Why Does My Cat Lick Me So Much?- VyWhy

Last updated on 2021-12-18 13:31:01

2017-03-26

Oh, the cat’s tongue. It’s as cute as can be when it’s peeking out just a bit from the cat’s mouth as she drinks water or delicately grooms herself. It’s small and pink and so adorable. Yet, when the…

Why does my cat lick me so much

Oh, the cat’s tongue. It’s as cute as can be when it’s peeking out just a bit from the cat’s mouth as she drinks water or delicately grooms herself. It’s small and pink and so adorable. Yet, when the cat’s tongue starts licking you, that little sandblaster seems as if it could take off several layers of skin.

Licking serves many social and practical functions:

  • It’s how cats remove meat from bones
  • Licking is important for coat maintenance
  • Licking removes the scent of prey after a meal
  • It’s how mothers clean their kittens and help them eliminate their waste
  • In a multicat environment or in a cat colony, allogrooming helps create a familiar group scent
  • Licking is a way cats cool themselves
  • Licking is used for stress relief
  • Licking helps remove external parasites

That’s just a few of the ways that cute little tongue is kept busy.  In a previous article I discussed in detail why cats groom so much (access article here) but in this post I want to cover the licking that cats tend to do toward family members.

When your cat licks you, is it the feline equivalent of a kiss? Is she marking you as hers? Well, let’s examine some of the reasons cats lick us.

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Cat Care

07-11-2013 · Unless your cat has been well socialized to people, travel and new experiences, the best option is to have a pet sitter or a trusted friend/neighbor come in and care for your cat. Don’t believe the things you may have read that cats can do just fine by staying home alone as long as you’ve filled up a mountain of food and a big bowl of water.

07-11-2013

cat sitter or boarding kennel? Which one is right for your cat?

Whether it’s that eight-hour drive to spend Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house, or that long-awaited summer vacation, you’ll need to make arrangements for your cat. For some people, kitty will go where they go and for others, reservations are made at the local boarding facility. If your cat could make the choice though, I’d bet she’d prefer to stay in her own home while you go traveling off to various parts of the globe. Your cat, being a territorial creature of habit, is just as happy to sit out the holidays as long as it means she gets to sleep in her own bed and her dinner schedule doesn’t get interrupted.

Home Alone Kitty

Unless your cat has been well socialized to people, travel and new experiences, the best option is to have a pet sitter or a trusted friend/neighbor come in and care for your cat. Don’t believe the things you may have read that cats can do just fine by staying home alone as long as you’ve filled up a mountain of food and a big bowl of water. Things can go wrong in a house with an animal left alone – whether it’s a major medical emergency, fire, flood, electrical failure or just a minor medical problem, you wouldn’t want your cat suffering because no one checked on her during your weekend spent out of town. Additionally, it can be very stressful for a cat to find herself completely alone in a quiet home when she has been used to you returning each day at a certain hour and also being in the routine of interacting with you several times a day. If you work from home or if there are multiple family members in the household then to have the house suddenly become empty and quiet can cause lots of confusion and anxiety.

Too many people view cats as low maintenance and get them mainly because of the perceived convenience of not having to interrupt their lives too much. These cats are left alone for anywhere from just one night to four-five days. Imagine the risk these cat guardians are taking with their cats’ health and safety. Now also imagine the anxiety these cats endure. Cats aren’t low maintenance substitutes for dogs and their health and welfare shouldn’t be compromised just so we can spend the weekend at the beach or off skiing.

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three books by author Pam Johnson-Bennett and a quote from Beth Stern

Boarding Facilities

There are good ones, great ones and terrible ones. If you choose to place your cat in a boarding facility, go there yourself and take a tour. For a cat, being placed in a cage, surrounded by unfamiliar animals, sounds, smells and sights, can cause the stress-o-meter to go over the top. Facilities that have condos with hiding places and elevated areas inside each cat’s area can make a big difference in how secure your cat feels. Keep in mind how sensitive your cat’s senses are and inspect the kennel from your cat’s point of view.Pet Hotel

  • How does it smell?
  • How loud is the environment?
  • Are cages facing each other? This can be very stressful.
  • Is the cage/condo big enough so the food bowl isn’t right next to the litter box?
  • What type of staff interaction is there?
  • Do the cats get played with, petted and held?
  • What is done to help reduce anxiety and fear?
  • Is there a veterinarian on-call for emergencies?
  • How is the facility monitored at night?

