You've got questions, we've got answers. We're taking some of the most commonly asked questions about feline behavior and chatting with Dr. Mikel Delgado, certified applied animal behaviorist, to give you the answers you need.
Cats are notorious for their cleanliness. You’ll see them grooming themselves throughout the day -- and experts estimate that they spend 30-50% of their waking hours grooming! Sometimes they direct that behavior toward other cats that they live with, and they may even direct it toward you!! Is your cat trying to tell you that you need a bath? Or what else might be going on? Can you stop this behavior if it annoys you? We’re going to try to answer all of your questions about your cat’s licking behavior.
Why is your cat doing this? Well, you should feel a little flattered if your cat is licking you. “Allogrooming”, or grooming other members of your species, is considered an important social interaction for many species. For cats, you will observe allogrooming between cats who are friends. This grooming is an important way that cats form and strengthen social bonds with one another. So when your cat is licking you, they aren’t saying that you need some help with your personal hygiene -- they are likely saying, you are part of my social group, and I am licking you to help us stay close to one another. Awww!
Some cats may lick you for other reasons - some cats are naturally a bit more mouthy, and the licking may be a self-soothing behavior that helps them feel more relaxed and calm. They may even be responding to you much as they were when they were kittens nursing their mom. And finally, some cats might just be attracted to you -- you might be a little salty or perhaps you use a skin care product that actually tastes kind of delicious!
Maybe now you find this behavior flattering but still annoying. Cats’ tongues have raspy barbs that can make it a little painful if your cat is licking you for too long. So what can you do to stop the endless licking? First of all, make sure that your cat has all of their needs met so they aren’t just turning to the licking out of anxiety. This means making sure there are no stressful relationships in the household, that your cat has plenty of toys and activity to keep her busy, and that the resources are set up in your home to accommodate the number of cats you have - meaning separate feeding areas, litter boxes, and vertical space to prevent competition.
If you want your cat to stop licking you, stay calm when she starts. Slowly withdraw your hand, or stand up slowly, and walk away. Over time your cat will learn that the licking leads to you leaving -- meaning that the attention goes away when they lick. You can also prevent licking of specific areas with a product called Bitter Apple Spray. This will make your skin taste unpleasant to your cat, which will make them less interested in licking.
For mild cases of licking, most of us don’t mind a little “spa treatment” from our cats. Appreciate the fact that this is just another way that your cat shows you some love!
[#BeginTLDR#] They see you as a member of their family. Cats will often “allogroom”, or groom other members of the same species, and is an important social interaction, especially for cats who are friends. [#SplitTLDR#] Cats can be mouthy, and licking can sometimes be self-soothing behavior. [#SplitTLDR#] Your cat could be attracted to your smell, and the way your skin tastes. You could be a little salty, or use a product that actually tastes good to them. [#EndTLDR#]