My cat never licks me.
But my friends’ cats act like they are grooming their humans as one of their own. It is perfectly understandable to want to know why cats do this.
We are spending so much time with our cats and understanding our feline companion’s behavior is key to a healthy relationship between us and our cats.
Why Do Cats Lick?
I am sure you have noticed that cats’ tongues are very weird.
While dog tongues are smooth like humans, cats’ are rough and feel like sandpaper.
This is because their tongues are covered in papillae, which are made of keratin. These papillae are made of the same material as their claws. It allows them to drink water and groom themselves.
Cats have a reputation for being incredibly clean. The way their tongues are shaped helps them remove dirt from their shiny fur.
If for some reason her tongue does not manage to clean her fur, she will use her teeth and nibble gently to get rid of any residue or matted fur. This hypnotic and calm self-grooming act is called preening.
Cats are self-cleaning animals; this comes from birth.
The mother bites and licks to open the placenta and helps the baby to breathe for the first time. She licks the kitten till she is no longer wet from amniotic fluid. The mother has to lick her kittens every few hours to help them urinate and defecate till the third week, which is when kittens can start to do these things themselves.
While this act is for hygiene maintenance for the kittens, it also reinforces the bond between them. It is a behavior that sticks with them even when they become adults, even if they are with other adult cats.
If you introduce two cats and they get used to each other, you will witness them starting to groom one another as a sign of affection between them.
In some cases, you might witness that some cats lick themselves excessively. This is not normal behavior, in fact, it is a sign of a high level of stress or anxiety. It is a way to release their accumulated tension. When they lick you a lot, this is also a sign of stress and it is called psychogenic alopecia. This can lead to bald spots or rashes.
You should try to find the cause of the stress to see if it is something you can eliminate in order to improve their well-being. The cause of the stress can be many things such as a new member joining the household, loud noises, unfamiliar smells or a new animal.
If you cannot find the cause and your cat keeps doing it, I would advise you to take your furry companion to the vet to see if there is a physiological problem.
Why Does My Cat Lick Me?
If your cat licks you, take it as a compliment!
First, we need to understand one thing: Dogs see you as their owner and cats see you –if they want to– as their pack member. They see you as a big (size-wise) cat. If they like you, they will show you affection as their mother showed them.
This affection can come in many different forms and it may not always be very nice.
They might preen, knead, or headbutt you. They might also bring you “gifts” like dead or alive mice, birds, lizards, or various insects because they see you as a horrible hunter and think you need help in that department. They usually decide whether or not to bring these gifts alive based on how bad of a hunter they think you are. But hey, that is a different topic.
Cats are territorial animals.
They have different methods of delimiting their territory. This is not only limited to marking their space. It can include objects and humans as well. They mark you with their smell to let everyone know that you belong to them. Licking can allow them to exchange scents to strengthen their bond with you.
Your cat might lick you and rub her face against your body. Cats have scent glands at the top of their heads and they “mark” you with it during those head bunt sessions.
You can observe this behavior a lot more if you pet another animal and then come home and let your cat smell you.
This is to let other cats know who you belong to.
Although this type of behavior is perfectly normal, it can cause territorial problems at home if you have more than one cat, so be careful with this.
Another reason for excessive licking can be oral fixation which develops in some cats who were orphaned or weaned prematurely. Because they couldn’t suckle their mom as kittens, licking can be a substitute for that experience.
Therefore, if your cat licks you, take it as a compliment!
Last but not least, if you have a senior cat that has taken a liking to lick you all of a sudden, you might want to head to the vet because this could be a sign of hyperthyroidism which can cause behavior changes in cats.
Why Does My Cat Lick Me and Then Bite Me?
We are all familiar with this scenario: One moment your cat is licking you so peacefully that you are recording it to send to some friends to show how adorable she is. And then, suddenly, she bites you!
There is no one simple answer to this situation that would explain everything and stop them from doing it.
Cats lick and groom us as a sign of affection. In these intimate grooming sessions, there is a possibility that your cat might bite you while she licks you. This is due to using her teeth because she cannot remove the “dirt”. But also, it might be a sign that she is angry or that she wants to play with you.
You might think that she came to you and started to groom you as her choice but this doesn’t change the fact that she might all of a sudden feel that it is enough and wants to leave or be left alone.
Nonetheless, congratulations! You are part of her family.
Cats are weird. When you say their name or make eye contact, they turn into this furball and show their bellies and hypnotize you into petting them. And the moment you touch that soft, fluffy, irresistible belly, they bite you.
Sometimes you just pet your cat exactly where she shows she wants you to pet her and after a few touches, she starts biting. I am sure every person who likes cats must have gone through this at least one time.
