What Does It Mean When Your Cat Licks You?

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We love spending time with our cats. There’s something about the interaction that makes us feel calm, welcome and cheerful. But sometimes things get funny and weird, such as when your cat takes a serious interest in licking you. What does it mean when your cat licks you? Read to find out the answer and some tips to resist the adorable but excessive licking.

What Does It Mean When Your Cat Licks You?

It Seeks Attention

Many people say that cats are not as friendly as dogs, but it’s not true on so many levels. Cats bond with their owners in a deep and interesting way. Some cat breeds demand a lot of attention from their human parents. They want to play and get petted. There are many ways that cats use to get our attention. They can meow at us, follow us, rub their body against us and lick us. The next time your cat licks you, spare a few seconds to pet it. That may be all it’s asking for.

It Makes You a Family Member

This can’t get any sweeter, can it? In groups of wild cats, there is usually one that assumes the responsibility of licking other members to show affection, reduce anxiety and for other purposes. When your cat licks you, it may be a sign that it’s accepting you to its group, or trying to be friends with you if it doesn’t have a group.

Photo credit: Axel Bueckert 

Another sweet thing you should know is that your cat may be trying to teach you how to groom by licking you. Again, it’s a behavior commonly seen in groups of related cats. Cats actually have memories of being licked by their mothers. So, when they think you are a family member, they demonstrate that same act to you as a sign of care.

Interestingly, cats seem to know when we are more stressed out than usual. People report being licked by their cats more often when they actually have anxiety or don’t feel well. Cat experts generally agree that these animals can be very sensitive to their owners’ moods.

It Is Curious about the Taste

If you have some food or strange residues on your skin, your cat can usually smell it and get curious. Cats’ sense of smell is much acuter than ours. Therefore, you can always count on your cat to detect food on your skin that you haven’t washed away properly. Your cat may lick you a little bit to see what’s on your skin.

It Shows Love

If humans show love by hugging, then licking is cats’ method of love expression. When you see 2 cats licking each other, it’s a sign that they are flirting or actually in love. They don’t have to be a couple to lick each other, though. Cat siblings lick as a way to strengthen their social bonds. To sum up, when your cat licks you, it can mean that it’s acknowledging and returning your love for it all this time!

It Claims You

It’s a natural tendency for animals to want to mark their territories. Cats claim their areas through many ways, including urinating, unfortunately. But one of the sweetest ways is licking and rubbing. Cat owners love it when their cats run to them and rub against them after they come home from a long day. What their cats are actually doing may not be a “hi”, but rather an act to claim that their owners belong to only them now.

So, when your cat licks you, it’s a cute way to mark you as its property and tell other cats to stay away from you. Your cat’s pheromones may be the reason why other cats reject you.

It Is Stressed

We know that cats lick themselves when they have health problems and get stressed out about them. If your cat has a pain somewhere, it usually licks that spot a lot. It’s how owners are alarmed and bring their cats to the vet.

But cats may also lick you when they are anxious about something. It’s a cats’ way to say that it’s not feeling well so you should pay more attention. Look out for bald spots on the cat. Bald spots mean that your cat has been licking those areas excessively due to health problems. Take it to the vet as soon as possible.

What to Do to Reduce the Licking

Although people love being licked by their cats, it does hurt sometimes. Your cat’s tongue is full of hook-shaped papillae made of keratin. The tongue acts as a useful tool for your cat to rip meat off their prey bones and groom itself. Therefore, your skin may itch or hurt a bit when licked by your cat. Below are some ways to stop your cat from licking you all the time.

Distract It

Just when you notice your cat is about to lick you, distract it with some toys that it loves. Give it something to interact with to forget about the boredom or the need to lick. There are countless cat toys on the market now. Something as simple as a laser pen will keep your cat running around the house all day. If your cat is fully immersed in a game, it will completely forget the need to lick. After playtime, you can reward your cat for its achievements!

You can also redecorate your house so that it’s more cat-friendly. Make something for your cat to jump on and off. Give it a place to hide and seek. Household cats usually get bored with the unnatural environment around them so they lick their owners to play and for attention.

Pet It

This is a simpler solution, but it may not work all the time. Some people pet their cats back as they are licking to distract it. If your cat is licking for play and attention, then petting can solve the problem. But if your cat licks excessively as a habit, you may need to do something as suggested below

Walk Away

When the licking gets annoying, you can just walk away. As this situation is repeated many times, your cat will learn that you are not the ideal licking place.


So, what does it mean when your cat licks you? As we’ve learned, there are many possible meanings in that cute behavior. Generally, cat licking has positive interpretations. But beware the excessive and unusual licking which can be a sign of health problems. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Comments (1)

  • I am the Servant of a re-homed cat. Our house virtually revolves around him. He is utterly delightful; except when the hand-licking starts at 5am and “The Cat’s Mummy” wants another one hour of sleep. The cat is talkative, affectionate, greedy, manipulative (sounds like the chap I married). I wouldn’t change him for the world (Did change the husband.) We could knit new jumpers from the shedded fur and the furniture upholstery is looking a bit dubious. But he delights us every day, Now he’s flat-out, splattered asleep on a new silk set of bed linen, (tres expensive) and we won’t move him.


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