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Why Do Cats Lick You?

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Sometimes our fave furry friends’ behavior can leave us scratching our heads with wonder. Cats are particularly interesting creatures with their own distinctive quirks that are unique to each individual feline. Though it is a well-known fact that cats spend a great deal of time grooming themselves, it is not as widely known that cats will often lick their owners. If you happen to be the proud owner of a cat that likes to groom themselves then turn their attentions towards you, you might be wondering what all the licking is about. Why do cats lick their owners?

Cats and Licking: A Type of Bonding?

Many cats who lick their owners do so to display their warmth and affection towards them. Families that share their homes with multiple cats may observe their fave furry felines regularly grooming each other, a practice that is quite natural for cats. The term for this common cat behavior is called “allogrooming.” Allogrooming is most typically employed to help knit animals within a species together socially. This behavior is desirable as it helps to eliminate potential for conflict between the cats dwelling within the same residence.

When licking transfers from other cats to an owner, it is simply an indication that the cat identifies the person as part of their inner circle and is expressing its natural affection. But cats don’t always lick simply to express a chosen social bond to a person. Since human skin naturally tastes of salt, cats will often lick their owners simply because they find their skin tastes good. Though most are drawn to the flavor of perspiration, some cats also enjoy the taste of such things as topical ointments and moisturizers. Care must be taken to ensure cats do not lick something that could cause them harm such as hormone treatments or topical analgesics.

Among the potentially toxic medications cats could ingest through licking skin are:

  • Corticosteroid creams
  • Calcipotriene (a psoriasis medication)
  • Diaper rash creams containing zinc
  • Ibuprofen based creams such as Voltaren

If a cat absorbs any of these medications through licking, it is vital to seek veterinary assistance right away.

Cats and Licking—Powerful Anxiety Remedy?

Licking is often an instinctual behavior which can help to reduce stress or anxiety. When a cat chooses to lick its owner, it is often a means to help soothe ruffled feathers or reduce feelings of fear.

Research shows in kittens who were removed from their mothers at too early an age, licking becomes an almost obsessive behavior to help the cat feel calm and at ease. Excessive licking can indicate a cat that is suffering with anxiety.

How Do I Stop My Cat from Licking So Much?

Though most owners don’t mind the occasional licking, it can become too much. Cat’s tongues are slightly barbed, meaning the sensation of continuous licking can quickly become uncomfortable. The cat’s tongue is designed to be rough to assist with the easy removal of such troublesome things as hair mats, dirt, debris, and even nuisance critters such as fleas and ticks.

There are several simple things owners can do to reduce the amount of people licking their cat engages in. These include:

  • Redirection through massage or brushing
  • Providing toys for mental stimulation
  • Adding a cat tree to the home
  • Doing some fun training exercises

Why do cats lick you? The answer is two-fold: they are showing affection for their tribe or are feeling a little more stressed than they usually would be. Pick up a few new toys to help keep your cat’s lips productively occupied today!

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