FloridaWild Vet Hospital

Bonding with cats: A few extraordinary techniques to get closer with your kitty

Recently I was fascinated by an article/review of the Licki Brush; a gadget designed to delight felines and their owners. The review was sent to a feline health-related email group of which I am a member. Apparently the sender of the article/review was mainly interested in our reaction to this contraption, and if we thought that the act of “licking a cat”, would be considered bizarre by most people. The article/review was titled “An Offbeat Approach to Bonding with Cats: Does my cat want me to lick her back?” Written by David A. Graham, the piece appeared in the Science section of the July 2019 edition of “The Atlantic”.

Naturally, this article immediately captured my attention since I spend considerable time doing research online to increase my knowledge about all things feline. I especially enjoy reading about any unique, novel and fun strategies and products that are geared to strengthening the feline-human bond.

Graham began his review discussing his personal experience using the Licki Brush; an implement designed, according to the product manufacturer, to “Develop a more intimate and bonded relationship with your cat.” Many of the group members found his review extremely funny and thoroughly enjoyed the author’s dry sense of humor throughout his product review. Others; not so much.

The variety of reactions the members shared ranged from pure disgust at the thought of licking their kitty, to those who were more open to trying it. In fact, one member expressed the opinion that as long as the owner performed an iota of adequate hygiene, if he or she licked their cat within reason that most cats would certainly react positively to the owner licking them. This “grooming” behavior would most likely be useful in establishing and maintaining social bonds with their cat.

Even though I prioritize building strong bonds with my cats, I must admit that I have not a speck of desire to “lick” our cats. I have no interest in experimenting with the Licki Brush. This said, although I have never licked any of our cats, I totally do enjoy “sniffing” them whenever the spirit moves me. Did you know that cats actually have a lovely “nut” like aroma? That is, as long as they haven’t just been rolling in something nasty.

For years I thought sniffing my cats was quite weird. However one day while a group of cat-loving friends were discussing their interactions with their cats, I took the “plunge” and shared about my odd habit with our kitties. I was greatly relieved when I learned that I was not alone.

But what cemented my comfort as a cat “sniffer” occurred many, many years ago the night we had to bring a very sick cat to a local Animal ER. While talking with the vet, for some strange reason I mentioned that I “sniffed” our cats. Without a sign of judgements, she started chuckling and replied that while she has never “sniffed” her cats, she often enjoys nibbling on their ears. She thought that sniffing sounded like a fun things to do and was going to try it.

A few days later I tried nibbling and discovered that ears actually taste a bit sweet. But my fun didn’t end just by sniffing or nibbling. Years later we were owned by a kitty named Trouble. I had made friends with a group of kitty lovers who regularly attended hosted cat chats on AOL. Many of them were sniffers. To honor our “snifferhood”, we started the Cat Sniffer chat on Friday nights. All members attended in their “Sniffer” identities. One of my favorite names was created by a woman who named herself “Sniffs Eight”. It goes without saying that my identity was “Troublesniffer”.

Just in case you are interested, Trouble totally enjoyed being “sniffed.”

By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, (Ret.)

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