Generally, cats have a predictable routine throughout the day. You will usually observe them playing, eating, or sleeping. But another cat behavior that owners may be familiar with is their constant licking. Licking may even be considered one of their favorite things to do!
Most people wonder why they see their cats licking themselves, their owners, and even other cats.
This may sometimes be annoying for owners since cats’ tongues have a rough texture. This roughness is due to the presence of backward-facing spines in their tongues called papillae. The papillae have a variety of uses ranging from grooming to scraping meat from bones. They serve as a comb built-in to a cat’s tongue to make lifting dirt, debris and small bits of meat easier.
A lot of people are puzzled at this constant licking behavior, but it is far from unexplainable. Here are the most probable reasons why your cat licks you:
He Wants to Show You Affection
Perhaps the most common reason why a cat licks its owner is that it wants to show its owner affection. Since cats cannot communicate through verbal language (aside from the use of vocal sounds that we humans are unable to fully decipher), they use body language to communicate their feelings, and one example of this body language is licking.
This serves as a form of social grooming, which expresses their affection towards others. Figuratively speaking, this is their way of petting you. It’s the cat version of scratching your neck or your tummy, which cats find very comforting when you do it to them.
She is Trying to Groom You
Another possible reason why your cat is constantly licking you is that she’s trying to groom you, or at least thinks she is doing so. Of course, you are not actually groomed or cleaned, but you can interpret this simply as your pet’s way of taking care of you.
This does not mean that cats think their owners are dirty. It’s more of a gesture of care. It is their way of showing you, as their person, that they care enough about you to groom you, similar to what they do to their fellow cat relatives and friends. Take it as a compliment rather than an insult to your personal hygiene!
He Demands Your Attention
Aside from being a display of their affection, cats may also express their demand for your attention through licking. They will sometimes lick you as a way of telling you that they want to be petted or that they want you to rub their bellies. There are times when they will lick you as an invitation to play with them or to say that they are hungry and want to eat already.
There are a lot of possible reasons why they’re calling your attention but the bottom line is that you have to figure out what your pet wants and attend to it as soon as possible.
It is a Way of Strengthening Bonds with You
Cat licking can also be a sign that she is comfortable with you and considers you to be family. It’s one of their ways to express their acceptance of you.
This is similar to your cat lying on its back exposing her belly to you, or when she brings you small dead animals (e.g., lizards or mice). These are signs that your cat considers you trustworthy. It’s their way of communicating that they are comfortable with you and feel safe around you as their companion.
To Relieve Anxiety or Stress
Another reason your cat is constantly licking you may be due to stress or anxiety. This can be his way of relaxing himself and relieving negative feelings. He may be anxious about something and this is his way of communicating it to you so that you may give him comfort.
Marking You as Her Territory
It may also be a sign that your pet is marking you as her “territory”.
In some cases it’s a cat’s way of making a statement that their owners are theirs, figuratively speaking, broadcasting it to other animals using pheromones.
Cats mark their territories using pheromones – a chemical substance secreted or excreted by animals. They use pheromones to mark things that are familiar to them, and that includes you as their owner!
It May Simply Be His Personality
There may be times when you just can’t decipher the reason your cat is licking you. Even if you make the appropriate responses given the aforementioned possible reasons, your pet may still not stop licking you. In this case, it is possible that this behavior is simply a personality quirk!
Your pet may just be fond of licking a lot of things but may not have any underlying reason to do so. This is similar to when cats like pouncing on you or scratching your carpet—it’s just something they like to do.
He probably has fun doing it and will continue to do so unless you take corrective action or train them to stop.
How Do You Stop Your Cat from Licking You Excessively?
Cat owners usually find it adorable when their cats communicate with them or show them affection. But there are certain times when you just are not in the mood to get licked. This behavior may get annoying sometimes, especially if you are doing something else while your cat is disturbing you, or when you want to have a rest but your pet’s constant licking is waking you up.
There comes a point when owners will want to stop being licked. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to prevent your cat from licking you.
First and foremost, you should try to determine the reason for the licking. The sooner you find out why, the sooner you can address the issue and hopefully stop the cat licking.
One solution is to divert your cat’s attention. When your pet starts doing it, you can use catnip or some other toys to distract your cat. Sometimes your pet will just want attention. But if you are too busy at the moment, you can use toys to distract her in the meantime while you get your work done.
You can also try to control the behavior through proper conditioning. For example, if your cat keeps licking you in the morning to wake you up, do not immediately give him food. This way, he does not associate his habit with food. If he becomes accustomed to this routine, he may keep on licking you as a way to get food every morning.
You can also use a water spray bottle for discipline. If your cat starts licking you, try to stop it first. But if he still insists, you may then use the water spray bottle to let him know you don’t appreciate his behavior.
The general idea is to not let your cat associate licking with good things and let it know clearly when you want or do not want to be licked. Avoid being too harsh, inconsistent or arbitrary with respect to punishment (the spray bottle trick), as this may cause your pet unnecessary stress and anxiety.
In extreme cases, you may have to get your cat checked by a professional. Some cats may be suffering from stress and may have to undergo behavior modifications through anti-stress play therapy. Some owners may even consider anti-anxiety drug therapy in some extreme cases.