Does Licking Mean Liking?
The barbed tongue of a cat is a well-adapted tool for removing any dirt/debris from its body to keep themselves clean. However, this is not the only reason behind their licking.
A cat may lick its own body, or that of another animal or human and we have identified some of the other reasons below.
Cats are social groomers and will often lick other cats (known as allogrooming), or humans in their group, to show affection and develop a strong social bond. This is a behaviour that cats remember from when their mothers licked them as kittens. In some instances, the cat will follow the licking with biting, but this is also usually a sign of affection &/or attention seeking and may be their way of asking you for a little more love or attention in return.
Marking / scenting:
Licking is also a method of marking a territory for cats. If your cat licks you, they may be telling other cats that you belong to them. The transference of the scent in their saliva will make you smell familiar to them. This territorial behaviour can become problematic in multi-cat households, so do keep an eye on this.
Feel good factor:
A cat’s licking could be a way of making them feel happier and more comfortable or relaxed. The licking releases endorphins, otherwise known as ‘feel good’ hormones.
Cat’s saliva contains a chemical that promotes healing, so a cat licking a wound will make it heal faster and be less likely to become infected.
If a cat has an allergy, it may lick excessively if the skin is itchy. Check the general condition of your cat’s fur regularly and ensure it is not suffering from dry skin / dander.
Sometimes licking can be a sign of stress or anxiety, also known as feline hyperesthesia. If you notice your cat is overly licking, you should try to work out what is causing them stress and resolve the problem for them. It may be due to a recent house move, other cats / animals in the household. If you are unable to identify the issue, take them to your local vet to investigate what the problem might be.
Do you like to be licked?!
It is not necessarily recommended for cats to lick your mouth, nose, or eyes, as they can pick up bacteria when they lick themselves in the grooming process. If it is more that you don’t want to experience their rough tongues, you could cover your skin to try & deter them. If you want to discourage your cat from licking you, either simply walk away, or better still, try & distract them with something else. Encourage the cat to play with one of its toys or try brushing it. Always reward or praise your cat when they interact with you, without licking.
Never just push your cat away as they will not understand & may become stressed. Ensure you always have a cat friendly environment by supplying trees / perches, hiding toys & providing them with suitable hiding places, so they always feel secure and relaxed.