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 legs, body and ending at the tail. But 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 behavior 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 behaviors 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 behavior and its role let’s get into the key reasons why your cat is licking your nose.
- 1 Why Does My Cat Lick My Nose? 13 Reasons
- 1.1 1. To Bond Socially
- 1.2 2. To Show you that it Cares
- 1.3 3. To Clean
- 1.4 4. To Taste your Salty Skin
- 1.5 5. To Show Affection
- 1.6 6. To Mark its Territory
- 1.7 7. To Stroke
- 1.8 8. To Indicate that you are part of its Family
- 1.9 9. To Gain your Attention
- 1.10 10. To Convey Anxiety or Stress
- 1.11 11. To show submission
- 1.12 12. To Sense Your Emotions
- 1.13 13. To Taste Your Tears
- 2 How do I stop my cat from Licking My Nose?
- 3 What if my cat is grooming itself excessively?
- 4 Final Thoughts
Why Does My Cat Lick My Nose? 13 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 onto each other thus saying 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.
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.
If 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.
3. To Clean
In a group of cats, there will always be one that does the licking and 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.
Mother cats lick their kittens to groom and clean them. In some cases, cats may lick their owners for the same reason. The rough tongues of the cats straight out their fur and take out the shedding fur. According to some theories, cats don’t like human scent, so they lick to exchange scents with family members to create a strong social bond.
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 that 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 their love through licking. As humans, we can hug or kiss someone or pat or stroke them. For a cat, their major means of demonstrating 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.
A mother cat licking her kitten means simple affection. In the same way, when your cat starts licking you, they try to express how much they love and care about you. Cats typically only lick people who they are very close to and who they feel comfortable around.
Generally, if your cat licks 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.
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 jealous. By marking their humans with their saliva, cats essentially say that these people belong to them.
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 behavior from its mother. When it displays those behaviors towards you, it is communicating that you are their family.
9. To Gain your Attention
If your cat starts licking your nose whenever they see you occupied, it’s likely because they want your attention and hope you’ll stop your work and focus on them instead. This behavior can be frustrating, but it’s also a testament to your cat’s intelligence.
10. To Convey Anxiety or Stress
The first nine 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. These 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 behavior 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 behavior soothing. Your cat may also begin licking you continuously if you feel stressed or upset. This is its way of soothing someone it loves.
11. To show submission
In some cases, cats may lick a human nose to show submission. Some cats lick their owner, who is higher in the hierarchy, and it can be a way of saying that they respect and defer to that person. This is often seen in cases where there is more than one pet in a household, and the cats start pecking to overcome their insecurity.
12. To Sense Your Emotions
Cats have an incredibly powerful sense of smell, which they use to communicate and understand their environment. If your cat licks your nose, it may be trying to pick up on your emotions and figure out how you’re feeling. This ability to smell emotions is thought to be one of the reasons why cats are such good companions for humans.
13. To Taste Your Tears
When we cry, our tears contain chemicals and natural salt that can convey information about our emotional state. Cats have taste receptors in their mouths that allow them to pick up on these chemicals, which is why they may lick your tears if you’re crying.
In addition to this, your feline friend loves the salty taste of tears. Some pet owners believe that this behavior indicates that cats are empaths and can understand and share our emotions.
How do I stop my cat from Licking My Nose?
If you have a cat, chances are you’ve been at the receiving end of a wet cat’s tongue swipe across your nose. While it may be amusing the first few times, however, after some time, it becomes quite annoying. So what can you do to stop your cat from licking your nose?
It is best to seek veterinary guidance on priority. However, there are a few things you can try. One is to discourage the behavior whenever it happens simply. Gently push your cat away and say “no” in a firm voice. With time and patience, your cat should get the message that this is not something you appreciate.
Another option is to provide your cat with an alternate target for its licking behavior. Try giving it a small plush toy or a piece of string to play with. If your cat licks your nose, redirect its attention quickly to the toy or string. With some practice, your cat should start associating licking with positive experiences and eventually give up on trying to lick your nose.
If all else fails, commercial products can also help deter your cat from licking. These typically contain unpleasant tastes or smells that will dissuade your cat from continuing the behavior. Be sure to read the label carefully before using any of these products, as some may not be safe for cats if ingested in large quantities.
What if my cat is grooming itself excessively?
Your cat licking your nose and itself is normal behavior. 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.
We have discussed a few reasons to answer your question about why is my cat licking my nose. Some of them are pretty adorable, like the fact that they try to show you some love. Others may be a little more puzzling, but it seems that cats enjoy licking your nose. Sometimes it may be annoying for you, but luckily we have covered the ways to stop your cat from licking your nose.
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