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Ginger cat licking nose

Why does my cat lick me?

4 min read

Have you ever asked ‘why does my cat lick me’? It’s a common question many cat owners have. The truth is there are a number of different reasons why your cat licks you – and many of them are to do with affection!


Possible reasons why your cat licks you

One reason your cat may lick you is because it’s a way of creating a social bond. From a young age a cat’s mother would not only lick them as a way of grooming them, but also to show affection. Cats then replicate this behaviour with you as a way of showing their own affection – it simply comes naturally.

This licking behaviour is not just exclusive between pet and owner. Cats often lick other cats and even other animals to show their affection. Do keep an eye out, however, when your cat begins to lick other cats or other animals, as not all cats or animals like to be licked. In some cases some other cats or animals may retaliate or become anxious when a cat tries to lick them.

Another reason your cat may lick you is because they are stressed or anxious. It is very common for cats and other animals to begin to lick things excessively if they are stressed. This can include licking you; if you think this may be the case it might be best to pay a visit to your local vet. If you think something has caused your cat to be stressed, try to identify the source of their worry in case you can remove it.

Cats like to mark their territory so other cats and animals know what is theirs. If a cat sees you as theirs, they may begin to lick you to mark you as part of their territory. This is to let other cats know who you belong to. Whilst this type of behaviour is completely normal it could lead to problems in the house if you have more than one cat or pet, so watch out for territorial behaviour.


Why it sometimes hurts when a cat licks you

It can sometimes hurt when a cat licks you, especially if your cat does this excessively and in the same place. This is because of special back-facing barbs on your cat’s tongue called ‘papillae’. These barbs are made from the same material as your cat’s claws, which explains why their tongue feels like sandpaper.

These barbs are important when your cat grooms themselves. The barbs help to remove dirt and debris from a cat’s coat. If the barbs weren’t sharp they would not be able to pick up this dirt and a cat would not be able to keep himself or herself as clean.

Cat licking it's mouth

How to discourage a cat licking you

Whilst most of us enjoy the occasional lick from our cats, it can become too much if your cat does it all the time. Many cat owners want to discourage their cats from licking them without pushing them away or making them feel as if they are not wanted or appreciated.

To avoid making your cat feel like this, distraction is the best way to encourage a cat to stop licking you. The first method of distraction we recommend is playing with your cat. This will still make your cat feel as if you want them because you are interacting with them and spending time with them. Cat toys such as wands and balls make for a great distraction.

Another distraction technique you could use is food. Distracting your cat with a tasty treat is a great way to encourage them to stop licking you. We do however recommend trying to play with them first, as too many treats aren’t good for their health – they should always be part of their daily food allowance. It could also teach your cat that licking you means they will get a treat, which will only encourage them to lick you more!