FloridaWild Vet Hospital

Why Does Your Cat Lick You?

Why does your cat lick you? Is this normal behavior?

When your cat jumps into your lap and slowly and deliberately settles down to relax to take a nap, this is truly a signal letting you know you are loved. What’s more, prior to falling asleep, if she happens to start licking your face, then you have just been deeply honored. In fact, this behavior is an extreme compliment, making you aware of her deep trust and affection. Pay careful attention to this adoring message and never take this supreme act of love for granted. This is a truly magical moment for all cat guardians to treasure.

Sarah and her babies: Augusta, Abbie, Athena & Kylee (all FloridaWild patients)

I have to admit that over the years I have encountered a few acquaintances that were not very feline savvy. Many years ago, if they managed to catch our two kitties, Sir Hubble Pinkerton (aka Trouble) and Dr. Hush Puppy in the act of “grooming” me (licking my face or giving me a very pleasant-feeling “shampoo”, with their rough little tongues) they would laugh and make disparaging remarks, calling it disgusting. However I reveled in, and always felt deeply honored, that our cats considered me part of their family.

But when they noticed their condemnation over what they considered revolting deportment concerning our cats’ behavior had absolutely no effect on me and, in fact, that I was obviously completely enjoying it, they tried to justify their reactions by telling me their displeasure was solely based on their concern for my health. In reality however, they had no clue what makes cats do what they do. What made it even more repugnant was that they had no interest in learning more about the feline language.

Fortunately, on the other hand, in direct contrast, one of the most common questions asked by many people who are owned by felines want to know is “What does it mean when my cat licks me?” And since this behavior is such a strong sign of affection and is a compelling feline communication, I thought it sufficiently important for me to shine light on the subject.

Cats are extremely social beings and groom each other for a variety of reasons. As newborn kittens, their very first worldly experience is being licked clean by their mother. As they get older and learn more about how to be a cat, kittens start grooming one another. And as they become adults, even if they aren’t related and get along well, they generally spend a great deal of time grooming each other.

It’s obvious that cats who are licking each other must receive great enjoyment from the tactile sensation of a rough, moist tongue grooming their bodies. But it’s not only the pleasant and calming feeling they receive from mutual grooming, it is also scent sharing; an instinctual behavior that helps build and maintain close bonds.

However, even the most passionate cat lovers commonly don’t return the favor by licking their cats to return the favor. We pet them instead. As we are gently stroking their fur, the sensation cats receive most likely might resemble their mother’s loving touch. And isn’t that an amazing way to build our bonds with them?

Of course there are some cat guardians who may sniff their kitties since the scent of a healthy cat is delightfully subtle to feline connoisseurs. But don’t knock cat-sniffing until you try it. Our cats truly appear to enjoy a good sniffing session.

Watch the YouTube Video above of our beloved two angel kitties, Sir Hubble Pinkerton and Dr. Hush Puppy, when, many years ago they were engaged in a tender licking session. This eventually led to a blissful afternoon nap. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did filming it.

Video and Article by: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, (Ret)

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