Why Does My Cat Lick Me? What it Means When a Cat Licks You

Any cat owner will tell you that their cat loves to lick. After all, cats need to lick themselves for grooming, and they will also commonly lick to spread their scent and soothe themselves.

Licking is a common behavior in cats, and it is not unusual for cats to lick their owners. They may be trying to get their scent on you, be affectionate, or even just soothe themselves during feelings of stress or anxiety.

In this article we will be explaining why cats lick their owners. Additionally, we will also be explaining whether it is normal for cats to lick people and when you should see a vet about your cat’s licking habits.

7 Reasons Why Cats Lick Their Owners

There are seven main reasons why cats lick their owners. Oftentimes this is simply just affectionate or attention seeking behavior. However, cats will commonly lick to self soothe. Here are the seven reasons why cats lick their owners explained in more detail.

  1. Your Cat is Just Being Affectionate

Cats will groom kittens and other cats that they are very affectionate with. This is similar to cuddling and bringing their owners presents. Some cats just lick because they love their owners and want to express it!

Cats doing this will often lick their owners when they are relaxing and cuddling on the couch. The cat themselves should appear calm and happy. Though it may seem strange, this is just one of the ways that some cats say, “I love you.”

cat licking in Wilmington, DE
  1. Your Cat Has Learned That Licking You Gets Your Attention

Sometimes cats will also lick their owners because they have learned that licking gets their owner’s attention. They may lick their owners for pets and cuddles or to initiate playtime.

If you have determined that your cat’s licking is attention seeking behavior, and you would like them to stop, ignoring the behavior will help. Over time your cat will learn that licking is no longer getting your attention and stop doing it.

  1. Your Cat is Getting Their Scent on You

Cats do not just lick those that they love to be affectionate, they also do it to get their scent on them. That’s right, your cat is most likely licking you to mark their scent on you as well. This is an instinctual behavior that is designed to help cats identify their family (ie. their kittens).

  1. Something on You Tastes Good

Of course, your cat could be licking you simply because you taste good. Does your cat like to lick your hands after you eat dinner? Well, they could just be tasting the remnants of your dinner on your hands!

  1. Licking is Soothing

Cats will also lick because the action is soothing for them. This may cause your cat to lick you as well as other things like blankets and cat beds. This is another instinctual behavior that kittens do to help them self soothe when trying to relax. This is similar to kneading.

Since this is an instinctual behavior that kittens do, it is not unusual for adult cats to still do it if they were separated from their mother too early as a kitten. This is fairly normal behavior in cats, and it is nothing that cat owners need to worry too much about.

  1. Your Cat is Stressed or Anxious

Cats will commonly lick things excessively when they are feeling very stressed or anxious. This is especially true if your cat licks to self soothe on a regular basis already. Usually, cats will show other signs of stress and anxiety in addition to excessive licking. Some signs of stress and anxiety in cats to look out for include but may not be limited to:

  • Holding their tail close to their body
  • Hair standing on end
  • Ears pinned back against the head
  • Flicking their tail
  • Dilated pupils
  • Crouching or leaning away
  • A sudden onset of aggressive behavior
  • A sudden onset of withdrawn behavior
  • Increased hiding
  • Increased breathing and heart rate
  • Freezing and staring

Though anxiety in cats is not necessarily life threatening, it is very uncomfortable for cats. As a result, it is best to make an effort to try and reduce their anxiety and see a vet about this issue if you cannot seem to help it.

  1. Your Cat is Not Feeling Well

Cats will sometimes also lick their owners excessively when they are not feeling well. This includes when cats are both sick and in pain. They do this in an effort to soothe themselves through the pain or uncomfortable symptoms of illness.

Since cats do not always show noticeable signs of pain or illness, it is a good idea to take your cat to the vet if they are excessively licking suddenly when they never have before. Additionally, it is a good idea to take your cat to the vet for a checkup if they are suddenly licking more often than usual.

Is Licking in Cats Normal?

Yes, licking in cats is fairly normal. Some cats simply lick to be affectionate and help themselves relax. The only time when licking in cats is not normal is if they suddenly start doing it out of the blue as an adult. This can be an indication that your cat is experiencing anxiety or pain. It could also potentially show that a cat is sick and not feeling well.

Is it OK to Let Your Cat Lick You?

For the most part, it is OK to let your cat lick you, and it is not going to hurt them. However, it is a good idea to prevent your cat from licking you just after using skin care products, such as lotion or transdermal hormonal preparations to prevent your cat from getting sick.

When to See a Vet

You should take your cat to the vet for licking if:

  • They are also showing signs of pain or illness
  • They are showing signs of anxiety that cannot be reduced at home
  • They are licking you suddenly when they never have before
  • They are licking you much more often than usual.

Looking for a cat veterinarian in Wilmington, DE? Reach out to Wilmington Animal Hospital at (302) 762-2694! Our veterinarians are here to help with any feline related needs.