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Why Does My Cat Lick Me? 5 Reasons Behind the Behavior

The cat’s tongue is one of its greatest assets. It is lined with little barbs that act like a comb when they are grooming their fur. But apart from licking themselves, a cat will also lick their food bowl, bedding, or even you. There are many reasons why a cat would lick its owner. Usually, the behavior is regarded as a compliment. Flattering as it can be, it has the potential for being tiresome or excessive. Here are five reasons why your cat licks you and what to do about it.

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1. To Cope with Stress

A cat can lick you when they want to play or be pet. But sometimes it could also be a sign of stress and anxiety. If the licking persists even after the stressor is removed, you have a reason to get concerned. If they are licking you and other objects to the point of interfering with daily life, you might need to consider visiting a vet.


2. To Send a Message to Others

cat licking human arm
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

A lion will rub its muzzle on the grass to send a message that it lays claim to that territory. Likewise, domestic cats will do several things to claim ownership of something, including you.  Apart from scratching, spraying, and cheek rubbing, they will also lick you. So, don’t be offended.


3. To Keep You Groomed

cat licks the head of a human
Image Credit: MegSopki, Shutterstock

Few animals can rival the cleanliness of cats. These animals lick themselves clean and will lick each other to make sure that everyone is spruced up. Social grooming is common in cats that live together, including lions. If you are getting regular licks, your furry friend might just be trying to clean you up.


4. To Get Your Attention

Just like pawing or meowing, licking could also be an attention-seeking behavior. If your cat is licking you, perhaps they want you to pet them, feed them, or just pay attention to them. Make sure you take care of their needs before considering other reasons.


5. To Enjoy Your Particular Taste

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

Maybe you have dried sweat on your skin, and they fancy that taste. While they don’t have as many taste buds as most other animals, cats can indeed differentiate between various tastes and have preferences. Try getting in the shower and see whether the licking will cease.


How Can You Make Them Stop?

As flattering as it may seem, the behavior can be annoying to some folks. If your cat takes the licking too far, you might consider putting a stop to the behavior. Think about redirecting their attention. For example, you could try to distract them with a kitty massage. If they are licking your face, redirect them to another part of the body that needs exfoliation.

When that fails, simply walk away when the behavior gets excessive. Do this often enough and the cat will start associating the licking with your disappearance. When you do it consistently for some time, the cat will soon learn not to lick you. However, you should never punish or reprimand them for doing what comes naturally.

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Conclusion

Although some people may find it fun, it is not always a comfortable experience when a cat licks you. Their tongues have hooks that are designed to tug and clean their fur just like a comb would. And the licking can sometimes hurt, especially if they do it excessively on one spot.

Mostly, your cat will lick you as a sign of affection, but excessive licking is a cause for alarm. If the cat is licking you or itself to the point of thinning its coats, seek the advice of a veterinarian.


Featured Image Credit: ECOSY, Shutterstock