If she starts biting you when you are petting her and she thinks that it is a game, then you have a few options.
If your cat is a kitten, then it will be easier to teach them that biting is not okay. You need to be consistent and when she bites you, you should stop showing affection immediately and react vocally by saying “no!”. This is how they will understand that biting is not something you approve and in order to have your attention, they have to change this behavior. You also need to vocally state that you do not approve of this and that it hurts you.
If you want further information on different causes of biting, you may refer to my earlier article called why does my cat bite me?
When cats are part of a litter, and they hurt each other while playing, they will let each other know by biting back or meowing angrily. While you tell your cat that she hurts you when she bites, you should encourage positive attitudes to show her what is acceptable.
But if you play with her using your hands and feet, she will see them as toys that she can play with and bite. Always use toys when you are having playtime with your cat.
If you have an adult cat, you should do the same, but it might take longer for them to accept and adapt. Do not yell at them, never ever hit them. You need to be patient. Consistency is very essential.
While we cannot read the minds of our cats, we can try to read their behaviors and learn to understand how they say, ‘I love you’. It gets easier after spending a bit of time with them.
Here are some things cats do that show they feel affectionate towards you:
13 Ways Your Cat Shows You Love
1. Showing Their Belly
Like most animals, cats do not show their stomachs to just anyone.
It is the most vulnerable part of their body. You might have already noticed that stray cats are always very alert even when they look like they are sleeping.
Their paws are tucked underneath, and they never show their belly.
If your cat rolls over on her back to show you her fuzzy belly, this is an indication that she feels comfortable around you. She feels loved and protected by you, rendering herself defenseless.
2. Following You Around
This is a type of behavior that you would expect from your dog but when your cat does it, it means she cannot get enough of your companionship.
You can notice this especially if it is not close to her feeding time. She will follow you room to room, even jump onto furniture to get closer to you. When you observe this, you can be sure that she loves your company. She might even come to fetch you if you stay in bed too long without her or if you close the door to the bathroom and try to have some alone time.
If you close your bedroom door at night and don’t let her in, she will repeatedly scratch the door or meow constantly until you give up, open the door and let her in. It’s all out of love! Well, maybe a little bit out of nosiness as well.
This behavior may seem very odd, but it shows that your cat absolutely loves you and cares about you.
Cats have glands that are hidden in their cheeks and heads and various other parts of their bodies. When she even lightly brushes against you, she can still mark you with her scent to declare you as her property or her family. However, you would like to believe. For kittens, this familiar scent is a great comfort and it helps them to calm down.
4. Rubbing Against Your Legs
Sometimes, when you come home after a long workday feeling very tired and your cat runs through the door to greet you, rubs herself against your legs and she immediately makes you feel like she is happy to see you.
You are right to feel this because that is how she shows her affection. That, and she is putting her scent on you as a way of claiming you as her own. Just like when she head-butts you. It helps you develop a deeper bond with your cat to allow her to do it.
5. Sitting on You
Cats are known for not being interested in physical contact but once you meet a friendly cat, you will see that quite a bit of them like to be in physical contact and sit on your lap.
It is due to both showing affection and using your body heat in cold weather. But you may also see some very stubborn cats who will follow you around and try to sit on your lap or lean on your body even when it is too hot. Then you can be sure that she is doing it to be close to you and to feel your presence.
This happens a lot more if you are living alone with your cat. It gets easier for them to bond with you and get used to you.
Kneading is when your cat uses her paws to push in and out against a surface like your lap, or arm. Just like making biscuits.
This is one of the things you can be sure that means your cat is saying “I love you” to you.
If your cat comes up to your lap and starts kneading while you pet her, she is returning the fondness. Unluckily, this show of affection can be very painful. Because the happier she gets, the harder she will dig in with her sharp nails.
Regular nail trimming can be very helpful in this situation. If you don’t know how to do it, ask your vet to do it for you during her regular check-ups.
To ease the painfully sharp nails, you can also use a soft blanket as a barrier between her and your body. It helps a ton.
7. Sleeping on You
You might have a king-size bed and a huge sofa, but your cat will still somehow find sitting on your lap or sleeping on your chest a lot more comfortable.
I don’t know who wouldn’t like this scenario but in case you are wondering why she does this; she does it because she wants to be close to you.
8. Responding to Your Call
When you have a guest over and they want to get your cat’s attention by calling her name, your cat can act like she is deaf.
But, when you call her, she immediately responds. Well, this should make you proud, shouldn’t it?
You might have heard your cat purr many times on many different occasions before, but you may not have realized that this is a loving purr.
