The Lick of the Cat!
8 August, 2013

Our cats are very fun and quirky creatures. Each cat has their own way of demonstrating their love to their pet parents.  Some cats blink their eyes to show their love, butt their head into your hand or give you a lick which means that your kitty cares.

When your cat licks you, usually after a mock-bite or firm grab with his paws, she’s doing what her mama did when she was just a kitty.  The mother kitty liked to clean her kittens in a display of love and showing her kittens how much she cares.   This demonstration of love and caring also happens with two cats that care for each other.  When two cats lick each other, help with the grooming ritual, especially around the hard-to-reach ears and top of the head, it is a demonstration of love.

There are other reasons why our cat might lick you.

Your cat is marking his territory

Being licked is the first tactile experience your cat remembers; the feeling of her mama cat’s tongue thoroughly rubbing her coat, ears and every part of her little body. A mother cat initially washes her babies to remove the afterbirth fluids and to stimulate the kittens’ breathing. She’ll also clean her kitties whenever they return to the nest, firmly re-establishing her scent on them.

For cats both male and female, licking is a social exchange as well as a rite of cleanliness. Cats groom each other to remove debris and share scents, just as cats scratch in a favorite place where the scent glands of their paw pads will mark the territory as their own. When your cat licks you, she’s cleaning you up and claiming you as someone she cares for just like she would for a feline friend or litter mate.

Your cat licking is calming for them

Licking is a comforting, soothing sensation to cats, and feels like the gentle stroking of your hands petting them. If a cat licks you, she’s returning that favor.  She is telling you that she loves you and wants you to be all him or hers.   It calms her down and releases a pheromone that stays on you that she will come back to if you let her.

Excessive licking should be checked out

If an older cat who’s never shown such affection suddenly begins licking you or suckling at your clothing, pay close attention to this change in behavior. Cats that start vigorously licking themselves may be seeking relief from a skin irritation, fleas, an insect bite or an infection. If this happens, take a look at your cat’s skin and fur for any noticeable issues.  If you find something, you should call your vet to make sure you are treating the issue properly.

You can distract your cat from licking you

If your cat’s licking is not linked to illness and you don’t like the ticklish feeling of her tongue or maybe your kitty keeps you up at night by licking you, you can change this behavior.  However, never punish your cat for licking you as this is a normal behavior.  If you want to distract or discourage your cat from licking you, try moving away from her when she starts licking.   You can give your cat a thick towel or toy to lavish her affection on instead.  Or simply try petting your kitty lavishly assuring her that you love her even if you don’t like the licking.  The excess petting will make your kitty happy and will distract her from licking you… a win-win.

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