Why Does My Cat Lick Me?

You got some dirt on your ear.

Hands, face, hair, especially when I am petting him. Hiro, my cat is quite the licker. And I know Hiro isn’t the only licker among the cats. But why do they lick?

Some cats do it night, some cats do it the morning to wake you up because they are hungry. Some cats lick your hair, some lick your hands, or any bare skin that is visible.

The first thing a kitten experiences, even before he can see, is his mother licking and washing him. Grooming is a demonstration of love and caring. Like babies, kittens get a lot of information through their sense of taste. A kitten will lick to explore the world, and it means that your cat is grooming you. It’s his way of showing affection. Kittens learn to associate being licked with the safe secure feeling they have around their mother. So, if your cat occasionally washes your hair or licks your face, he accepts you and he wants to care of you as a fellow feline. Cats groom each other, and the humans who own them as a form of social interaction. And some cats just like the salty taste of human skin.

So it could be the salty taste of our skin, or the hand-lotion on your hands. Or maybe he likes the taste of your shower gel. Or they are trying to get rid of that weird taste on your skin. But most of the time it is just a sign of affection. And if you want you can respond in the same way. (beware of hairballs)

But things get annoying when your cat is keeping you awake at night by licking your hair and/or face. It can be something obsessive and your cat/kitten has to learn to stop that behavior, but where to start?

  • When you remove the kitten hold it by the nape of the neck as would a mother cat with her kittens when she moves them around. The kitten’s automatic response is to go limp to allow the mother to lift and move it. This will stop his escape.
  • Put a bit of bitter apple on or near your face. Cats hate the taste.
  • Place a recently warmed blanket by your feet. It will be nice and warm and they will be cozy. They just might find that slightly more appealing.

Resource: Kittencare.com

22 Responses to “Why Does My Cat Lick Me?”

  1. Animalcouriers

    One of our cats used to hate the chlorine smell when we came back from a swimming pool – she licked manically until all the scent had gone.

    • Dianda

      I admit that, that is a weird smell!

      My other cat Suki, she is not a licker at all. I think she doesn’t really care what we taste like, haha.

  2. animalartist

    I’ve gotten a lick now and then from all of them, but I called my Sophie my “washcat” as she insistently licked any skin, usually on my hands or arms since she was usually on my lap or next to me when I slept, but she especially liked licking my hands while I typed on the computer!

  3. niasunset

    My other cat, (he died because of cancer) he was licking my ear (lobe)… He was jumping to my shoulder and beginning with my long hair then to my ear… But from his baby years he always kept this action… I don’t know why… but at that time I thought that because of his mother… because he came to me very little… And now, my Princess, she is amazing, she licks my hands while I am doing something for her, for example giving her water or food, or while I am caressing her… And in here, I think she wanted to show her happiness and it is a kind of (in human way) to kiss my hands for thanks… Of course this is my opinion… And also when she makes something that we get angry, she comes and licks our hands… as if to say sorry to us… I think this is the way to show her feelings…

    Thank you dear Dianda, with my love, nia

    • Dianda

      When cats leave their mother at a very young age. They can end up being a little licker, and sometimes they nibble and suck on fabric. My cat Hiro used to that as well, but he outgrew it when he got older. So that might also be a reason. I totally forgot about that! Thanks for reminding me. ;)

      Awe, That’s adorable. Princess sounds like a really sweet cat. :)

      • niasunset

        You know dear Dianda, actually every cat has its own story… They are really being a character in the home… Thank you so much, yours too, Blessing and Happiness, with my love, nia

  4. Bassas Blog

    Great post!! Absolutely loved the line “Simply squirt a bit of water on the little licker”. It made the tall person laugh out loud! :)

  5. karesaurus

    My parents just got a kitten an he got banned from sleeping with them because he will lick any skin that he can get to. I put up with it though because he’s just too cute.

  6. littlemiao

    Fascinating info. I have never had a cat whose licking habits got obsessive. They like to lick my legs when I get back from running.

    When Sprocket was a teeny kitten, he liked sucking on a blanket, but he grew out of it after a couple weeks.

    • marucankissmyfurry...

      Hello, my name is Pedro and I’m an overgroomer. :(

      When I get really stressed, I overgroom myself any anyone else who will allow it. My human gets really sad when she sees naked pink skin spots on my belly, or when she sees Kitty dripping wet with naked skin showing.

      Our vet prescribed a strict schedule, and having a more structured day does seem to help. I get 10 minutes of grooming twice a day, and 10 minutes of play time twice a day. And a really good cuddle session every morning. I haven’t had any bald spots for a few months, so I guess it helps!

      • littlemiao

        Aw, Pedro, your courage in admitting your problem is inspiring. I am glad that you have sought help and now things are under control and your fur has grown back. Bald spots don’t sound comfortable and all that fur can’t be good for your digestion.

      • Dianda

        It’s good to know you’re doing fine now, Pedro. :)

        I bet you had a lot of hairballs? :(

      • marucankissmyfurry...

        It’s an embarrassing problem to admit in public, but less embarrassing than actually being in public with a naked, pink crotch and tummy! And the solution is pretty simple…

        My hairballs weren’t too bad, but my human gives me a lot more tasty hairball goo when she seems I’m going overboard on the grooming. I miss that stuff. The malt flavor, not tuna flavored…

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