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Why Does My Cat Groom Me? 9 Common Reasons

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	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Felines spend a big part of each day grooming themselves—about 30–50%, in fact. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that our pets sometimes decide to groom us if we’re nearby. But why exactly do cats groom us? Is it simply because we’re there, or are there deeper reasons than that?

Turns out there are many reasons our kitty friends will begin licking at your skin or hair with their sandpapery tongues! Reasons vary from seeking comfort to wanting your attention, but here are the top 10 reasons your cat will lick and groom you.

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The 9 Most Common Reasons Why Your Cat Grooms You

1.  Bonding

Close up of cat licking human arm
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

It’s been debated whether cats consider us large cats that are terrible at being cats or just friends of differing species, but the ways they interact with us are how they’d act with other felines. If you have several cats, you’ve likely noticed them licking and grooming each other; this is one of the ways your pets bond and show affection to one another. So, if your cat begins licking and grooming you, it could simply be doing the same.

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2. Comfort

cat licking human fingers
Image Credit: Pixabay

Your favorite feline could also just be showing you how comfortable it is around you. Licking and grooming you can signify your pet is content, relaxed, and happy to be near. Let your pet know you’re just as glad to be around it by returning the favor with some pets and cuddles!

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3. Kittenish Behavior

a domestic tabby cat licking its paw
Image Credit: Karin Laurila, Shutterstock

If you got your kitty from a breeder, it should have been old enough to have been weaned from its mother by the time you took custody. But if you found your cat at a shelter or abandoned somewhere, your pet might have been weaned away from mom too early.

So, if your cat is not only licking and grooming you but purring and kneading while it does so, it could be that it was weaned too early. Felines that are weaned before they should have a tendency to start licking as a way to receive the comfort associated with nursing from mama cat.

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4. Marking You

Black cat licking a woman's toes
Image Credit: Jasmin Bauer, Shutterstock

Cats can be territorial and have a few different ways to mark said territory. They may rub their cheek against what they consider theirs to leave a scent behind. Or they may scratch at something to leave not only scent but a visual marker. Licking you is yet another way they are able to mark its territory. Cats living together lick each other to create a sort of group scent; if your pet is licking you, it’s letting others know you belong to them.

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5. Finds You Tasty

cat licking owners face
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

Or your favorite feline pal could be licking simply because it thinks you taste yummy! There are plenty of ways your skin could taste delicious to your pet. You may have been exercising, in which case, there’s a salty residue left on your skin from all the sweat. Or you may smell or taste interesting because of your shampoo, perfume, lotion, or other products. You might have even spilled something on yourself, like BBQ sauce, that your cat finds extremely tasty. There are a multitude of reasons your skin could smell and taste great to your pet.

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6. Medical Issue

cat having an ultrasound in vet clinic
Image Credit: Libre, Shutterstock

On the more serious side, your kitty licking you could be a sign that something is wrong with its health. Particularly if your cat has only recently begun to lick you or if it’s licking in an excessive way, it would be a smart idea to take it to the vet. Pain, nausea, and general discomfort can all lead to your pet licking you or themselves. So, also take note of whether your pet has started grooming itself excessively too.

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7. Anxious or Stressed

angry domestic cat growling
Image Credit: pixbull, Shutterstock

Cats licking themselves and others too much won’t always indicate a medical issue; instead, it could mean that your cat is anxious or stressed out, and they’re using licking as a coping mechanism. If you and your cat have experienced recent changes, such as moving homes or a new pet or human coming into your place, keep an eye on how much your pet is licking itself and you. You don’t need to worry much about the licking unless your cat repetitively licks one spot enough to begin losing hair or the skin becomes irritated. Try to comfort and reassure your pet in this case, though.

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8. Ready to Play

cat smells, lick feet and toes in bed
Image Credit: Beatriz Vera, Shutterstock

If your pet is ready to play (or wants some form of attention), it will approach you to try to get your attention. Your cat may paw or meow at you or lick you to invite you to engage with them. Unlike above, this will occur upon your feline approaching you, not when you’ve already been giving it attention. So, give your cat what it wants and go play or give it plenty of pets!

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9. Grooming

cat licking hand
Image Credit: frankieleon, Flickr

Finally, your kitty might actually be trying to groom you. Your cat doesn’t realize grooming you won’t actually get you nice and clean as it does themselves, but they’ll certainly give it a try! Plus, your pet may be taking it upon itself to be the allo-groomer (one cat in a group of cats that grooms all the others) and is engaging in this kind of grooming to accept you as part of its group.

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Your cat will, on occasion, lick and groom you for a variety of reasons. Your pet might want to play or be done with playing, or it could be marking you as one of its own. Whatever the reason your pet is grooming you, unless it’s doing so excessively, it’s no cause for concern. Grooming and licking are just normal parts of kitty behavior and communication!

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Featured Image Credit: ECOSY, Shutterstock