A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

Why Do Cats Lick You? Cat Owner Questions Answered

By: Kelli Rascoe

A grey cat sitting by a window licking his paw

It may be no surprise to see your cat licking themselves. Naturally, cats tend to groom themselves on a regular basis. But how often does your cat lick you? In fact, your cat or kitten may choose to communicate with you in a variety of different ways. Because of this, you may find yourself asking, “why do cats lick you?” Fortunately, we sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde to learn more about what your cat’s kisses may mean and the importance of understanding cat body language.

Why do cats lick you?

Your cat’s communication style may depend on your cat. While every pet is different, some cats may choose to let you know how their feeling via a subtle hint. Wilde points out some reasons why your cat may choose to lick you.

“When trying to figure out why a cat exhibits any behavior, the best course of action is it determine the motivation behind the behavior in your cat’s environment. For example, if you’re just lying on the couch, and the cat is resting and seems content, it can be a normal grooming behavior or sign of affection. If the cat seems agitated and licks you, it could be an effort to get you to stop doing what you’re doing or they may even want you to move.”

Also, it may be helpful to note if this is normal behavior for your furry family member. Do they lick, groom, or give kisses often? Than this may just be a preferred way to communicate with you. Consider your pet’s communication style to determine the next best step. For an additional resource on cat communication, read this cat body language guide here.

An orange cat with yellow eyes licks his mouth

Reasons why they may lick you

Cats and kittens are mysterious and their behavior is unique to them. With that being said, if you have a curious kitten in your home, you may be used to unpredictable behavior with your best friend. Wilde weighs in on a few reasons why your cat may choose to lick you.

Consider the following:

  • Normal grooming behavior
  • Attention-seeking behavior
  • Passive aggressive behavior, like trying to get you to behave a certain way
  • An indication of an underlying medical illness or behavioral condition

Also, grooming can be a daily activity for your best friend. Consider how much their licking and be mindful of their fur, skin, and nails. Does your cat have matted cat hair or hairballs? Alternatively, perhaps your cat just needs a bath. These are all important factors to consider when it comes to your cat and licking.

Not all cats lick and some kittens may choose to lick for attention. Naturally, your cat is unique and may choose to lick you and that’s okay. Consider notating your pet’s behavior, and if you notice anything abnormal and talk with your veterinarian. They can help determine the root of the problem for your furry family member.

Medical conditions, behavior, and licking

Cats may not always let you know they're feeling sick. In fact, their behavior may be an indication of something more. For example, if your cat’s licking becomes aggressive in nature, you should seek the medical care of your veterinarian. Also, “excessive licking may be associated with gastrointestinal disease, as it can be a sign of abnormal discomfort or nausea. Naturally, licking may mean that your cat is in pain,” says Wilde. If your cat is excessively licking you or themselves, they may be trying to tell you they’re not feeling well. For an additional resource, read this guide on common kitten illnesses here.

A woman holds and pets a soft cat in her lap

Why do cats lick you? They may be trying to communicate with you

Your cat is special and may choose to show their affection with kisses and cuddles. But, by notating their behavior and talking with your veterinarian, you may find your furry friend just loves to show you how much they appreciate you.

To learn more about cats, read Are Cats Nocturnal?

A dog and cat snuggle

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Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.

This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.

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