Why does my cat lick me? This is a question you probably ask yourself every day. A cat’s tongue is covered with tiny curved spines called papillae. This unique design allows them to groom themselves as well as pick up their food to eat.
Their tongue’s texture might not feel so great against your skin, which is why many pet parents don’t like it. A cat’s tongue can feel like sand-paper scratching against the skin or simply feel uncomfortable.
Veterinarians and researchers have spent years trying to find out why cats enjoy licking their owners. Experts reveal a variety of reasons why cats exhibit this behavior, but it’s up to you to determine why your cat licks your face.
Common reasons include grooming, seeking your attention, tasting something, being affectionate, and marking their territory. Licking can also be a coping mechanism to deal with stress and anxiety.
7 Reasons your Cat Licks Your Face
1. Your Cat is Trying to Get Your Attention
Are you a busy pet parent that buzzes around the house doing chores all day? If so, the moment you sit down to relax, your cat might cuddle next to you and lick your face.
Chances are they have been feeling ignored all day, and they want your attention.
You can improve the situation by paying more attention to your cat and implementing a few minutes of playtime into your busy schedule.
If the licking behavior doesn’t lessen or go away completely, discuss the issue with a pet behavior specialist or a veterinarian.
2. Your Skin Tastes Delicious
This sounds a bit gross, but salt builds up in your skin naturally and tastes yummy to your cat. If your cat tends to lick you and seems to enjoy it in a similar way they like their favorite treat, chances are they are licking your face to enjoy a tasty snack.
3. Your Cat Loves You
Many cats love their pet parents and often show it by licking. This sweet sign of affection usually means your cat is calm and adores you. If the licking becomes excessive or you feel your cat is expressing anxiety, seek further assistance from a veterinarian or animal behavior specialist.
4. Your Cat is Trying to Groom You
Cats lick to groom themselves and get clean. Mother cats groom their kittens as soon as they are born and continue the behavior to teach them how to take care of themselves. Sometimes a pack of cats will have a designated member that grooms all the cats in the group. The term for the designated groomer is “allo-groomer”.
If your cat is licking you for grooming purposes, there’s a chance they have established themselves as the group allo-groomer, and you are considered to be a member.
5. Your Cat is Trying to Cope with Stress or Anxiety
Your cat experiences boredom, stress and anxiety from time to time, just like people do. Common reasons are:
- New members of the family in the household.
- The movement of furniture or objects in the home.
- A change in food or diet.
- Medical issues.
- Lack of attention.
Cats will often lick their owner’s faces to help them relax and feel calmer. If you suspect your cat is experiencing anxiety or stress, try to figure out the cause and remove it from your cat’s environment if possible or help them feel more comfortable around the source.
6. Medical Issue
Cats have a difficult time showing their discomfort when it comes to them feeling sick.
Some cats try to express their feelings to their owner by licking them to get their attention and encourage their pet parent to take a closer look.
Common signs your cat feels sick include:
Sudden mood change
- dilated pupils
- appearing lethargic
- changes in eating habits
- weight gain or loss
- Shortness of breath
If you suspect your cat is licking your face due to a medical issue, seek veterinarian assistance immediately.
7. Your Cat is Marking their Territory
Do you have several pets or more than one cat in your house? If so, there’s a chance your cat is marking their territory. Typically territory refers to specific areas of the home or other locations, but it could mean you in this case. Cats usually mark their territory by scratching, cheek rubbing, and spraying, but licking is another way they claim something.
If your cat is licking you to mark their territory, they are just alerting everyone and every pet in the household that you belong to your cat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I let my cat lick my face?
Yes and no. This is a tricky question because if your cat is just giving you a few licks on your face for affection, it doesn’t seem so bad. However, if they lick you excessively and do it daily, you need to discourage your cat from licking you. Remember, your cat licks many things such as themselves, other cats, mouses, lizards, and more. You don’t want your cat to spread the bacteria from those objects to your face.
Why does my cat lick my face at night?
Have you woken up to your cat licking face in the middle of the night? Many pet parents have, and it’s often startling and confusing. Cats lick their owners in the middle of the night as a sign of affection or for grooming reasons.
How do I get my cat to stop licking my face?
Redirecting your cat’s attention when they lick you is an excellent way to train them to stop. Using a toy to capture your cat’s attention is recommended the next time they try to lick you.
Why does it hurt my skin when my cat licks my face?
As mentioned earlier, a cat’s tongue has papillae which are tiny little spines. These spines are made of keratin which is similar to human fingernails. These spines are meant for your cat to groom themselves, detangle fur and spread natural oils in the skin. The rough surface of their tongue usually feels scratchy against human skin and sometimes hurts.
Should I take my cat to the veterinarian if they lick me too much?
Yes. If you believe your cat is licking your face excessively and won’t stop after you tried diverting their attention, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian. There’s a possibility the face licking is due to an underlying illness.
As a pet parent, you want your cat to be happy and if licking your face is their favorite hobby, you might not mind. However, if you are a pet parent concerned about the behavior or don’t like the feeling of your cat’s tongue on your skin, you need to take steps to stop the behavior.
Make sure you pinpoint the reason your cat is licking you in the first place before stopping the behavior. If your cat is showing signs of illness or discomfort, visit a veterinarian for further assistance. However, if your cat just loves to show you affection or the taste of your salty skin, distract them with a favorite toy to help stop the behavior.
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