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My Cat Is Licking Me: What Does It Mean?

Posted by Patricia on 22nd Sep 2022

If you’re confused about why your cat is licking you, you’re not alone. “Why does my cat lick me?” is a common question among many cat owners—and the answers may surprise you!

Possible Reasons Your Cat Licks You

They’re Creating Social Bonds

When your cat was a little, tiny kitten, their mother would lick them as a way of grooming them, and also to show affection and care. If your cat licks you, it’s trying to show you they like you. It’s their way of treating you like family! Licking is a way of showing affection, whether that be licking their human family or other animals.

The Cat Is Stressed or Anxious

It’s not uncommon for kittens or cats to lick people or objects excessively when they’re stressed or anxious about something. If your cat’s licking seems tense and driven by worry, it’s a good idea to visit the vet, and to try and identify the source of your pet’s stress.

They're Seeking Attention

Your cat may have learned early on that licking you gets your attention, which may often mean hugs, petting, or verbal affirmations when they lick you. Some cats might even prefer negative attention over no affection at all!

Marking Their Territory

Like dogs and other animals, cats sometimes mark their territory; one of the ways they do this is by licking something or someone to make sure other cats and animals know what is theirs. This is completely normal; however, if you have more than one cat or have other pets, keep an eye out for intense territorial behavior as that may cause problems down the road.

Interest in Your Scent

Animals (and humans!) are interested in different scents and odors, and will often move in close, sniff, or lick to investigate smells that tickle their fancy. This might sound gross: your sweat contains salts and sugars that your cat may find appealing, and so they lick.

It Just Feels Good

When cats lick themselves, it doesn’t just keep them clean; it also causes the release of ‘feel good’ hormones, known as endorphins, in their brains. This can give them a natural ‘high,’ so they may want to do more of it, to the point of licking you instead of themselves!

When To Be Concerned

Generally speaking, it’s safe for your cat to lick you. However, if you have any harmful substances on your skin that might pose a health risk for your cat, or if your skin is irritated by the licking, you should try to do something to stop it.

How To Get a Cat To Stop Licking You

Did you know there are little, tiny spines called papillaemade of keratin on your cat’s tongue? Each lick rubs these spines against your skin; over time, this may become irritating or even painful.

If this happens, try one of the following ways to discourage them from licking you without making them feel unwanted or unloved:

  • Play with your cat. Distract them from licking by teasing them with toys, and spend some time building a special bond with your pet through play.
  • Give your cat a tasty treat. Food acts as a great distraction; it shows your cat you like them, while you help them stop the behavior that’s annoying you. Too many treats aren’t good for their health, however. Try playing with them first, and only use treats if they return to licking after a play session. And don’t give treats too often, as that might only encourage them to lick you more!
  • Gently disengage with your cat, and walk away. Treating your cat with respect but also making certain boundaries clear is a good way to help them stop licking you too often.
  • Wear long sleeves, or cover exposed skin with a blanket or towel when you’re around your cat.
  • If your cat doesn’t like a certain perfume or lotion you sometimes wear, rub it on your skin to discourage them from licking you.

At the end of the day, pay attention to your cat and try to see why it’s licking you. If it’s simply being affectionate, that’s great! But if the licking is getting on your nerves, or if your cat is licking out of anxiety, it’s time to do something about it.

Know what would keep your active cat busy and happy? A well-designed, challenging, and fun cat tree! Looking for a soft, calming bed for your anxious feline friend? Look no further!

Here at Armarkat, we’re passionate about cats and helping them (and their owners!) lead happy and healthy lives. Our cat trees and beds can help with reducing excessive licking and other stress-induced cat behavior. Visit our website to learn more!