I am an avid animal lover and love to write about cats in particular.
Why Does My Cat Lick Me?
We all love our cats—from their cute little paws to their sometimes inscrutable facial expressions.
On the other hand, you might wonder about some of the things they do. I mean, is it really necessary to try to scale a wall only to fall on their butts, or to yank your favorite teddy off of the shelf a thousand times a day? Here's another age-old question: "Why does my cat lick me all the time?"
There are many different possible answers, and it is up to you to determine which one fits your cat.
1. She's Grooming You
One of the many reasons that our cats lick us is because they are grooming us. Cats are notorious bathers! They love to lounge for hours at a time while only bathing and napping the day away. Cats are very clean animals, as you can probably tell by their neat appearance and well-maintained coats. For the most part, there is never a single hair out of place!
Cats will also turn this attention to us. Kittens and cats tend to be social groomers; that is, they love to groom their family members. They lick us because they want us to be clean and healthy too. They will commonly try to bite and pull off any foreign object on your body. This could be a ring, a sock, or even a mole. Should your cat groom you, you should take it as a sign that they care for your well being. Then again, many of us may take it as a sign that our cats are telling us, "PHEW! You're stinky and need a bath!"
2. You Taste Good
Of course, this one might be a given. If you taste like a delicious steak, your cat is going to want to lick you- especially if you were not courteous enough to share a few bites with him or her! Kittens and cats love our food just as much as your dog does. If they don't get the chance to have any, they will resort to the next best option: getting a taste from you! Kitties may lick your fingers or face to see what they were missing out on, and will also lick your clothing if you dropped food on yourself. Don't worry though: these quick tastes won't be enough to harm your cat if you're worried about them ingesting human food.
3. It's a Survival Strategy
Cats are accustomed to bathing after eating in order to eliminate any evidence of food. It's a survival strategy to fend off predators! Therefore, it is quite possible that your kitty is trying to help protect you from predators by ridding you of any meal evidence.
4. Your Kitten Is Lonely
"Does my kitten lick me because she's lonely?" This is quite possible! Grooming (licking each other) is a very common social activity among cats. It is their favorite way to bond with each other, other than stampeding through the house together while terrorizing your breakables. When a kitten or a cat begins to feel lonely, they are going to try to groom and play. If you are away from home often (perhaps work or school), it is quite possible that your kitty just needs more bonding time. In this case, the best way to react is to "groom" her. You can do this by brushing the cat, petting her, or by scratching the kitty's favorite scratch spots (usually located behind the ears and at the tail base). Ensure that your cat or kitten gets enough attention; and if nothing else, get a playmate for the kitty!
How to Keep Your Kitty From Becoming Lonely
Leave the TV on
Hire a pet sitter
Use a treat dispenser
Get another kitten to be a playmate
Leave your favorite music playing while you're out
Invite family or friends to visit
Cats will overgroom due to anxiety, which might carry on over to you, the owner. If you notice that your cat has been off its rocker lately, then anxiety might just be the cause. Moving to a new home, gaining a new roommate, moving the furniture, and even a change in diet can bring on an anxiety issue. Try to determine any problem causing factors that may be in the kitty's environment if you think this might be the cause. No one likes to be stressed out or anxious; especially animals!
Why Are Cat Tongues So Rough and Spiky?
Cats and kittens have rough-looking tongues. They seem to have lots of spikes on them, much like the bristles of a boar bristle brush. This bristly structure of the cat tongue (the bristles are actually papillae) is made up of backward-facing taste buds that are actually a tool for survival. They are used to deep clean the coat, while also helping them to eat. They help the cat to remove flesh from bones (not a common occurrence for the modern house cat) and help them to remove food and debris from their coats. These papillae on the cats' tongues also help cats to drink. Believe it or not, they don't just dunk their tongues into the water and swallow whatever water is absorbed. Instead, their tongues are capable of yanking water upwards into a miniature column of water, and then they close their mouths quickly around the water. How cool is that!?
How Much Licking Is Too Much Licking?
Sometimes, our wonderful kitties may begin to lick too much. At first, we might not even notice it. All we see is an adorable kitten bathing in the sunlight or a kitty who might be licking some messy spills from the night's meal off of our clothes. Unfortunately, there is a point where licking becomes excessive and unhealthy. How and why does this happen?
