page title icon What Does It Mean When a Cat Licks You

by Linda Mathews Last Updated October 4, 2021

Cats are known for their affectionate, playful, and freedom-loving nature. Some people believe that dogs truly love their owners, while cats allow their owners to love them. However, is that true?

Have you ever wondered why your cat licks your nose, face, cheeks, hands, or fingers when you pet it? This behavior, which is more common in dogs and unusual in cats, can have different reasons.

Cats communicate with people using body language and sound to convey their message more clearly. Licking is one of these methods. Understanding the language of cats is very exciting, and every owner wants to learn the meaning of this language. In this article, we will list the reasons why your cat licks you.

What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks You? 6 Reasons Why

What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks You? 6 Reasons Why

“Why does my cat lick me so much?” – every cat owner has asked this question at least once in his life. There are many reasons for this behavior, and below we will look at the most common causes and surprising reasons.

They require attention

With the help of this ritual, cats may request cuddles, tasty snacks, playtime, or attention. Besides, if you have several cats in your house and spend time with them, then one of them may lick you to attract attention, for example, if it is jealous of another cat.

They show their love

Cats intuitively lick you to express their love and tell you that you are important to them. They lick various areas of the body because they consider you a part of their family, and they feel safe with you. In fact, they do what their mother did to them when they were kittens.

Cats try to relieve stress

If the cat licks itself constantly, or persistently licks your hand or hair, this may be a sign of anxiety and stress. Sometimes lifestyle changes (adding new pets to the family), change of residence, or surgery cause different levels of stress in cats. In this case, they can lick themselves to partial baldness or persistently lick their owner’s hand. In case of stress, your cat needs your attention and care. Hug it, cuddle with your pet, or play if it’s in a playful mood. If the condition of the cat causes you concern, then consult your veterinarian.

Cats mark their territory

Cats are very territorial, and they use pheromones to mark their territory. By licking you, they leave their scent, thus showing that you belong to them. Often they do this when several animals live in the house.

Cats think that your skin is yummy

Sometimes the reason for licking is very simple – there is a particle or scent on your skin that is appealing to your cat. Not only the smell of food, but also the smell of lotion, cream, or saltwater can attract cats.

Cats groom you

Cats love to laze, bathe, and doze during the day. Therefore, they are known for their neat appearance. If your cat grooms you, it means that it “cleans” you, but this is not the only reason.

In a cat’s world, allogrooming is a social activity that aims to establish bonds between felines, reinforce social hierarchies, and even redirect pent-up aggression. Usually, a dominant cat grooms other cats in a group. So probably, when your cat licks you, your cat tries to fulfill its role as the allogroomer.

Interesting: What Smells Do Cats Hate the Most?

Why Does It Hurt When My Cat Licks Me?

The pink cat’s tongue looks so cute when it sticks out a little from the mouth of a sleeping cat, when the cat is drinking water, or delicately grooming its coat. However, the cat’s tongue has many functions, and one of them is to tear meat from the bones of prey and groom the coat. This is why the cat’s tongue has spines that are made of keratin.

The tactile sensation when your cat licks you may not be entirely pleasant. What’s more, if your cat licks you in the same spot all the time, it can be really annoying.

Is It Safe?

In most cases, it is completely safe to let your cat lick you. However, cats have bacteria in their mouths that can cause local or systemic infection, especially if they lick an open wound.

Oftentimes, immunocompromised people can catch the infection from a cat. Also, if you are using special creams or ointments, do not let your cat lick you, as the ingredients in these creams can be hazardous to your pet’s health.

How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Licking Me?

How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Licking Me?

If your cat’s behavior makes you uncomfortable, then there are several tricks that can help you prevent this unwanted behavior.

Hide your skin

Covering the skin with clothes, a piece of cloth, or a small towel will prevent the cat from repeating this behavior.

Redirect the cat’s attention

Oftentimes, a cat will lick you when it wants to get your attention. You can use a toy to shift its focus of attention.

Hug the cat

If your cat is showing love and affection by licking your hair, hands, or even feet, then you can simply hug and pet it. Your feline will stop licking you and get the attention and care it needs. Do not kiss your furry friend because cats do not understand kisses the way humans do.

Ignore your cat

If you can’t distract the cat’s attention, then ignore it or just leave it alone for a while. This way, it will understand that its behavior is unacceptable.

Encourage proper behavior

When the cat does not lick you and interacts with you as expected, then praise the cat and give it a treat.

Did you know: Why Does My Cat Lay On The Chest?

Why Does My Cat Lick Me then Bite Me?

Why Does My Cat Lick Me then Bite Me?

Sometimes the cat licks you and then bites you, and the intensity of the bite varies from mild to very painful. Some people believe that both licking and biting can be tied to grooming, but biting also is a method of communication for cats. In this way, the cat can express its affection for the owner or dissatisfaction.

Besides, with the help of this ritual, the cat asks for your attention or invites you to play. In any case, this behavior is normal for a cat, and if this happens, then do not worry.

Is It Normal for My Cat to Lick Me All the Time?

All cats are individual: some lick people and some never do it. If the cat licks you all the time, then this is not normal. This behavior can indicate stress and anxiety. In any case, if your pet’s behavior seems strange to you, it is better to consult a veterinarian.


There are many other ways a cat shows love to you, and licking your skin is one of these ways. If this behavior does not cause you discomfort, then enjoy communicating with your pet, but if you think that this behavior is strange, then be sure to consult your veterinarian.