Some boarding facilities have great enrichment protocols and others are stark and depressing.

The Comforts of Home

Hiring a pet sitter or having a friend come over to care for your cat is a great way for you to have the security of knowing your cat remains the most comfortable in her own surroundings. It’s bad enough that from her point of view her family has run off and disappeared without warning but at least she hasn’t lost her territory. Just having that security can make a big difference in whether your cat freaks out during your absence or whether she takes it in stride with minimal stress. For some cats, being placed in a boarding kennel, no matter how well run, is terrifying. Don’t get me wrong, there are some state-of-the-art boarding facilities that look better than many of the hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, but typically for a cat, nothing beats the familiarity of home. So if it’s in the budget, consider hiring an experienced pet sitter or work out an arrangement with a trusted friend or neighbor.

You have to do your homework when planning to have someone come in to care for your cat. Don’t just ask the kid next door to drop in every day to toss food in the bowl. You need someone who will make sure your cat is safe, clean the litter box, feed the cat, monitor how she’s eating and using the litter box, interact with your cat (if the cat enjoys this) and try to minimize the stress of your absence. A pet sitter who takes the time to play with the cat or interact in whatever way that particular cat enjoys can make a big difference in keeping that kitty stress-o-meter at a manageable level. The pet caretaker who bolts in the door and is back out in mere minutes isn’t going to notice your cat maybe hasn’t urinated all day or has pulled a patch of hair off her hind leg, is limping or maybe scratched her eye and is squinting in pain. The “drive-by” pet caretaker isn’t much better than you filling up the food and water bowl and taking your chances nothing bad will happen to the cat. Hire a pet sitter who cares deeply for the welfare of every client or if you’re choosing a friend/neighbor to help you, choose someone who can take the time to ensure your cat’s safety and security.

CatWise book and a quote from Dr Lore Haug

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The Proper Way to Pick up and Hold a Cat

18-07-2017 · Some cats have very definite preferences when it comes to how they like to be held but your most important job is to provide security for both of you. The cat must feel secure in your arms and you must ensure you keep the kitty safe. No one must get injured in …

18-07-2017

the proper way to pick up and hold a cat

In general, if cats had their choice, many would probably prefer to never be picked up and held. For a cat, there’s tremendous security in having all paws on the ground and the ability to move at will.

For many cats, being picked up and lifted off the ground creates stress. If the cat is fearful or not used to being picked up, it can potentially create a situation in which someone may get scratched or bitten. A cat struggling to scramble out of a person’s grasp can also cause injury to herself if she falls to the ground.

Know Your Cat’s Tolerance Level

Be sensitive to your cat’s tolerance levels and always have a purpose for picking her up. If your cat loves being held, then enjoy that closeness, but if she doesn’t, be respectful of the fact that lifting her up changes her level of security.

Don’t insist of holding a struggling cat with the intention of getting her to surrender or adjust. The longer you hold a squirmy, unhappy cat, the more she’ll hate being held the next time.

If your cat hates being picked up and held, slow down and just focus on being able to put one hand on her side and then releasing. Work up to placing a hand on each side and then letting go. When she’s comfortable with that you can then use very gentle pressure when you place your hands on her sides and then let go and praise and reward your cat. Do this several times before you attempt to pick the cat up. Make sure she’s comfortable with being touched.

