Why Does Your Cat Lick You: the Feline Language of Love

Have you ever wondered why your feline friend indulges in a ritualistic licking of your skin or clothes? This phenomenon, often referred to as "grooming behavior," leaves many cat owners puzzled. One concerned cat owner asked the cat behavior expert, Jene, "My cat is obsessed with licking me! He licks my hands, arms, and even my hair. He even uses his paws to keep me from leaving! What's the deal with this behavior?" The owner admitted to using bitter sprays to deter the cat, but to no avail; the cat continues to groom her multiple times a day. So, what's behind this intriguing feline behavior?

Jene offers some insights into why your cat grooms you and the accompanying nuances you should be aware of. It's more than just a sign of affection; it's a language of love and communication.


  1. Grooming as a Social Bonding Ritual

Just as kittens groom each other and even engage in mutual grooming with non-related cats, you'll notice that cats that groom each other tend to have better relationships. Cats typically groom the areas that their feline companions can't easily reach themselves, such as the top of the head or inside the ears. When they groom each other, they're effectively exchanging scents, which fosters a sense of familiarity and strengthens their bond.


  1. Licking You is a Cat's Highest Praise

When your cat licks you, take it as a profound compliment. It signifies that your cat trusts you and feels safe in your presence. Congratulations! You're now a certified "family" member in your cat's eyes. Cats often continue grooming their human companions because they learned from their mother that mutual grooming is how family members express trust and love.


  1. It's Part of Their Daily Grooming Routine

Have you ever noticed that a cat's tongue feels like sandpaper? That's because a cat's tongue is covered in tiny, backward-facing barbs made of keratin, the same protein that makes up their claws. These barbs are designed to help cats remove every last bit of meat from the bones of their prey. Continual contact with these barbs can be quite abrasive to human skin, even if it's meant as an affectionate gesture.

However, for cats with healthy fur, grooming serves as a natural process to remove dirt and debris, similar to using a brush to clean their coats, and it helps them stay clean.


  1. Excessive Grooming May Indicate Anxiety

In some cases, cats may engage in compulsive grooming when they're feeling stressed or anxious. Excessive grooming leading to hair loss or bald patches is a condition known as "psychogenic alopecia." It's an unconscious behavior that cats use as a coping mechanism to soothe their anxiety. In such cases, the grooming becomes excessive, and it can be harmful to your cat's coat and skin.


To prevent your cat from suffering physical issues due to stress-related grooming, it's crucial to identify the underlying cause of their anxiety. If the cause remains elusive, seeking advice from a veterinarian may be necessary.

So, while your cat's grooming behavior might seem baffling or even annoying at times, it's a display of affection and trust. Embrace this feline display of love and remember that it's their way of saying, "You're family, and I love you."

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