If cats could talk, they could explain what theyre really doing when they lick and paw at our hair, but since cats are mysterious and tight-lipped by nature, the humans who study them can only theorize on the meaning of this behavior.
Grooming is strictly licking. If your cat licks your hair, she says, it probably means she likes you. The closer you are to your pet, the more likely she is to fancy your tresses, says Pam Johnson-Bennett, a Nashville, Tennessee-based cat behaviorist.
Mothers will lick their kittens to clear dirt from their skin and will lick their bottoms to stimulate defecation and urination, functions newborns cannot control voluntarily during the first three weeks of life, says Dan Estep, an applied animal behaviorist in Denver, Colorado. Anything your cats tongue makes contact with could end up being ingested, so if you use medicinal products on your head or skin, dont let her lick that area, Kirby-Madden says. [If grooming you is] brand new behavior, or if its excessive or increasing in frequency, then it would be time to go to the vet.
If you dont enjoy being your pets personal ice cream cone, you can discourage the licking but do it gently.
Is it normal for cats to groom their owners?
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. … Your cat may give you an occasional lick just to show affection.
What does it mean if your cat grooms you?
One reason your cat may lick you is because it’s a way of creating a social bond. From a young age a cat’s mother would not only lick them as a way of grooming them, but also to show affection. Cats then replicate this behaviour with you as a way of showing their own affection – it simply comes naturally.
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.
Why does my cat always groom in front of me?
Cats often groom as a way to relax themselves. If you find that your cat often grooms in front of you, take this as a positive sign. Your cat feels calm and comfortable in your presence. … For example, if your cat is purring or their eyes are closed when they lick you, they are simply happy.
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.
As every cat owner knows, cats sometimes do funny things. They make our minds start to wonder, why are they doing this to me? My ginger tabby, Tom, has a strange obsession with licking, or grooming my feet. It doesnt matter if Ive just gotten out of the shower, taken off my shoes, or Im sitting at my desk, his foot fetish is always in full effect.
If your cat is in their golden years and theyve suddenly started routinely trying to groom you out of nowhere, this is something that be a cause for concern. Licking also spreads their scent, so often cats who live in close quarters will smell similarly.
If your cat is drawn to the scents from your shampoo and conditioner, you may find that shell sniff you to catch some pleasant whiffs of it. Some people believe it can be related to a self soothing behavior, like thumb sucking in children and can be associated with times of stress.
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.
Cat Grooming Habits Explained
Cats lick and groom one another for many reasons. In the wild, they do it to create one group scent, Johnson-Bennett says.“Out in the wild, that’s crucial to survival,” she says. “When a cat leaves the colony and comes back, they recognize another cat by scent. Scent plays a huge role.”Mothers will lick their kittens to clear dirt from their skin and will lick their bottoms to stimulate defecation and urination, functions newborns cannot control voluntarily during the first three weeks of life, says Dan Estep, an applied animal behaviorist in Denver, Colorado.Cats that share a home together and get along will also lick each other’s heads, Estep says. It’s a social behavior like head or face rubbing.“One theory is cats use allogrooming with people the same way they do with other cats,” Estep says. “It’s a friendly bonding behavior. I’ve had my own cats lick my hair.”Make no mistake, though, cats do not think of us as other cats.“They think of us as being friends they can have a strong relationship with,” Estep says. “They use cat-friendly behaviors to express that.”Cats can tell the difference between cats, humans and other animals, Johnson-Bennett says, and probably choose to lick our hair because it’s the closest thing we have to fur.Of course, it’s also possible that hair-licking could be a sign of affection for your shampoo or conditioner, which is more of a feeding behavior than a friendly behavior, Estep says. You could test the theory by using different products on your hair.“If you use the same shampoo every time, and the cats lick and lick, then you use a different shampoo and they don’t lick it, that would be a sign of an odor preference,” Kirby-Madden says.
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.
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.
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.
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.