 Your Approach Shouldn’t Startle or Appear Threatening

Don’t grab your unsuspecting cat from behind in order to pick her up. No one likes being startled. Your cat should be aware of your presence but approach in a non-threatening way. Don’t make a direct approach from the front as that might cause some cats to feel threatened. If the only way you’re able to pick up your cat is to sneak up behind her and grab her quickly then maybe it’s time to do some gentle training.

three books and a quote about the author

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The Proper Technique for Holding a Cat

Some cats have very definite preferences when it comes to how they like to be held but your most important job is to provide security for both of you. The cat must feel secure in your arms and you must ensure you keep the kitty safe. No one must get injured in this process whether feline or human.

Specific handling techniques vary depending upon your cat’s comfort level and the particular environment (carrying a cat in a shelter, veterinary clinic or outdoors involves more concern with preventing escape). In general, you must always use both hands when picking up a cat. Even though the cat may be small enough that you could scoop her up with one hand, it’s not secure and it certainly won’t be comfortable for the cat. Have you seen someone holding a cat by one hand where the poor kitty’s legs are left dangling? Not comfortable or at all secure. Always hold a cat, no matter how small, with both hands. Use one hand to cradle and support her back end. To secure the front end, it will depend on your cat’s preference and whether you’re in a safe environment or one where escape could prove dangerous. Most cats want to be supported under the chest so they can rest their front paws on your arm. This is the typical way many cat parents carry their cats in safe environments. If the cat is in an environment where escape would be dangerous, hold the front end by securing the front legs with the fingers of one hand while the other hand cradles the back end and holds the hind legs. If in an environment where escaping from your arms could be dangerous then the best method of transport is to have the cat securely in a carrier.

woman holding a cat

How Do I Get a Cat to Like Me?

08-11-2018 · Some cats like long strokes down the back but for others, it can be too stimulating. When you don’t yet know a cat’s preference, stick to brief petting around the head and then watch the reaction. It’s always better to leave the cat wanting more affection rather than push him beyond his tolerance level.

08-11-2018

If you haven’t spent much time around cats, you may have the impression they’re aloof or unapproachable. Perhaps you’ve always considered yourself a “dog person” and find it hard to figure out why cats don’t respond in the same way as your favorite canine. Maybe this is your first cat and you’re trying to make friends but don’t quite know the correct approach. It’s really easy to start the bonding process with a cat but if you’re confused or need some advice, I have some important tips that can make a big difference in successful trust-building.

Allow the Cat to Make the First Move

It may have been your experience with dogs that you could go right up to them and begin petting and interacting. With cats, however, that’s not the recommended approach. In fact, cat lovers who enthusiastically go right up to an unfamiliar cat and try to immediately touch or interact often end up getting an unwanted response.

books by author Pam Johnson-Bennett and a quote from Winn Feline Foundation

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Have you ever noticed how often the person who doesn’t even like cats or is allergic to them is the one who gets approached by the cat? The reason is simple. The cats picks up on the body language of that person and sees he has the freedom to come closer to do a scent investigation without the threat of getting handled. Scent is an important means of communication and when the cat has the freedom and ability to do that, it helps him feel more at ease. When it comes to approaching the cat, my advice is to not do it. Let the cat come toward you. Let him do his scent investigation undisturbed.

It’s Impolite to Stare at the Cat

In the animal world, a direct stare can be interpreted as a threat. Avoid staring, and instead, if you do look at the cat, make your glances soft and brief. Don’t ever be tempted to star back at a cat who is looking at you. Let the cat feel in control and comfortable.

The Cat Version of a Handshake

Cats who are familiar and friendly to each other will often approach and engage in some nose-to-nose sniffing. You can do a version of this by extending your index finger for the cat to sniff. This becomes the human version of a cat nose. Hold your finger out without wiggling it or pushing it toward the cat. Just keep your finger still and let the cat make the decision about whether to step forward and sniff. If he does sniff your finger, he’ll let you know whether more interaction is ok or not. He may sniff and back away, which means he doesn’t want to engage at this point or he may rub against your finger or walk closer toward you. This is an indication that he’s open for more interaction. Pay attention to his body language because it’ll tell you whether he’s cool with things or needs a little more time to assess the situation.

three books and a quote about the author

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Carry Some Treats with You

If the cat is reluctant to come toward you, gently toss a treat nearby to help him associate your presence with good things. Sometimes, bribery is a good thing. You can also offer a treat for any positive interaction with you, no matter how slight.

