What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks You?

cat licking human

No one would ever argue that cats can be complicated creatures. Even people that have had cats for years often find themselves at odds with their feline companions, trying to sort out what they want and sometimes, failing miserably in their endeavors. Cats have a tendency to do things their own way, there is no question about that. The only thing there is a question about is how they try to communicate with human beings. Cats have a way of communicating with each other that is virtually unmistakable. That being said, it’s not always so easy when you’re not a cat yourself and you’re trying to figure out what your pet wants to convey.

The Question of Licking

Take licking for example. What exactly does it mean when your cat licks you? Is it really a sign of affection or does it involve something else entirely? If you think that there is a cut and dried answer to this question, then you probably haven’t been a cat owner for very long. For those who are seasoned individuals, it should already be evident that the only sure thing with cats is that there is no sure thing. Your cat may be telling you that he loves you or he may be priming you so he can take a big chunk out of your arm for his own amusement. In some cases, it seems like cats lick people for every reason in between. If there are so many different reasons why your cat might be licking you, how on Earth are you supposed to know what the reason is that your individual cat is seemingly showing you signs of affection? Is that what he’s really doing, or is there something else involved? As it turns out, it’s all about the individual cat in question and the body language that goes along with the act of licking. If you really want to get detailed about things, it also involves knowing your cat well enough to understand what he’s trying to tell you when he does something. In short, you have to know whether or not your cat is more the affectionate type or the diabolical type. By now, you’re probably thoroughly confused. Relax, there’s a lot more to be unpacked here before it’s all said and done. Hopefully, you’ll have a better sense of direction about things by the time you’re finished reading.

Getting Attention

One of the reasons that your cat might be licking you is simply to get your attention. Cats like to be the center of attention, when it’s something that they initiate themselves. They may not be the least bit crazy about you walking up to them and trying to shower love and affection upon them, but when they want the attention themselves, they have a habit of wanting it right then. If you’re not giving them the attention that they think they deserve, they might start licking you as a means of trying to get you to stop focusing on whatever it is that you’re doing and start focusing on them. By the same token, they also have a tendency to lick people in order to show their affection. This isn’t something that every cat does but some of them certainly do. If you are fortunate enough to have a cat that has a tendency to be more affectionate than some, it’s entirely possible that he is licking you to tell you that he loves you. The truth is, cats are just as individual as human beings or any other breathing creature. On the other hand, it’s also entirely possible that the only reason your cat is licking you is because he suffers from anxiety and this is something he does to calm himself. There are a surprising number of cats that have a tendency to do this. If your cat suffers from anxiety, it’s highly likely that the licking is a direct result of his attempts to soothe himself. If you think that he’s been licking you to show you that he loves you, the truth of the matter might be that he’s only doing it because he’s anxious about something and he wants his routine to go back to the way it was. Again, it comes down to having an innate understanding of the cat in question. There is simply no way that you can say that all cats lick because they’re showing affection anymore than you can say that all cats lick because they’re afraid of something. In reality, it just isn’t that simple. That’s why it’s so important that you take your own cat’s personality into consideration. Otherwise, you’re going to end up just as confused as you were when you started, if not more so.

A Few Nefarious Reasons

If you’re upset by the idea of your cat licking you because he’s got anxiety, you should brace yourself. It’s also possible that your cat is actually licking you because he’s marking his territory or because he thinks you taste good. Who knows, perhaps you taste like chicken. Maybe he’s decided that he wants to keep you all for himself and he’s licking you because he doesn’t want anyone else to have you. If that is indeed the case, you’re probably going to know that he’s being territorial the moment that anyone else comes into the room and attempts to sit next to you, hug you or even speak to you. If you have other animals in the house, you’re probably already well aware if your cat has territorial issues. Chances are, it becomes an epic battle on a daily basis.

A Matter of Grooming?

