Why Does My Cat Lick Me?
If you're a cat owner you've probably already asked yourself why exactly she licks you with her tongue, a very many-sided body part of the cat.
Due to its structure that's made out of many small barbs, the cat's tongue can be used as a comb when the cat's grooming herself or as a kind of rasp or grater to get the meat off bones or the last bits of food out of the bowl.
Your cat also uses her tongue to remove the scent of the prey after a meal or to cool herself down.
Furthermore licking is the way mothers clean their kittens because they are not able to do so themselves yet and the main method to remove external parasites.
However, cats do also often lick materials like cotton, rubber or plastic.
This can become dangerous if the licking leads to chewing and afterward the ingestion of such substances.
Cat's licking doesn't have to be something dramatic if it's you who the cat licks.
The reasons may be diverse and usually, it's the cat showing her affection towards you with her rough tongue.
In fact, licking even helps your cat to relieve stress.
Although this can be wheedling, this behavior might still turn into an obsession.
Cat owners have to understand the reasons behind their cat's licking to properly evaluate whether it is something potentially excessive or just their furry sweetheart showing their love.
Below I listed the 5 most common motives for your cat to lick you.
1. She Wants Your Attention
Many cat parents are licked or even bitten by their cats because their darlings want their attention.
Under healthy circumstances, the feline simply wants to play or you to pet her, but there might be cases in which it could indicate more severe issues such as stress or nervousness.
If your cat's licking is caused by stress, it is likely that she will groom herself to cope with it, in some cases, it might even lead to bald patches.
But if the stressor isn't existent anymore and your cat didn't stop the excessive licking, it is a reason to be concerned.
Your cat could be licking either you, herself, or anything else to the extent that it's become an issue in everyday life.
In such a case, informing a veterinarian first to exclude health concerns should be the first step to take.
If there are no medical problems found, contacting an animal behaviorist might solve the issue expeditiously.
2. Your Cat Wants To Clean You
Indeed it may seem that your arm won't become any cleaner by your cat licking it, but this kind of behavior is essential for felines to develop their bonding to their owner.
Research on cats' pack behavior indicates that there's usually a feline that cleans and grooms the group.
This helps the felines to create a familiar group scent.
The smell is extremely important in regards to identification for felines.
By cleaning you, your darling attempts to include you to her "group".
It's possible that your cat might try to show you how to groom yourself.
This is especially common for female cats, as they remember their own mother licking them in their kittenhood.
Trying to teach you how to groom yourself is a true sign of affection from your cat.
3. She Likes The Taste Of You
Your kitty may simply enjoy the taste of the minerals that accumulate on your skin with time.
You might've also spilled something on yourself before and that's why your cat is trying to get an impression of it.
4. She Shows You Affection
Studies show that licking is important for cats to show affection towards other cats and your darling licking you might be an indicator for affection between her and you.
For your cat, licking you is similar to you petting her.
It's a sign for your cat being calm, but because it may also be a symptom of anxiety, taking a closer look at the context is crucial.
It can be a way for cats to soothe themselves if they're nervous or anxious, just like humans do it with hugging each other.
Things to take a look at could be your cat's behavior, especially if there have been changes in her environment.
If her body posture appears to be tense or if the licking goes on for an extended period of time, that's a sign for your cat being overloaded with stress and you should see a certified cat behaviorist after medical problems have been eliminated.
5. Your Cat Marks Her Territory
Pheromones are used by cats to mark their territory.
Most people know that cats do so by urinating on the property to mark, but there are also other methods.
When your darling licks you or is giving you a head rub, she's making sure that other cats know that you are important to her and that you are her "property" in an affection kind of way.
That's also the reason why you might see other cats shying away from you.
They perceive the smell of your cat and know you already belong to someone else.
How Do You Stop Your Cat Licking You?
It's usually difficult to tell your cat to stop a behavior that's actually not "bad" in itself, but about affection and emotional bonding, though it's still possible to do.
Some people might try to stop this behavior by applying something untasty to their skin so that the cat doesn't want to lick it anymore.
However, it could have an undesired effect, which is that your darling would associate you in general with that negative experience.
Also, you definitely should not punish your feline in order to make her stop licking you.
If you have the feeling that the licking is becoming out of hand, it's best to try to divert your cat's actions by simply moving that body part away and offer an arm for example or pet her so that she solely enjoys the feeling of being petted.
If this doesn't resolve the issue you should try walking away from your cat every time the licking becomes exaggerated.
This way your darling will - with consistency and time - begin to learn that you don't want to be licked.
Your cat's tongue is a very versatile body part, which she uses for grooming, soothing herself or someone else, peeling the flesh off bones and even marking you as part of her group.
Apart from this, it might be a sign of your cat trying to teach you how to groom yourself.
But if you notice that your cat's licking is becoming excessive it's important to take a closer look.
Is her body being tense? That is most probably a sign of anxiety and you should try to eliminate the cause.
You should also keep an eye out for the materials your cat likes to lick.
If she likes to lick plastic a lot and if it leads to ingestion, that might become problematic.
It could also be due to medical problems, which should definitely be examined by a veterinarian.
If there are no medical issues, contacting a certified cat behaviorist should be the next step.
In any other case, your cat simply tries to show her affection towards you in one way or another.
However, if the licking has become some kind of disturbance or even pain you might want to stop your cat further pursuing this behavior.
Applying something untasty to your skin is a bad idea because that could lead to your cat associating that taste with you in a more general way which you definitely don't want.
Having said this, punishing your cat for licking you isn't an option neither, obviously.
To stop your cat from licking you, simply move the affected body part away every time she starts doing it or pet her and watch whether she abandons her obsession with licking you.
You might even have to move away completely if your cat doesn't stop her behavior.
With time she will learn that you don't like to be licked.
Does your cat lick you frequently?
Do you think it's something obsessive and have you tried to do something about it?
I'd love to hear you out in the comment section below!