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Why Your Cat Licks You: Everything You Need to Know

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Every cat parent a cat has had their cat adorably try to lick them, and with this comes many questions about why your cat licks you. While most associate it with affection, there are several reasons why your cat licks you.

Here is everything you need to know about cat licks.

  1. To Show Affection, Social Bonding, and Groom You

From a young age, a cat's mother licks their kittens to groom them. Exchanging scents through grooming increases not only the bond between cats but also shows affection.

As they grow, cats naturally carry on this behavior with you as a way of showing their affection, fondness, and a sense of belonging. It also indicates that your cat feels safe in your presence.

Besides you, you'll catch your cat licking other cats or pets that they get along with to show affection.

   2. To Mark Their Territory

Other than the well-known behaviors that cats use to mark their territory - including scratching, cheek rubbing and more – licking is another behavior that cats use to claim something as their own. Sometimes your cat licks you to mark you as part of their territory. It also ensures that other cats or animals know that you belong to them.

While this is normal, beware that such territorial behavior can cause problems in multi-cat or multi-pet households if not handled correctly.

   3. To Manage Stress or Anxiety

If your cat often licks you excessively or incessantly, they may be anxious or stressed. Some cats, when stressed or nervous, may begin licking or grooming you compulsively to feel better.

Whatever the cause, you need to pet or cuddle your cat to reduce their stress. Try giving your cat more attention, rubs, and affection to soothe them in such situations. Changes in their environment, new pets, or home movements can trigger this behavior.

Cats who may have been orphaned or weaned too early often have excessive licking as a way to reminisce the soothing comfort that nursing gave them.

Excessive licking or grooming can sometimes point to an underlying medical issue, although it's a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety most times. If you suspect anything or your cats begin excessively licking you or themselves, visit your vet. In particular, older cats who only recently started licking or suckling you.

   4.  To Taste Something Intriguing

Your cat may lick you because they smell or taste something stimulating on your skin. You may have come into contact with something that left residues on your skin, applied lotion or shampoo, spilled something, or even sweating. Regardless, your curious cat is enticed by the scent and may lick you when trying to taste.

    5.  To Get Your Attention

Attention is another possible reason why your cat licks you. Like meowing or pawing at you, your kitty may want you to pet them, feed them, or pay attention to them, and will lick you to capture your attention.

Why Do Cat Licks Hurt You or Feel Rough?

Sometimes it hurts when your cat licks you, especially if done excessively on the same spot. This is because of special keratin barbs on your cat's tongue called papillae. Papillae are specially designed for thorough cleaning and removal of dirt and loose fur when your cat grooms themselves. It explains why their tongue somewhat feels like sandpaper.

How to Stop Your Cat from Licking You

While the reasons behind your cat's licking are pure and natural, sometimes it can be too much. Learn the signs that your cat is about to start licking. Before they start, redirect their attention with kitty massage, interactive play, and petting. Distraction with catnip toys such as wands and balls will help your cat to relax and feel content. Treats also make for a great distraction.

Love them or hate them, cat licks are behavioral tendencies from kittenhood. Remember to stay gentle and use the measures mentioned above if you find the licks excessive and irritating.

If needed, you can talk to your veterinarian to determine what's causing the licking and suckling and how best to resolve the issue.

Above all, don't yell, shove, toss or initiate any intense physical reactions with your cat. Never, ever hit your cat.

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