Pet in a Cat-Friendly Way

When dealing with an unfamiliar cat, stick to only petting briefly and watch how he reacts to see if he asks for more. Although each cat is an individual and can have specific petting preferences, it’s usually a good idea to stick to the top or back of the head, along the cheeks or under the chin. Some cats like long strokes down the back but for others, it can be too stimulating. When you don’t yet know a cat’s preference, stick to brief petting around the head and then watch the reaction. It’s always better to leave the cat wanting more affection rather than push him beyond his tolerance level.

Use Your Voice Carefully

You may have gotten an over-the-top positive reaction by doing a high-pitched squealing tone or talking in a baby voice to a dog but that doesn’t fly with the felines. Keep your voice soft and reassuring. Cats don’t react well to loud sounds so your tone of voice should be similar to what you would use to calm a nervous child.

Photo: Pexels

Play with the Cat

Cats were born to move. They’re predators with incredible stealth and accuracy. A good number of the behavior problems seen in indoor cats are due to boredom and lack of activity. If you’ve spent most of your time around dogs, you know the need for regular playtime, walking and exercise, but cats need regular activity as well.

Being indoors is the safest place for cats but that also means it’s up to the cat parent to ensure there’s adequate stimulation, activity and fun. As predators, cats have a natural need to stalk and pounce. You’re a big part of ensuring successful playtime with a cat. It’s not just about leaving a pile of toys available or tossing a toy at the cat in order for him to fetch. Playtime is about discovery, strategy, precision and success. For cats that means stalk, pounce, capture, reward. Playtime is just as much mental activity as it is physical activity. When you engage in a play session by using an interactive toy, you get to move the toy like prey so the cat can focus on being a hunter. Interactive playtime is also a wonderful way to strengthen the bond and in the case of a cat you’re trying to get to know, it can help him associate positive experiences with your presence.

cat playing with feather toy

Photo: Fotolia

An interactive toy is based on a fishing pole design. There are many available that have different types of toy targets at the end so try to match the toy with the cat’s personality. For example, if you’re dealing with a very timid cat, stick to a toy that has a smaller toy at the end.

To trigger the cat’s interest, move the toy away or across the cat’s visual field. Never dangle the toy right in front of his face. Let him have the time and space to plan his move. When you move the toy like prey, the natural predator in the cat will take over.

Allow the cat to have several successful captures so the game becomes rewarding and not frustrating. Play with the cat at least a couple of times a day. Give the cat a treat after playtime or time the play session before a meal so you can offer a food reward. That way, the might hunter gets to enjoy the feast after capturing his prey.

Detect and treat Ringworm in Cats

07-01-2013 · Symptoms of Ringworm. The typical symptom is a crusty skin patch with missing hair or broken-off, stubble-like hair. You may also notice skin inflammation, dandruff, or nail infections. The cat may groom or scratch excessively. Lesions most commonly appear on the head, ears, tail or nails. Ringworm lesions may or may not cause irritation and itching.

07-01-2013

Although it’s called ringworm it’s not actually a worm. Ringworm is a fungus. It gets its descriptive name from how it appears on the skin as a raised, round ring, although not all infections look ring-like. The medical name for ringworm is dermatophytosis. This highly contagious fungal infection affects both pets and humans. Ringworm spores can be found on the animal or in the environment such on the bedding — anything that comes in contact with the animal’s hair. The microscopic organisms known as dermatophytes, feed on the keratin in the animal’s nails and hair.

In cats, ringworm is commonly found on the front legs, head, chest area and down the back.

How it’s Transmitted

Transmission occurs by coming in direct contact with the infected animal’s hair or by coming in contact items in an environment that have also been in contact with the animal’s hair. The fungal spores can live on items in the environment in a dormant state for up to 18 months.  Young cats, ones living in stressful conditions or cat-dense environments, geriatric cats and ones with compromised immune systems are more likely to become infected. Many healthy adults usually have a resistance to the fungal infection.

