Why Do Cats Lick You?

Written by Abdulmumin Akinde
Updated: October 15, 2022
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Have you ever asked questions like “why do cats lick you?” The truth is that cats have a lot of fascinating behaviors that we probably can’t explain as humans. Your cat licking your body is one of such mysterious behaviors that cat owners often ask questions about.  

Your cat licking your body is not always a problem. In fact, most people find it cute at first until they start getting a sandpapery feeling on their skin as the cat’s tongue swipes on their skin. If the licking persists, your skin may begin to feel a little exfoliated, and you may start worrying about the reason for your cat’s behavior. 

Why Do Cats Lick You? 

Every pet is unique, and there are several reasons why your cat may be licking your skin. The good news is that most of these reasons are positive because they’re due to your cat’s affection for you. However, there are a few instances where this strange behavior is a genuine cause for concern. The following are some of the most common reasons your cat might be licking you. 

A Sign of Affection

Most cat owners would like to think their kitty is giving them a tongue bath because it loves them. Of course, this is true in many cases. Cats lick each other (their pet parents) as a form of social bonding. You’ve probably seen a mother doing this to her kittens before. It’s not just grooming for them; it’s also a show of affection. 

If you have several cats in your home, you’ll see them licking each other’s bodies once in a while too. This is one of the ways they show their affection. Therefore, if your cat is affectionately licking your body, it means it feels secure around you.  

cat licking owner

One reason a cat may lick you is to show affection.

©iStock.com/Daria Kulkova

Your Cat Might Be Claiming You As Its Own 

Most animals, including pets, love to mark their territory. They do this with their cat toys, bed, food bowl, and other items they consider their possession. Some cats can also do this with their pet parents. Licking is one of the ways cats leave their distinct scent on things around them to show others it is theirs. They also do this by nuzzling you with their cheeks or rubbing their bodies against you. It achieves the same purpose of bonding with you and leaving their scents on your body. Of course, you cannot smell these scents, but other cats will get the message. 

Weaned Too Early 

Separating kittens from their pet parents can cause long-term stress for the kitten, especially when it is done too early. Some kittens end up developing an oral fixation as a way to cope with stressful situations. They may lick, knead or suck on soft things they find around, including wool, clothing, or a finger or earlobe. This behavior mimics the soothing comfort of their mothers nursing them. 

Licking As A Pacifier Substitute

Licking people and objects around them can be your cat’s way of distracting itself from the discomfort or stress they’re feeling. It is similar to how human babies suck on their thumb or a pacifier. With time, it might become a regular part of their routine that they turn to when they’re not feeling too good. Therefore, if your cat is licking people or objects too often, you should have it checked to ensure it does not have an injury or illness that is causing discomfort or stress. 

Dealing With Anxiety 

Cats might lick you when they’re anxious or stressed. Every cat has stressors that trigger their anxiety. They also tend to come up with ways to deal with that stress, including licking objects and people. 

You should try to find out what could be causing your cat’s anxiety and remove the trigger if possible. Also, providing scratch pads, perches, and spending quality playtime with your cat are some things you can do to soothe your cat’s anxiety and reduce excessive licking. You can also visit an animal behaviorist to ascertain if your cat is suffering from any medical or behavioral condition. 

It Likes How You Taste

In some instances, your cat licking your body is not linked to any behavioral issue or caused by affection. It might just be because your cat likes how you smell or taste. Some cats also like the salty taste of your skin. But in some cases, it might be the smell or the taste of the lotion or perfume you have on that tempts the kitty. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of your cat licking your sweat, you should wipe off your skin and cool down before sitting near your kitten. Allowing your cat to lick perfume or lotion off your body is not recommended. It’s best to cover the areas of your body with lotion before interacting with your cat. 

The Cat Is Trying To Communicate With You

Sometimes, cats lick their owners as a way to get their attention. Sometimes, it might just be because the cat is bored and there is nothing else to play with. However, it could also mean something is wrong, and the cat is trying to get you to check it out. If your cat suddenly licks your body out of the blues, you should have it checked out for any signs of injury or wound, just to be sure. The kitten may also lick its own body if it has a wound, infection, or fleas in that part of the body. 

Is It Safe To Let Your Cat Lick You?

Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong in letting our cat lick you. Your cat should be safe as long as there is no chemical substance on the skin that might pose a risk. Also, licking should be discouraged if you have a skin issue or wound on your body.

The cat’s tongue is coarse due to the tiny hook-like papillae present on the cat’s tongue. This is why it gets uncomfortable or even slightly painful if your cat licks you for too long. People who have sensitive skin might also find it uncomfortable to let their cats lick their skin. 

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How To Stop A Cat From Licking You

In most cases, seeing your cat licking your body is a cute gesture. However, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to discourage such behavior. Here are some things you can do if you ever want to stop your cat from licking your body. 

  • Distract them with a toy. A bored kitten will find playing with a toy more exciting than licking your body. 
  • Walk away from the cat anytime it starts to lick your body. You can also gently redirect its mouth away from your body. 
  • Wear clothes that cover your skin when you’re around your cat 
  • Rub a perfume or lotion with a smell that your cat dislikes 
  • Don’t pet or talk to the cat when it licks your body, as this will only reinforce it. 
cat playing with a toy

If your cat won’t stop licking your face, consider getting a toy to distract him.

©iStock.com/Svetlana Popova


As you can see, licking things is a natural behavior for cats, and there are several reasons why they might be doing it at the moment. If you have concerns or suspect something might be wrong, you should speak to a veterinarian to get insights into the behavior. Also, there are simple ways to curb this behavior if you do not find it comfortable or safe for your cat. 

Up Next

Why do cats lick each other’s ears-Are your cats licking each other’s ears? Here are some possible explanations for this behavior.

Why do dogs lick people– Cats are not the only pets that lick people. Man’s best friend does this too sometimes.

The 6 Reasons Cats Rub Against You, and If Should You Let Them – Find out if it is okay to let your cat rub against you like they love to do.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Nils Jacobi

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

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