Skip to Content

What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks You? 7 Reasons Why

We all love our adorable felines – from their purrfect little stares to their rough, bristled tongues that lick us as though we’re a tasty snack. But what does it mean when a cat licks you? It’s a common question that many cat owners query.

Many assume kitties lick them as a sure sign of love – which isn’t that far off. While it’s difficult to determine whether cats feel complex emotions such as love, licking is a sign of affection.

Mother cats lick their kittens as part of the grooming process, which continues into adulthood. Cats also designate members to allogrooming – to lick each other.

Let’s take a further look below into why cats lick us.

ginger cat with green eyes and tongue out up close

What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks You? 7 Reasons Why

Oh, the feline tongue – it can be as cute as anything, when her small pink tongue peeks out a little from her mouth as she delicately grooms herself, or you. There are several different reasons and meanings behind why your cat licks you with its sandblasting tongue. 

Let’s take a look into your kitties licking habits.

1. She’s Displaying Affection

In the same way that you pet your cat to show affection; your feline may return the favor by giving you a lick – or ten.

woman with brown hair cuddling tabby cat

Social grooming by licking is an influential behavior in our kitties and can signify affection. Your cat could be trying to create a social bond between the two of you. Just as how your sweet kitty was licked and groomed by her loving mother, your cat could be replicating this behavior, too.

2. Cats Lick to Mark You as Their Territory

Cats use pheromones to mark their territory. While many assume cats mark their property by urinating on what’s ‘theirs,’ they can claim you as theirs in other ways too.

Licking, headbutting, and kneading are some of the other ways your feline is claiming you as part of their territory – affectionately.

teen pretty girl kiss black cat close up portrait

When your kitty licks or headbutts against you, it’s reaffirming that you are important to them. They’re also leaving their scent for other cats to know that you’re spoken for.

So, next time your kitty licks you, think of it as if you’ve been accepted into her inner circle.

3. She’s Grooming You

Felines are notorious bathers. They love to lounge around, bathing and napping throughout the day. Cats are clean animals, as you can tell by their well-maintained, neat appearance.

grey cat licks grey kitten

⇒ Don’t miss my guide to buying Cat Walking products, the 7 Best Escape Proof Cat Harness options and the Best Carrier for Cats.

Even though your kitty may not be aware that grooming won’t actually help you ‘get clean,’ this behavior is natural for them. As previously mentioned,  Mommy cats lick their kittens to teach them how to groom, as well as show affection and establish bonds.   

While the idea of us being covered in cat saliva may not align with your human hygiene standards.  However, it’s an important behavior for your feline that promotes bonding.

large grey cat licks ginger kitten

⇒ For everything you need to know about taking care of your finicky feline check out my guide to How to Groom a Cat, Ultimate Persian Cat Grooming Guide, the Best Cat Brush, Caring for Cats guide and my quick cat check up guide.

A group of cats living together, for example, will have a designated fellow cat for allogrooming’ to do the job of licking. Allogrooming creates bonds between members in a group of species – in this case, when a cat licks and grooms other cats – or us.

Similarly, when cats lick their humans, it may be the kitty is attempting to include you as a member of her group.

4. She Tastes Something Interesting

Spill something tasty on your arm? Don’t get a shock to find your furry friend sliding up next to you to get a lick of it.

tabby kitten licks human finger what does it mean when a cat licks you

⇒ For all things fun with your kitty check out my guides to clothing for cats, the best toys for cats, great gifts for cats and my annual cat planner for kitty photo opportunities across the year.

Although cats’ tongues are made for grooming, they have a much more muted sense of taste in correlation to humans. In fact, felines are one of the only mammals that lack the ability to taste sweets – oh my!

Your kitty may be licking you because they taste something interesting on your skin. Cats may also lick you simply because they enjoy the salt that builds up on your skin.

The salty residue on your skin from the day’s heat or if you’ve been exercising may appeal to taste interesting to your feline.

5. Your Kitty is Feeling Anxious

Licking humans and other cats can be a sign that your cat is feeling calm. Contrary to this, anxiety can also be a cause for licking. Maybe another way to see it is how we humans need hugs when anxious or stressed; our cats find the need to lick.

grey kitten licks human finger

⇒ Check out my guides to the best treats for cats, high-calorie cat food, high fiber cat food, low protein cat food, best food for cats with ibd, best cat foods for older cats that vomit, best food for constipated cats, can cats each cashews, can cats eat raspberries, best kitten dry food and a complete cat feeding guide wet and dry food.

Although excessive licking can indicate a medical issue, most of the time, when your kitty licks you, it’s a coping mechanism for dealing with anxiety.

You may find if your feline is grooming you after experiencing a change in their environment, such as after moving to a new home or if you receive a new pet. Typically, this kind of licking is not anything you should worry about. 

You should pay attention to the context surrounding your kitties behavior and other notable things in your cat’s environment.

grey cat eating woman's fingers

⇒ Check out my guides to the Best Cat Products, Travel Litter Box, and the Best Cat Litter

If you speculate your fur baby is suffering from stress or has feline psychogenic alopecia, you should take her to the vet.

