As it turns out, there are actually several possible reasons why your cat licks you.
Bonding and affection
Cats who live as part of a social group will often groom each other to help create a firm bond. It starts in kittenhood. Mother cats lick their kittens to clean them and to show affection. Your cat will replicate this when they become adults.
Licking for affection is known as allogrooming. Sometimes cats will lick your other animals or the humans they live with. It’s their way of showing their love and securing a social bond.
Sometimes, when cats become stressed and anxious, you may find they start licking you excessively. This is a displacement behaviour and it helps them release any stress they are feeling. You’ll generally see the excessive licking aimed at their own grooming but it could be directed to you too.
If you suspect something is upsetting your cat and causing this behaviour, try to identify the problem. Could it be loud noises? Maybe a new cat in their territory or visitors in your house?
It’s definitely worth talking to your vet about this if you suspect your cat is anxious. Without treatment, licking can become a compulsive behaviour which is a far more complex problem to solve.
To share their scent
When cats live together and are bonded, they share their scent to create familiarity. This is done through licking each other and the sharing of saliva.
It could be that cats do exactly the same to their bonded humans so you smell just as familiar to them as their feline friends.
Cats also share their scent to mark their territory. One way of doing this is through licking and that can include you! It is a way of telling other cats that you are their property. If they begin to become territorial of you when your other cats or dogs are around and it starts to cause a problem, you may need to address it.
A happy feeling
When cats lick either you, themselves, other cats or animals, their brains release endorphins. These are the feel-good hormones you might experience when you partake in sweat-inducing exercise. Because endorphins create a natural ‘high,’ it’s no wonder that your cat may wish to recreate the feeling by licking you as well
A fantastic cat fact!
Have you ever wondered why it feels like sandpaper on your skin when your cat licks you?
On your cat’s tongue, there are special barbs that face backwards. They are called papillae and are made of the same substance as their claws, hence why these barbs are relatively hard and rough.
Your cat’s papillae help to remove dirt and grime from their coat when they groom themselves by licking. It’s thanks to these barbs that your cat’s coat stays fabulously clean!
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