ExcitedCats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Why Does My Cat Lick Me in the Middle of the Night?

If you are a cat person, you have probably received one thousand and one licks from your cat. But why would your cat be licking you in the middle of the night?

Are they trying to express love? Or are they trying to alert you about something? It could be anything. We all know that cats are weird. But suffice it to say there are very few instances in which you’d welcome an interruption of sleep for a licking session.

Below we’ve listed five possible reasons for this behavior.


1. To Clean You

According to your feline friend, there is no such thing as clean enough. You could always use some extra grooming. It also does not help that their highly-tuned senses pick up the faintest of smells.

Of course, they could clean you during the day, but you are either too busy or not around to get a proper grooming session. So, your cat might wait for you to sleep so that they can clean you thoroughly.

cat licking human arm
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock
thematic break

2. To Bond and Show Affection

As mentioned, grooming is the most common way through which cats express affection. It starts with mothers licking their kittens. Your cat wants to show you that affection too. Therefore, it does not matter to your cat whether it is in the middle of the night. You will get that loving at any place and at any time.

thematic break

3. To Mark You

In case you didn’t know, you belong to your cat and not the other way around it. It also does not matter to them whether you acknowledge that or not, as long as other cats do.

So, how will other cats know that you belong to another feline?

They will know by the distinct scent you will have on you at all times, your cat’s scent. Cats transfer their scent through a myriad of ways, including licking.

You will notice that your kitty typically wants nothing to do with you if you had spent some time with another cat during the day. This is because they smell the other cat’s scent on you. Therefore, to avoid making your kitty insecure, limit the frequency at which you interact with foreign cats.

Cat licking woman's ear
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock
thematic break

4. Your Skin is Salty

Sweat is extremely salty. To some cats, the smell and taste of sweat might be interesting. As such, your cat licking you at night could be due to the simple fact that they want to lick the salt off you.

thematic break

5. Your Cat is Anxious or Stressed

House felines tend to lick compulsively when they are under pain or stress. They lick not only themselves but also other objects and people around them. Often, it is an indication that they need some soothing. Cats may also lick you when they feel that you are anxious or upset. That is their way of soothing you.

cat licking human fingers
Image Credit: Svetlana.Is, Shutterstock
thematic break

Stopping Your Cat from Licking You

Despite their good intentions, you might not appreciate it when your cat interrupts your sleep just to lick you. And licking sessions can be rough. Unlike a dog’s smooth tongue, a cat’s tongue is covered by numerous backward-facing hooks known as papillae.

These sharp hooks are made of keratin, which is the same material found in claws and nails. That is the reason you might not like the sensation of your cat’s tongue against your skin.

The best way of dealing with this behavior at night is by locking your kitty out of the bedroom. During the day, distraction works better. Avoid getting upset at your cat, as they will feel rejected.

cat + line divider


Whether you like it or not, you have to tolerate some licking from your cat. And cats lick because they care. Therefore, avoid reacting negatively when that time comes. Instead, distract them with their favorite toy or treat.

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: MegSopki, Shutterstock