When you stop and think about it, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It’s also possible that your cat is licking you because he wants to groom you. After all, cats routinely groom themselves by licking. They even groom each other in the exact same manner. If your cat is routinely licking to either perform self-grooming or groom another cat, it only stands to reason that he might try doing the same thing to you. In some cases, you could even consider it a form of care, maybe even affection. In reality, cats do indeed groom themselves as a form of taking care of themselves. When they have kittens, they also groom them because they care about them. If you see them grooming another cat, it’s probably because they care about that particular animal in some capacity. Therefore, you might be able to go as far as drawing a conclusion that your cat genuinely cares about you if he is trying to groom you. Of course, it’s also entirely possible that he’s simply doing what comes natural to him as a cat. After all, cats have a tendency to groom themselves and perhaps even those around them. It might very well be a sign of affection, but some would argue that it could just as easily be an innate act, something that the cat is scarcely even aware that he’s doing. In other words, it might be as natural as eating, sleeping and breathing. As such, the cat simply does it without putting a great deal of thought into it.

Should Licking Even Be Allowed?

Chances are, you don’t know much more now than you did before about why your cat is licking you. That’s okay. Remember, you have to factor in your cat’s individual personality and then take into account all of his body language. What types of signals is he sending you while he is licking you? Does he seem relaxed? Is he purring? On the other side of the spectrum, you might notice that his tail is wagging. Unlike a dog, a wagging tail is not a good thing with cats. It usually indicates that they’re feeling threatened or they’re annoyed. In most cases, it indicates that you’re about to be scratched, bitten or both. While you factor in all of these different scenarios, you might start to be able to put some type of picture together regarding the reason that your cat licks you. Now you have to ask yourself another question. Should you even allow this type of behavior to continue in the first place? In some cases, your cat might be doing this obsessively and that is a problem in and of itself. In addition, you have to consider the possibility that it’s just unhealthy. Your cat has quite a lot of bacteria on its paws and certain other parts of its body which it obviously picks up when it licks those areas. If it is indeed licking those areas and then licking you on your face, especially around your mouth or eyes, it is essentially depositing that exact same bacteria onto your face in places where it can easily get inside your body. This can pose a number of health concerns. That said, cats also have a special component in their saliva that promotes healing. That is precisely why they lick their own wounds when they’re trying to heal themselves. Therefore, they might lick a wound that you have on your hand or something in an attempt to help promote healing there. It seems sweet at the time, but the human body doesn’t exactly process everything the same way that the feline body does. Therefore, it’s best not to allow them to lick your face or lick any open wounds.

Why Do They Lick and Then Bite?

Maybe you have one of those cats that walks up to you like they’re going to be super affectionate, rubs their head against your legs while purring, licks you and then sinks their teeth into you all the way to the bone. How are you supposed to deal with that? If licking is a potential sign of affection, then why does your cat lick you just so he can turn around and bite you? Again, it all comes back to a form of cat behavior that isn’t as simple as you might want it to be. In fact, it’s largely about the cat’s associating the act of licking with something entirely different from affection when licking is followed immediately by biting. Remember how cats sometimes lick people because they think they taste good? It’s possible that your cat thinks that you taste like a snack that he or she would like to get more of, which is why that licking action is promptly followed up by a bite. On the other hand, he might also be telling you that you are very much his territory and he doesn’t plan on sharing you with anyone or anything else. The kids are coming home from school? He’s not having it. You have another pet that is come up for cuddles? Not having it. You’re trying to get work done and you haven’t paid attention to him for a whole five minutes? Get ready to be bitten. If he’s trying to get your attention and the licking isn’t getting the job done, his next action might be to sink his teeth into your ankle, your wrist or whatever is handy, just to see how you respond to that. By the same token, some cats are far more dominant than others. They like to be cuddled on their own terms and when they’re finished, they are done. They might be licking you as a sign of affection, at least in the beginning. However, if you spend too much time petting your cat and he gets annoyed, he might turn around and bite you and immediately thereafter just to tell you to back off. If you fail to heed those warnings, the next bite is likely to be far more severe. It might even be followed up by a few good slashes from his little Freddy Krueger paws. At the end of the day, it’s not always easy to tell exactly why your cat licks you. As you can see, there are a lot of potential reasons. You probably know your cat better than anyone else, but you still might feel like you don’t really know him at all. The best thing you can do is pay close attention to his body language whenever he licks you and try to put the pieces of the puzzle together to the very best of your ability.

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