When your cat begins to spend an excessive amount of time licking itself or you (let's say 30 minutes to an hour or more per session), it should set off a red flag. After a while of licking, your skin will become irritated. If the cat is only licking itself excessively, you may notice a thinning coat on your cat or even bald spots. As the problem worsens you will probably see irritated patches of skin that may even bleed or become infected.
There are several main causes for this issue:
- Skin irritation or allergies
Anxiety triggers cats to compulsively clean; anxiety may be a part of a cat's personality or it can be due to environmental stress. Skin irritations, allergies, and parasites can all cause itching or odd sensations on the cat's skin, enticing the cat to eliminate the problem the best way it knows how: licking and scratching! For most of these issues, a veterinarian can prescribe medications. Yes, there are anxiety and allergy medications available to pets!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Cats are cute on April 30, 2020:
There is a typo
There are 2 reason #4's and no reason #5
not david on March 26, 2020:
you lied to me it said 5 reasons
Frannie-Cakes on December 07, 2019:
"i lick my cat because she purrs when i do it"
Lmao! Does anybody else see that comment?! How am I the first to say something?! 16 months ago lmaooo.
Great article by the way! Thank you.
Kandy the Ferret on August 11, 2019:
My cat demands lots of attention, but she loves grooming me also. Although she doesn’t lick me a lot anymore.
Risandi jayasekara on June 09, 2019:
I lick to do
Dont need to know on November 04, 2018:
My cat licks me so much and purrs I had him for two months he Is 7 weeks he’s adorable but he’s a bad cat
He also has “wobbly cat syndrome”
His back legs don’t work
So he falls when he walks or runs
He runs like a bunny
someone on July 22, 2018:
i lick my cat because she purrs when i do it
Yes I do on May 20, 2018:
To donald duckling:
My cat which I have for 9 years sometimes does the same, she does love to have very sharp claws, perhaps that's the reason she sometimes comes to me for grooming
donald duckling on March 07, 2018:
I have owned/been owned by cats all my life and I have a unique (for me) situation in the licking department. One of my cats, LB, does this licking of my hands and then rubbing himself on it......trying to get me to 'groom' him. Not sure if this is due to the fact that he was found in the woods with his siblings as a kitten or not. I have had him for almost 5 years (his previous owner gave him up to fight a losing battle with cancer) and he has been anxious cat for 3.5 of the years he has been with me......... he's 12 now. In the last year or two since he's calmed down a bit, he insists that it is my job to 'groom' him by letting him lick my hand and then having me rub the sides of his face and body...... over and over again. He gets brushed, but that always ends with him trying to lick my hand and rub it. I don't have 30 minutes before bed each night to do this and it is seriously getting on my nerves. I have started to tell him no every time he tries to lick me, but i kind of feel bad for the guy. He has another cat that I adopted 1 month before him that will groom him, but he is really intent on having me do it.
I have never had this experience before with a cat, even the 2 that I raised from 1 week old. Has anyone else??
donald duckling on March 07, 2018:
@marie, keep an eye on your cat and the inappropriate urination because the stress could have inflamed his bladder. I have a boy that used to sometimes pee on my clothes and then in my bed if I didn't notice the clothes. He had a chronic inflamed bladder which turned into chronic UTIs, for a while it happened every six months or so. Once I tuned into the signs and gave him UTI+ when it started, it got much better. Now he hasn't had an episode in 1 1/2-2 years. Don't get upset at him because of the peeing, that will only make it worse; it is just his way of letting you know that something hurts.
The reason he is licking/kneading you every night is because it is probably his routine to groom before going to bed.... and he includes you in that.
Marie on February 28, 2018:
My cat licks my hands aswell as neading me every night for at least 20 minutes before he goes to sleep! He's done this from 2 months old.....
Can anyone tell me why??
Also he wakes me every night throughout the night doing whatever he can to piss me off,
About 3 months ago he started urinating in the house I found out this started after he was attacked by another cat and was told it was stress related!