Symptoms of Ringworm

The typical symptom is a crusty skin patch with missing hair or broken-off, stubble-like hair. You may also notice skin inflammation, dandruff, or nail infections. The cat may groom or scratch excessively.  Lesions most commonly appear on the head, ears, tail or nails. Ringworm lesions may or may not cause irritation and itching.

Why Do Cats Groom so Much?

19-10-2016 · There are so many things to love about cats. One thing humans truly appreciate is that cats are very clean and take meticulous care when it comes to personal hygiene. In fact, grooming takes up a big chunk of a cat’s day. It’s estimated that cats can spend as much as 30-50 percent of their waking hours involved in grooming.

19-10-2016

why do cats groom so much

There are so many things to love about cats. One thing humans truly appreciate is that cats are very clean and take meticulous care when it comes to personal hygiene. In fact, grooming takes up a big chunk of a cat’s day. It’s estimated that cats can spend as much as 30-50 percent of their waking hours involved in grooming. All that grooming isn’t done just to look good. The grooming a cat does serves many important functions.

Good Coat Condition

Daily grooming helps the cat remove dander and loose hairs from the coat. As the cat licks, his tongue also spreads the sebum which contributes to giving the coat a beautiful luster.

After eating, the cat engages in a good face washing by licking his paws and using them as furry washcloths. Upon exiting the litter box, the cat will also typically do a little clean-up of the hindquarters.

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Even the cat’s nails are maintained through scratching behavior. When the cat digs his claws into the scratching post, he’s conditioning his claws by removing the outer dead nail sheath to reveal the healthy new growth beneath (cats need to scratch for a variety of reasons as well, not just for claw conditioning).

Parasite Control

Grooming helps the cat remove fleas, ticks and other external parasites. One of the reasons you may not even realize your cat has a flea problem is because of the meticulous grooming. You may never actually see a flea moving around on him. It often surprises many cat parents when they discover the reason for the cat’s skin irritation or constant itching is due to fleas.

Temperature Control

Cats have a limited ability to sweat through their paw pads. This is why you may notice those damp paw prints on the examination table when your cat is getting his yearly check-up. The most efficient cooling system they have is through evaporation. The cat uses his tongue to wet the fur and then evaporation of the saliva cools him down.

Self Scent Identification

Have you ever noticed how your cat may begin grooming himself after you’ve petted or brushed him? That’s because he wants to re-establish his own scent again. He’ll also often self groom after returning from the outdoors, the veterinary clinic or after returning home from any other travel.

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Displacement Grooming

This is the most common displacement behavior cats exhibit. It appears to be a valuable coping mechanism for dealing with stress and conflict. It may look odd to see a cat in a tense stand-off suddenly engage in self grooming but it’s most likely how he keeps his anxiety and arousal level in check. A cat may also use displacement grooming to deal with frustration, for example: the cat who isn’t let outside when he cries at the door may begin to groom.

How Cats Use Scent Communication - Answers, Why, When ...

05-12-2011 · How Cats Use Scent. Scent is used to identify members of the same colony, define territory, create familiarity, announce reproductive status, learn more about unfamiliar cats in the environment, self-soothe, bond with another, or as a form of covert aggression.

05-12-2011

how cats use scent communication

Scent matters to your cat. Scent is your cat’s calling card. It also tells your kitty lots of information about other cats in his environment. For your cat, scent is a valuable communication tool. Being the verbal species that we are, humans don’t truly appreciate the volumes of information provided in scent, but trust me, your cat is on the case. The scent he leaves behind is an encyclopedia of information about him.

Your Cat’s Scent Glands

Cats have scent glands on their paws pads, their cheeks, lips, forehead, flanks, tail and there are also two little anal glands on each side of the rectum that release a very strong-smelling liquid to mark the cat’s stool as it passes through (as if cat poo didn’t have enough of a smell!). Then of course there’s the scent of urine. Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or had a neighbor’s cat visit their garden is familiar with the smell of cat pee. If that urine belongs to an unneutered male then it increases the odor factor even more.

