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Why Do Cats Lick You?

Cat licking child

If your cat enjoys licking your hands, arms, fists or legs, she does this mainly to groom you, however, it seems that there are other reasons behind this behavior. Let’s see why do cats lick you?

Six Common Reasons Why A Cat Can Lick You

A cat’s tongue is different than our tongue or a dog’s tongue because is rough and sharp instead of being soft. You will feel the texture of your feline’s tongue right after it starts licking you.

This is happening because the upper part of the cat’s tongue is covered by hundreds of scoop-shaped spines that are pretty sharp and are made of keratin, so when the cat starts licking you, it’s like your skin is rubbed with sandpaper.

The rough tongue is very useful for cats because it helps them to drink water easier, remove dirt accumulated in their coat, extract meat from bones, etc.

1. To Groom You

Exactly like cats that lick each other to clean themselves, your cat might lick you to clean your skin and hair even if you are not dirty.

When your cat starts grooming you, it shows a very positive social behavior, and the fact that she cares about you.

By grooming you, your cat is also marking your body with her smell, for others to know that you belong to her.

2. To Show Affection

Licking is a behavior that cats use to show their affection towards a certain person in the house.

The fact that the cat licks you, is a clear sign that she trusts you, and she is part of the family.

3. She Trusts You And Wants To Protect You

At birth, mother cats licks her kittens to keep them clean, kittens also lick their siblings, and all this behavior is made among members of the same family.

Mother cat does this to show protection and affection towards her kittens, and siblings show the same affection between the member of the family.

Cat licking owner's hand

Cat licking owner’s hand, image source: pixabay.com

When they grow, cats continue this behavior with other cats, dogs and even humans.

In addition to tell you that they love you and want to protect you, cats start linking you to transmit a sense of security.

4. Signs of Stress

If a cat licks herself excessively, this is often a clear sign of anxiety or stress.

The same situation is when the cat licks you intensively or nervously, this shows again that the cat is stressed and suffers from anxiety.

Licking produces a sense of calmness and serenity in cats, so they will use this behavior when they are stressed as a way to release the accumulated tension.

In these cases, is important to find the source of their anxiety, because only this way you can treat the cause and help your cat become happy again.

5. To Mark You

Cats are very territorial animals, and they use different methods to establish their territory in the house on different objects, with people and other friendly pets in the house and around it.

Beside licking you, another way of marking the territory is by using urine and their claws. This way, the cat will tell others what are her belongings.

Your cat will also try to mark you, especially if in the house, there are other animals that are close to you.

In general, if your cat marks you by licking parts of your body like the hands, arms, legs, head, fists, etc., she will also use other behaviors such as rubbing her face against your face or body.

6. To Exchange Odors

Cats can also lick you to exchange odors. This way they can mix their body odor with yours to strengthen the bond between you and her or him.

Your cat can also lick your hand when you handle foods and your hand smells like those foods.

However, when this is happening, the cat will take that smell on her muzzle, so the other cats in the house may start linking her.

Should I Let My Cat Lick Me?

If you can avoid a mouth-to-mouth contact, the fact that your cat licks you is only a sign of affection, care, protection and ownership.

If you are not bothered by this behavior, you can let your cat lick you because this might help her release some stress in her life.

Be happy that your cat chooses to lick you, it means that you are very important for her.

Is My Cat Licking Me A Sign Of Affection?

We don’t know yet if cats can feel such a complex feeling like love.

However, we know that cats usually lick themselves to clean their coat, but also during social grooming, with their siblings, their mom, aunts, etc.

If your cat starts licking you, be sure that you have now, become a member of her family, so beside grooming, she might even feel something for you.

Why Does My Cat Lick Me When I Pet Her?

Cats usually start to lick you when you pet them because they think that you are grooming each other like they do with their siblings or their mom.

This is called social grooming, and happens because your cat is used with this type of grooming and tries it on you, but even if you use your hands to pet her, she will only use her tiny tongue.

Why Does My Cat Always Clean Herself After I Pet Her?

Cats prefer to lick themselves to remove dirt and odors from their coat. This is the reason why your cat starts licking herself right after you pet her, she is actually doing this to remove your scent from her coat.

Some cats will do this as a displacement behavior, because licking herself helps in reducing stress.

Cat licking owner's fingers

Cat licking owner’s fingers, image source: pixabay.com

Can Cats Lick Every Body Part?

Exactly like dogs, cats can reach almost every part of their body (excepting the back) with their tongue because they don’t have hands like we do.

Because they have no other way to clean themselves, cats will use their rough tongue to clean every inch of their body, and the saliva will help in dampening their fur, which in turn will loosen the dirt particles attached to it.

If your cat licks different parts of your body, you should be happy, because a cat usually does this only with other members of her family during social grooming. The fact that she does this with you, is a clear sign that you are now part of her family and she wants to show you affection.

Article written by:

Darius Savin is a lifelong animal lover and protector and the chief editor of Checkmember. He writes and edits articles and is also the creator of the distribution maps for all the creatures featured here.