Cats Lick to Strengthen Social Bonds
Cats who are familiar and friendly will often lick each other. This behavior helps the bond grow stronger and the exchange that takes place helps create a familiar group scent. Cats depend on scent as an important means of identification. When your cat licks you, it’s also a way of strengthening the bond and showing affection much the same way in which you display toward her by petting.
Your Cat May Lick You Due to Anxiety
Some cats lick and groom themselves to relieve anxiety and in some cases, it even results in bald patches. Your cat may also lick you as a way of comforting herself. If you notice areas of thinning hair or bald spots on your cat, talk to your veterinarian because there may be an underlying medical cause or your cat may be experiencing stress overload. When she licks you, if her body posture appears tense or if the licking goes on for an extended period, that may indicate an attempt to self-soothe.
Going Back to Kittenhood
Your cat may lick you while kneading her paws against you. She may also nuzzle close to your skin and purr. This is a throwback to kittenhood when the little kitten would nurse. This behavior displayed is an indication that your cat feels comfortable, safe and secure with you.
Some cats, especially those who were weaned too early or abruptly may engage in excessive licking and also may suckle on soft objects, your clothing, or even parts of your body such as your earlobes.
When Your Cat Licks You it Can be a Bit Painful
A cat’s tongue has backward-facing barbs on it that are made of keratin. These barbs help the cat rasp meat from the bones of captured prey. The barbs are also important in grooming because they help the cat remove dead hair, debris and parasites from the fur. While these barbs are certainly very useful, they create that scratchy feeling when your cat licks you. If the cat remains fixated on licking you in the same spot repeatedly, it can definitely become uncomfortable.
Reducing How Much Your Cat Licks You
If your cat is licking as a self-soothing behavior (whether she is licking you, a companion cat or herself) then it’s important to identify the cause of her stress. If you have a multicat household, look at the relationships between the cats and see if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. You may need to increase vertical territory, provide more resources in more locations and work on helping the cats form a peaceful co-existence.
There are many other causes of stress and some are subtle and easy for human family members to miss. It’s time to examine your cat’s everyday life to see whether there are stress triggers in the household causing her to lick so much.
Provide more enrichment and outlets for energy. Engage your cat in interactive play sessions and also provide opportunities for solo play. Offer food puzzle toys so your cat has positive forms of distraction to keep her busy.
You can probably tell when your cat is getting ready to start licking you. There may be a typical position you get in that becomes inviting to her. Learn to recognize the early signs so you can distract her with a toy. You can let her cuddle close to you but be ready to place an inviting toy or small pillow between the two of you.