Cats’ purr can mean a variety of things. It can be from delight, an expression of concern or even to ease their pain. It can range from a soft and subtle to incredibly loud truck-like purr. You can be sure that she is doing it to show her affection and contentment.
Also meowing. Cats don’t meow to other cats to communicate, they do it only to humans. Your cat is talking to YOU. If you pay attention, you can notice the difference between meows when she tries to tell you what she wants.
10. Approaching You With Their Tail Pointing Straight-up
The tail of a cat works as a barometer into how your cat feels about you or her habitat.
You can read all her emotions from her tail. All you have to do is pay attention.
It affects your cat’s perceptions about you. Another way to understand a cat’s feelings is when you see her tail straight up while she gently flickers the tip of her tail. The tail’s shape usually looks like a candy cane, but it slightly quivers and well, it is furry.
They also say that this tail curve “is sometimes called the happy tail dance.” You can read a lot of emotions from her tail such as whether she is in a good mood or on edge, scared or content.
Some people say that this is one of the reasons why cats cannot get along with dogs.
Dogs wag their tails super-fast when they are happy, and it gets faster and faster as their excitement increases whereas cats wag their tails fast when they are angry or annoyed.
11. Bringing You Presents
Your cat might not bring you toys to play with but there is a bigger chance that she may bring you a dead animal or worse, animals. It depends on how “lucky” you are.
You might find this very weird, but this is also another way of your cat showing you that she likes you and she cares about you. This is how she likes to show her love towards you.
If your cat loves you and if she is a good hunter, she will bring a lot of gifts to you. Natural born hunter cats will catch various things from toys to birds, socks to mice and unfortunately, they will share the prize with the ones they cherish.
There may also be instances where you might see your cat playing with a dead mouse (or one that wishes to be dead!) and after that, the mouse is nowhere to be seen.
In a way, you might think that this is better because you don’t have to clean up after her but you might also want to reconsider your relationship with your cat since she doesn’t want to share this gift with you.
However, cats may also bring you dead animals because they think you are a bad hunter. If they bring you an alive pray, then it means they are trying to teach you how to hunt. If it is dead, then they think you are a very, very bad hunter and you are not yet capable of killing prey.
So, they bring you dead one for you to not starve to death. Come to think of it, it is a very nice gesture.
12. Making Eye Contact With You/Slow Blink
It is a very hard thing to see a stray cat blink or make long eye contact with you.
If you try to make eye contact for a long time it makes them feel agitated and threatened. They usually get really uncomfortable and sometimes they leave. This happens when the cat is tameless. It is a whole other deal with your cat.
If your cat is staring at you and slowly blinking, she is showing you that she trusts you and the slow blink is the equivalent of being kissed by her.
This might be the easiest body language for humans to understand. Just watch her eyes and see if she will open her eyes wide and then slowly blink to tell you she loves and trusts you. This is referred to as a ‘kitty kiss’. Cats only make eye contact with the people they like.
When there are other cats around, you may see cats slow blinking a lot. This is a way for them to let other cats know that everything is cool.
13. Tolerating the Affection
You might realize that your cat doesn’t like it when you kiss her, but she tolerates it. S
he might duck, she might give you grumpy looks but if she doesn’t run away, you can consider this as a victory.
In some cases, they like to touch you before you try to pet them! There are a ton of videos on the internet where cats are tapping their human’s shoulder and demanding to get some affection.
Can Cats Be Obsessed With Their Owners?
Your cat getting overly attached to you can happen from the first time you two meet, or you might have a bad start but gradually she learns to trust you. It all depends on how you met.
If you rescued a cat when she was in bad shape, you will have a quite different bond from a cat adopted from a shelter or from someone that treated her well. If she was a stray, wounded or scared, it might and probably will take you a long time to make her truly trust you.
Because unfortunately, most people are not nice towards stray animals. They think strays are dirty disease carriers and will attack them for no reason. All these negative behaviors cause the cat trauma and it becomes very hard for her to trust people and you end up trying to change her perspective towards people. She will probably be terrified of noises and sudden movements.
If you are patient and gentle you will be rewarded with gratitude. She will not trust other people as much as she trusts you. This might look like she is obsessed with you. After all, cats are not famous for their trusting abilities.
There are some possible explanations for why cats get attached to only one person. It could be the person’s approach, voice, smell or simply how that person treats her.
When cats are with their trusted human, they get chattier and playful. But when they are with strangers, they are much less chatty, and you can see that all they want is to leave the premises immediately.
This type of behavior can be seen in young children when they are with adults they are not acquainted with.
So, knowing that cats are not very into trusting people and seeing that she cannot get enough of you is a priceless and very fulfilling experience.