Cats have a fantastic reputation when it comes to cleanliness. Their main method of grooming is to use their tongue to lick themselves – starting with their cute faces and then moving to their loges, body and ending at the tail. By why does my cat lick my nose?
Cats come equipped with special tongues that have a texture that resembles sandpaper. This sandpaper texture is created by the papillae which are backward-facing hooks made of keratin. The rougher texture helps the cat to remove dirt.
The reason that all this grooming takes place is to protect and isolate the cat from high and low temperatures. If their tongue doesn’t do the job cats will then use their teeth to finish off their preening.
Kittens are cleaned by their mothers from the day they are born and then come to learn how to clean themselves. This behaviour reinforces the family and social bonds between mother and kitten and siblings.
As your kitty’s human you are now their family. This means that no matter how old your cat is it will practice some kitten behaviours in your presence. This is generally why your cat will rub itself against you or jump up on you – it is trying to get to your face.
Indeed one of the reasons that cats like their owners asleep or lying down is that it is their perfect setting (eg everyone is relaxed) for grooming. Your cat will also be looking to exchange odors with us as our smells are comforting to your cat.
Now that you understand why cats practice licking behaviour and its role let’s get into the key reasons why your cat is licking your nose.
- Why Does My Cat Lick My Nose? 10 Reasons
- 1. To Bond Socially
- 2. To Show you that it Cares
- 3. To Clean
- 4. To Taste your Salty Skin
- 5. To Show Affection
- 6. To Mark its Territory
- 7. To Stroke
- 8. To Indicate that you are part of its Family
- 9. To Gain your Attention
- 10. To Convey Anxiety or Stress
- How do I stop my cat from Licking My Nose?
- What if my cat is grooming itself excessively?
Why Does My Cat Lick My Nose? 10 Reasons
1. To Bond Socially
Why do cats lick your nose? Licking is a type of social bonding for cats. Mothers and kittens bond through licking, kittens bond with their siblings and other cats through licking and older cats can spend time licking each other.
In addition to the bonding power of the grooming, this is also a way for cats to transfer smells on to each other thus sayinng that you find each other “safe” and acceptable eg you are now bonded and friends.
This is exactly what your cat is doing with you when it licks your face – it is bonding with you.
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2. To Show you that it Cares
What does it mean when a cat licks your nose? As kittens, cats learn from their mother licking them that this is what you do with those that you care about. Therefore, when your cat is licking your nose it is telling you that it cares about you.
If you have a kitten, it may be particularly interested in licking you if it is still recovering from being weaned or if it was weaned too early. If this is the case your cat will be making an effort to nurse something. Your nose probably bears some resemblance to the breast of its mother.
Mother cats spend a lot of time licking their kitten’s faces. Whilst cleaning is most likely the primary purpose this licking is achieving other things such as bonding, learning and exchanging scents, and getting the kitten ready for nursing.
It his process ended a bit too early for your kitten or if it was orphaned and loves to lick your nose it may be that it is trying to re-create that connection it had with its mother.
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3. To Clean
In a group of cats there will always be one that does the licking and the grooming of all the cats – especially in those hard to reach spots. Your cat may well be taking on the role of the groomer in your relationship.
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4. To Taste your Salty Skin
Humans produce natural salt through their perspiration or sweat. Human noses in particular can get sweaty and produce a sheen. This salt can be very tasty for your cat – and remember your cat has a much stronger sense of smell than you do so the aroma may be particularly enticing.
This can be even more appealing if you have just cooked a particularly tasty meal so that aroma is also on your skin. Often this can happen with a new smell which may make your cat curious so they will want to explore.
5. To Show Affection
When cats love someone – a human, another cat, or even a dog – it demonstrates its love through licking. As humans, we can hug or kiss someone or pat or stroke them. For a cat their major means of demonstration of affection is through their tongue.
Cats only lick the faces of those with whom they share a genuinely close connection. Your cat licking your nose is a sure sign that your kitty loves you and feels safe and secure. Or if you have a kitten this may be a way that it relieves feelings of anxiety.
Generally, if your cat is licking you on the nose for affection it would most likely want some affection back. So when your cat is in a nose licking mood stroke or cuddle your cat back to demonstrate your love and to make your cat feel safe and secure.
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6. To Mark its Territory
Licking transfers a cat’s scent onto objects, humans and other animals. When they are transferring that smell they are effectively making their territories. Their mother will have licked them when they were born – marking them as belonging to her.
A cat may also lick you to let you know that you are their territory – particularly if another animal has entered your household and your kitty is feeling jeaous.
7. To Stroke
I love stroking and cuddling my cat. Licking is my cat’s way of doing the same thing back. Cats enjoy it when other cats lick them as the rough little tongue feels good on their fur. So they will assume that humans also enjoy that sensation – whether it is true or not.
8. To Indicate that you are part of its Family
As I have mentioned several times in this article, your cat will have developed its licking behaviour from its mother. When it displays those behaviours towards you it is communicating that you are their family.
9. To Gain your Attention
If you’re busy on your phone or watching tv or have just not been giving your cat much attention it may look to remdy that by giving your nose a good lick.
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10. To Convey Anxiety or Stress
The first 9 reasons for why does my cat lick my nose are all quite sweet. It is only this final reason that is less positive. When cats have anxiety or are in pain they tend to lick compulsively. This may be objects as well as humans or other animals or themselves.
Heading to your nose is a great way to get your attention to communicate their concerns or pain. You may see this behaviour if there is a change in your cat’s life such as moving house.
When a cat is a kitten its mother can continuously lick its body and face so cats find this continuous behaviour soothing. Your cat may also begin licking you continuously if it feels that you are stressed or upset. This is its way of soothing someone it loves.
How do I stop my cat from Licking My Nose?
What if you don’t like your cat licking your nose? Your cats tongue can be painful or it may tickle. The best first step to stop your cat from licking your nose is to distract it. This could be by grabbing a feather toy or providing your cat with some food.
It is not ideal to outright reject your cat’s licks as it will feel quite rejected and may think you don’t want any affection at all. Try the distraction technique first and if that doesn’t work try cuddling your cat as a distraction. The final option is to walk away when your cat begins to lick your nose.
What if my cat is grooming itself excessively?
Your cat licking your nose and itself is normal behaviour. However, if you notice your cat is getting bald patches or rashes as a result of grooming it may have Psychogenic Alopecia. Do consult your vet quickly if this is the case.
⇒ 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.
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