Why Does Your Cat Lick You? 10 Likely Reasons

Last Updated on: September 25, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Do you often find your feline friend giving you a generous lick? Are you left wondering why they’re suddenly so interested in the taste of your skin? Many cat owners find themselves perplexed by this unique behavior. To help you decode these cat “kisses,” we have compiled 10 likely reasons that could explain this habit!

The 10 Reasons Cats Lick You:

1. Marking Their Territory

When your cat starts to lick you, it’s almost like they’re leaving their signature behind. They are, in essence, marking their territory. A cat’s tongue carries its unique scent, and by running it across your skin, they’re claiming you as part of their domain. It’s a declaration to all other animals: “This human belongs to me!”

2. Display of Affection

Just like humans express their love through gestures like hugging or hand-holding, cats show their affection by licking their humans. It’s an intimate act that your cat reserves for their most trusted allies. By giving you these “kisses,” your cat is showing you that they feel comfortable and safe in your presence. It’s a heartwarming behavior that underlines the special bond you share with your furry friend.

cat licking owner's foot
Image Credit: Beatriz Vera, Shutterstock

3. You Taste Delicious!

This might sound slightly strange, but sometimes your cat licks you simply because they like the taste of your skin. Humans often have a salty taste, particularly if you’ve been sweating or have residue from food on your skin. Your cat’s sharp taste buds may find this saltiness irresistible, leading to an impromptu licking session.

4. Comforting Themselves

Cats can sometimes use licking as a way to soothe themselves. It’s a behavior that dates back to their earliest days as kittens. Their mother would groom them by licking, providing not just cleanliness but also comfort and reassurance. Now when they lick you, they’re recreating that soothing sensation. It helps them feel secure, loved, and relaxed.

cat licking the face of bearded man
Image Credit: Caterina Trimarchi, Shutterstock

5. It’s a Grooming Thing

Cats are known for their impeccable grooming habits, often spending hours cleaning themselves each day. When your cat licks you, they’re extending their grooming routine to you, which is a significant sign of trust and bonding in the feline world. They see you as a part of their family and feel it’s their duty to help keep you clean.

6. Seeking Your Attention

If your cat suddenly seems to have developed a licking obsession, it could be a clever tactic to grab your attention. Maybe you’ve been too busy to play or their food dish is empty. By licking you, they’re effectively saying, “Hey, pay attention to me!” It’s a direct communication method designed to provoke a response from you.

cat licking a woman's cheek
Image Credit: NivCube, Shutterstock

7. Asking for Food

Some cats associate licking with food and feeding time. Perhaps you notice this behavior intensifies around mealtimes. This could be their unique way of asking for food. They might associate the act of licking with their mother feeding them as kittens, so they replicate this behavior to signal hunger.

8. Mimicking Maternal Behavior

In line with the previous point, cats learn a lot from their mothers, and one of the primary kittenhood experiences is being groomed by their mother’s tongue. When your cat licks you, they could be trying to replicate that maternal behavior. They’ve grown to associate licking with care, love, and bonding, and they’re extending that nurturing behavior to you.

cat licking man's side hair
Image Credit: Kasefoto, Shutterstock

9. You Have an Intriguing Scent

Sometimes, the reason your cat licks you could be as simple as them liking the smell of a product you’ve used. It could be your new hand cream, a soap, or even the laundry detergent on your clothes. Cats have a keen sense of smell, and if they find a scent intriguing or pleasing, they’ll often try to taste it. So, if you notice your cat licking you after you’ve applied a certain lotion, don’t be surprised. You’re simply irresistible!

On the other hand, if your cat licks a specific spot where you’ve applied medicinal cream, you might want to deter them. Some substances might not be safe for their consumption. Understanding their interest in different scents can help you manage their licking behavior better.

10. Expressing Anxiety

Last but not least, excessive licking might be a sign that your cat is feeling anxious or stressed. Licking releases endorphins in your cat’s brain, providing a sense of comfort and relief. If your cat has been through a recent change or is experiencing stress, they might resort to increased grooming or licking. Observing your cat’s behavior and recognizing such signs can help you provide them with extra comfort or seek professional help if necessary.

Cat licking a person's fingers
Image Credit: gglim79, Pixabay


To conclude, a cat’s licking behavior is much more than just a cute habit; it’s a complex form of communication that your cat uses to express various emotions and needs. From marking territory to expressing anxiety, each lick carries a message. Understanding these can help us strengthen our bond with our feline friends and better cater to their needs.

Remember, while most of these reasons are benign, excessive licking can sometimes indicate a health or behavioral issue. It’s always best to consult with a vet if you notice a sudden change or increase in your cat’s licking behavior. This way, you’ll ensure that you’re providing your little furball with the best care possible, allowing you to enjoy many more years of mutual affection and companionship.

Featured Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

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