Does your feline companion always want to lick you, and are you constantly wondering why? Especially since a cat’s tongue can feel a bit rough, it’s a cat behavior that’s difficult to ignore! In general, there are two main reasons a cat will lick the human family members:
If you have more than one kitty or have seen cats together, you will notice that cats will lick other fellow cats in their social group. Known as “allogrooming,” various species of animals will lick and groom each other in order to establish their social bonds. It also aids to reduce conflict within the group. Since felines live with you, as part of your social group, it is normal for them to engage in allogrooming to display affiliative behavior. If your cats are ordinarily healthy and behaving normally, licking is a confident indicator that they like you and want to be closer.
Cats will additionally lick people if they find the feeling to be enjoyable. The natural ingredients found in human sweat can be appetizing for some cats. Felines can likewise be attracted to items that you put on your skin, such as medical ointments and skin lotion. This can actually be a real concern if you use certain topical hormone-treatments that lead to negative hormonal changes in dogs and cats. According to the pet poison helpline, topical prescriptions that are poisonous to cats include Calcipotriene for the treatment of psoriasis, corticosteroids, and creams comprising zinc as an ingredient (i.e., diaper rash creams). If you frequently use a topical medication, consult with your nearest veterinarian to make sure there is no danger to your pets.
Some cats lick to alleviate anxiety
Some cats will also lick humans because they seem anxious and/or nervous. Licking their humans is a means to calm themselves3, somewhat like how humans will bite their nails when they feel uneasy. This behavior is similarly observed in cats that were too little to be taken away from their mothers. These cats come to develop an oral fixation, which is a health condition that can also be observed in human babies. If you own a cat that is excessively licking you day after day and is showing stressed or fearful behavior, then contact a cat behavior professional. Katenna Jones, an Associated Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, states, “Often the behaviors I’m called for are actually indications of an underlying issue. In this case, if I define stress is the issue, licking is the symptom – and not the issue. I would concentrate more on the sources of stress and on executing a stress reduction program. By examining and measuring the regularity of licking, the consultant and patient can determine the success of the given program.”
Cats use pheromones to indicate their territory. While most people understand that cats mark property through urinating on things, they can check their territory in other ways too. Licking you and head rubs are ways for cats to maintain you as part of their property—well, affectionately. When your cat licks or rubs their coat against you, it is reaffirming that you are very important to it and they need all the other cats to know. You may see that sometimes other cats shy away from you, it is likely they smell that you belong to another cat.
Part of The Family
Some people joke that cats think they are humans and given the way some cats act towards their owners, it’s straightforward to see why. A magnificent example is a cat who will go ahead and leave dead mice or birds on their owner’s doorsteps in an effort to share a tasty treat. Cats have similarly been known to give their owners with live animals in an effort to teach its owner to hunt. It’s evident that not only do many cats see their owners as a component of the family, they similarly see them as a bit awkward at being cats. Female cats particularly will exhibit this kind of parenting or nurturing type of behavior.
When cats lick you, it can indicate that they are trying to teach you to groom yourself. It’s a thought your cat had from being licked by its own mother and is a genuine sign of affection. Cats will furthermore lick each other as a method to calm them down. Kittens are very mindful to their owner’s moods so you may find your cat is more loving 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.
What if my cat is licking me too much?
A lot of people find their cats licking unpleasant ultimately, as a cat’s tongue can feel very rough on the skin. There is actually a biological reason for this. A cat’s tongue efficiently serves as a brush to eliminate loose hair, mats, dirt, and fleas. Small spikes made of keratin called papillae are spread out on the exterior of a cat’s tongue in a backward direction. These spines can act as the equivalent of a hairbrush or comb for a person. It is no wonder that extreme licking from a friendly cat can become irritating and uncomfortable. If your cat is not stressed and merely is licking you out of affection for you, then you can reduce that behavior with some convinced redirection.
To discourage a cat from this behavior, find some things that your cat actually enjoys and do those rather than to distract him from licking. For example:
- Pull out a brush/comb and groom your cat and include some soothing massage. Many cats find this very pleasurable, and it is difficult for them to lick and be pampered at the same time.
- Engage your cat with some pet toys. Keep a toy handy anywhere you like to sit or lie in bed, and when your cat begins to lick, pull the toy out and inspire your cat to play. “Fish pole” type wand pet toys are excellent for this as you can swish it about and really get your cat going on well.
- Make sure that your cat has other opportunities for rational and physical enrichment, even if you are not cuddling. Cat trees, food-stuffed puzzle toys, window perches, and small cat toys are all great options. If you enjoy training, you can further engage your cat in some clicker coaching to learn simple tricks.
Hopefully, if you find that your cat is licking you, it is a sign of her affection, and you can take these simple measures to alleviate the behavior and spend a delightful time with your feline friend. If you find your cat licking you that excessively out of the blue, or the licking is now combined with nervous, terrifying body language and behavior, consult with your veterinarian and a qualified behavior pet professional to help you enhance your cat’s quality of life.