I've brought spray to stop him and plug in stress relief which worked for a while then he started agian
Advice greatly appreciated please
anonimoose on February 22, 2018:
My cat is blind, and she accidentally licks me all the time trying to groom herself
Luis Laureano on August 03, 2017:
Thanks for the info, I had a feeling I was right about my cat grooming and bonding with me. I love my cat named Fatboy ☺
Soul on March 26, 2017:
Joker likes to groom and groom if he did something wrong. Including trying to bite if you pet him.
Beth on November 21, 2016:
I have two cats right rascals they are I just wake up in the middle of the night to find my cat trying to lick me lol
Terry h on November 03, 2016:
My oreo licks me and my hubby all the time and always licks herself too alot she also scratches at her ears and shakes her head i wonder if she has ear mites and or skin condition doesnt want you to pet her too much yet she is affectionate i will have to take her to the vet see whats what thanks for the post
Barry Bishop on September 28, 2016:
My experience tells me that licking behavior in cats is often a domination behavior. I've always allowed my cats to lick me as much as I could stand because it gave them the sense that while they were doing it, despite their almost total dependence on me, they were "the boss." To my mind, a happy, satisfied cat is the best kind! Thanks for the chance to tell about my little Skippy.
Barry Bishop on September 28, 2016:
In the 1980's I had a cat who I found near death in the Minnesota winter with a severed, severely infected paw (caught in a trap?). After he recovered, and was neutered, he was a serious behavior problem. He would attack me, biting and scratching. Famous animal behaviorist Dr. Robert K. Anderson (U. of MN Vet School , inventor of the Gentle Leader harness) taught me how to train him ("boot camp" style). He became my little buddy. He was a compulsive licker, and would lick my arm bald if I let him. I called him Skippy because of the way he walked with his right front paw missing. He's been dead over 25 years, I've had many cats since, but I still miss him.
Eric on July 21, 2016:
I appreciate all the neat information ! My kitty Honey Bear always licks me :) She was a rescue and a medium hair orange and white tabby and just saves me from the world daily !
Cheska on April 10, 2016:
My cat has bald spots due to excessive grooming, she has mites btw and I already took her to the vet for medication. Will my cat's fur grow back?
Amelia on April 10, 2016:
I love your cat
Alex on January 03, 2016:
Yes my male cat George licks me I think out of effection
angryelf (author) from Tennessee on April 29, 2014:
Thank you everyone! I'm glad all of you enjoy it! I used to have cats in the past who were big on licking; but I saw this question somewhere and decided that it would make an awesome hub :) Thanks for the support & interest!
travmaj from australia on April 29, 2014:
My daughter has the cats now, totally spoiled and much loved. And oh so bossy, they groom us all. Now we know why. Lovely hub and most informative. Thank you.
FlourishAnyway from USA on April 29, 2014:
I quite enjoy the care that they give me; they can lick all they want to. Good hub!
sheilamyers on April 29, 2014:
The cat I have now doesn't lick me that much, but last one loved to lick. He'd even lick my toes. YUCK! Usually it was my fingers or hair. He really loved sitting on the back of my chair and washing my hair for me. I ask the vet about it and he told me the same things you covered in this article. I'd say Pippen did it for the first three reasons you gave. This hub will really help people learn why cats lick people, especially those who are first time cat owners.
Jennifer Kessner from Pennsylvania on April 29, 2014:
Prince Fredward is the groomer! He's super social, and I wish I had a companion for him. (It might save me from some of his baths!)
Sp Greaney from Ireland on April 29, 2014:
Our previous cats used to do this quite often, but our current cat just wants to chase butterflies outside. :)
angryelf (author) from Tennessee on April 28, 2014:
Thank you Peggy! Cats truly are awesome pets, I myself currently have two. They will terrorize our home all hours of the day and night... destroying everything within their paths... but I wouldn't trade them for anything! LOL! It's absolutely adorable when they cuddle up and bathe us. Thanks for jumping in and browsing my little ole corner :)
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 28, 2014:
We have 2 inside cats both of whom were strays. They are a joy and delight. Our female cat Peaches not only grooms Dusty, our male cat, but me as well on occasion. Ha! Up, useful and interesting votes.