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Scent glands release pheromones. These pheromones are actually chemicals that provide information. In an outdoor setting, scent communication is vital because it reveals information about one cat to another without the risk (hopefully) of a physical confrontation. For an outdoor cat this is a very important survival benefit. The fewer physical altercations that occur, the greater the chances kitty will live unscathed to see another day.

How Cats Use Scent

Scent is used to identify members of the same colony, define territory, create familiarity, announce reproductive status, learn more about unfamiliar cats in the environment, self-soothe, bond with another, or as a form of covert aggression.

The scent glands around the face are identified as friendly or low-intensity. These are used when a cat is marking familiar objects he considers part of his turf, or when he’s depositing scent as a bonding gesture such as when head bunting. You’re also probably very familiar with the sight of your cat cheek-rubbing on objects in the home. This is a comforting behavior for him and reflects his sense of security and familiarity with the environment.

The scent glands in his paw pads get used when he scratches on objects for marking. In addition to leaving a visual mark from his claws, he leaves an olfactory mark through the scent glands. Now that’s an animal who really makes sure his presence is known!

Cat Training

21-05-2012 · Making the transition from outdoor life to indoor life can be a relatively easy one for a cat if you set up the indoor environment to be as interesting as the one she’s about to …

21-05-2012

turn an outdoor cat into an indoor cat

Making the transition from outdoor life to indoor life can be a relatively easy one for a cat if you set up the indoor environment to be as interesting as the one she’s about to leave behind. It will also be much safer.

What if the Cat Has Never Been Indoors?

First on the list is to take the cat to the veterinarian to make sure she’s healthy, get her vaccinated if she hasn’t already had that done and to start her on flea control. The only newcomer you want to bring into the house is the cat herself, and not an army of fleas of ticks.

While you’re at the veterinarian, talk to him/her about having the cat microchipped. That way, if she does escape out the door you’ll stand a much better chance of having her returned to you.

If you’re bringing in a stray cat or if you’ve decided your exclusively-outdoor cat should now live indoors, you can’t just bring her in and let her have the run of the house right away. She’ll need to get her bearings and you may need to do a little training before she goes exploring in the every room. Even though you may think after having access to the whole outdoors she should handle your 1800 sq. ft. house without a hitch, it won’t necessarily be a seamless transition. First of all, in the great outdoors, the cat could pee and poop wherever she pleased. I don’t think you’ll want that to be the case in your house. So confining her to one area while she adjusts to the litter box will be an important step. The same applies to scratching. Outside she had every tree and fence post at her disposal. Inside, you’ll want her using a designated scratching post and not your living room furniture.

three books by Pam Johnson-Bennett and a quote from AHA

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In the outdoor environment, the cat also had her own hiding places, favorite perches and other locations. The indoor environment will be totally unfamiliar to her and it can be overwhelming if you offer too much too soon.

If you’re bringing in a stray or a cat who hasn’t had much contact with you, confine her to a smaller area to allow you to start getting to know each other.

The Cat’s Sanctuary Room

I’ve talked and written so much about how to set up a sanctuary room, especially as it applies to introducing a second cat to a resident cat. For a cat who has never set foot inside your home, setting up a sanctuary room will also be needed to help speed up the acclimation process.

The sanctuary room is just a room you can close off – such as a bedroom. This is where all of kitty’s necessities will be located – her food and water bowls, litter box, scratching post and toys. There are also some extras to put in there as well that will be very helpful: hideaways and a cat tree or some kind of perch.

Hideaways for the Cat

The first thing the former outdoor cat may do when inside is to immediately seek out a hiding place. This is important because once she feels securely hidden, she can use that hiding place as her home base as she begins to get to know the environment. The hideaways can as simple as open paper bags placed on their sides, boxes on their sides, boxes turned upside down with an entrance hole cut in one side, soft-sided pet tunnels, etc. The more hideaways you spread around the room, the less likely kitty will hunker down under the bed.

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