6. They’re Seeking Attention

Depending on your cat, their licking could be a request for playtime, or for cuddles and pets. If your cat is more food-orientated, they may be asking for food or a tasty snack

Grooming (or allogrooming) is a common social activity among cats. It’s their way to bond with each other – besides running through the house together while threatening your breakables.

Kitten licking finger

⇒ About to become a fur parent? Check out my Complete Guide to How to Look After a Kitten.

If your cat licks you after you’ve been away for a while, they may be looking for your attention.

Licking can be the same as any other attention-seeking behavior of your kitty, such as pawing, meowing, kneading, headbutting, sitting on you. If this is the case, grab a cat toy or a grooming brush and give your kitty some attention.

7. It’s a Survival Strategy

Cats are accustomed to bathing themselves and each other after eating in order to eliminate food evidence. This is a cat’s survival strategy in nature to protect themselves from predators that may find them by following a lingering scent

cat tongue licking up close

⇒ Looking for the perfect collar for your kitty? Check out my posts on 6 stylish leather cat collars, the 7 best GPS Cat Collar Options, 8 stylish and fun Christmas cat collar choices, 6 best flea collar for Cats, 4 best Cameras for cat collars and 6 Spooky Halloween cat collar options.

Your cat pal may be licking you to de-scent you from your day’s snacks to keep you (and her) ‘safe.’

Why Does It Hurt When My Cat Licks Me?

Once your kitties licked away at you, another question is, ‘why does it hurt when my cat licks me?’

A cat’s tongue is covered in tiny spines called papillae. This papilla is made of keratin, the same matter that makes up our fingernails or your cat’s claws.

grey cat with yellow eyes and tongue up

⇒ Keen to get a better understanding of why your cat behaves as it does? Check out my posts on What Smells do Cats Hate, Why Does my Cat Lick my Nose?, Why do cats roll in the dirt, Why Does my Cat Lay on my Chest , Why Does my Cat Sleep on my Legs, How Often do Cats Pee, How to Pet a Cat, Why do Cats Chase Their Tails?, What Does it Mean When a Cat Rubs Against you , 14 Sleeping Cat Positions, Why Does my Cat Sit on Me? , Why do Cats Purr when you Stroke them? , How to Train a Cat Not to Bite, Why do Cats Knead their Owners? , Why do Cats Arch their Back, How to Get a Cat to Eat, Why Doesn’t My Cat Purr?, Why Does my Cat Attack Me, Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? , What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks you? , Why Do Cats Bite Their Nails? and What Does it Mean when a Cat Headbutts you?

These backward-facing, barb-looking taste buds are essential for getting knots and debris out of your cat’s fur.

In addition to grooming, cats’ tongues serve many practical functions:

  • Supports coat health.
  • It removes the flesh from bones.
  • Licking can remove the scent of prey after a meal.
  • To help remove food and debris from their coats.
  • It promotes the redistribution of oils.

So, when your sweet feline licks you – rubbing their spine-covered tongues on your skin – it’s likely to feel a little uncomfortable. Especially if your cat does this excessively in the same place, it could feel like sandpaper rubbing against you; however, they do mean well.

Scottish Fold Tabby Cat with tongue out
Scottish Fold Cat

⇒ Thinking about what kind of kitty you would like? Check out my posts on the 9 Most Expensive Cat breeds, 10 Snuggly Flat Faced Cat Breeds, 7 Strange and Weird Cat Breeds, 11 Indoor Cat Breeds, 14 Cutest Cat Breeds, 12 Most Friendly Cat Breeds, 8 Fluffiest Cat Breeds, 9 Super Cool Cat Breeds, 11 Rare Cat Breeds, 8 Small Cat Breeds, 9 Big Ear Cat Breeds, 13 Big Eyed Cat Breeds, 10 Tuxedo Cat Breeds, Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon, 9 Gorgeous Grey Cat Breeds, 8 Garfield Cat Breeds, Siberian cat colors, Maine Coon Personality and the ultimate Siberian Cat personality profile.

A Footnote: Why Do Cats Lick Me?

There are many different answers as to ‘why does my cat lick me?’ It’s predominantly a means of social bonding and paying you a compliment.

It can also be a way for your cat to de-stress when they’re feeling anxious, and mark you as their territory. It’s up to you to determine which one best suits your feline’s personality.

While our cats lick us for several reasons, it’s mostly affectionate. So, next time your kitty starts to lick away at you, give them a gentle pet and feel honored to be considered a part of their family.

black and white tabby kitten licks another

⇒ Got a new kitty on the way and looking for some names? Check out my posts on 12 Greek Cat Names , 11 Egyptian Cat Names, 12 Best Cat Food Names, 50+ Creative Names for Black Cats, 12 Bang On Irish Cat Names, 11 Movie Cat Names, 12 Sensational Siamese Cat Names, 12 Black and White Cat Names, 19 Awesome Bengal Cat Names, 11 Ginger Cat Names, 9 Best White Cat Names and the 16 Best Disney Cat Names

Please Note: This what does it mean when a cat licks you post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on most of the links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not affect the price that you pay. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

Watch my What Does it Mean When a Cat Licks You Web Story

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other? 6 Reasons Kitties Allogroom
← Previous
Why Do Cats Bite Their Nails? 9 Reasons
Next →

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Like this post? Why Not Share It?

Thanks for sharing