of her licking. If your cat’s licking is excessive or just started recently, take them to be evaluated by your veterinarian.

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Whatever the cause of your cat’s licking, you may find the licking uncomfortable or even annoying.Never use punishment, including scolding, squirting water, shaking a jar of coins, or applying bitter-tasting spray. This may compromise your bond with your cat and may make your cat more anxious, which may exacerbate your cat’s licking.Here are some tips to minimize the licking:If your cat’s licking persists or is excessive, then they should be evaluated by your veterinarian to ensure there isn’t a medical or emotional disorder underlying it.

Signs of Affection

In the same way that you show affection to your cat by petting it, your cat may attempt to return the favor by licking you. Kittens especially will use licking as a way to ease anxiety the way a human might use hugs. If your feline friend loves to lick you, it probably means it would like some affection in return. Which, honestly, is one of the best parts of owning a cat.

Marking Territory

Cats use pheromones to mark their territory. While most people know that cats mark property by urinating on things, they can mark their territory in other ways as well. Licking and head rubs are ways for cats to claim you as part of their property—affectionately. When your cat licks or rubs against you, it is reaffirming that you are important to it and they want all the other cats to know. You may notice that sometimes other cats shy away from you, it’s possible they smell that you belong to another cat.

Part of the Family

Many people joke that cats think they’re humans and given the way some cats behave towards their owners, it’s easy to see why. A great example is a cat who will leave dead mice or birds on their owner’s doorsteps in an attempt to share a tasty treat. Cats have also been known to present their owners with live animals in an attempt to teach its owner to hunt. It’s clear that not only do many cats see their owners as part of the family, they also see them as a bit inept at being cats. Female cats especially will exhibit this sort of parenting or nurturing type of behavior.When cats lick you, it can mean that they are attempting to teach you to groom yourself. It’s a memory your cat had from being licked by its own mother and is a real sign of affection. Cats will also lick each other as a way to calm them down. Cats are very attentive to their owner’s moods so you might find your cat is more affectionate when you’re stressed or sick. Cats are attempting to calm your anxiety the same way you would pet your cat if they seemed nervous.