Your cat licking your face may seem weird and might even freak you out. For one thing, its sandpaper-like texture feels tingly and uncomfortable.
What’s more, many perceive cats as four-legged creatures that are incapable of affection. This makes a good number of cat owners wonder: why does my cat lick my face?
Every true blue cat person knows that cats like to lick themselves clean. Since their licking behavior is often associated with grooming, you might think that your cat is trying to clean you up. Whether this is true or not, you’ll soon find out.
The “site” to be when it comes to cat food, training tips, and cat behavior, Feline Living is here to tell you everything you need to know about your cat’s licking behavior – whether it’s normal or not, the possible reasons behind their licking, and more.
Cat Licking: Is It Normal? Why Does It Hurt?
Yes, cat licking is a normal behavior so don’t worry. You don’t have to talk to your vet just yet. Just like other animals (think dogs) licking is a hard habit to break.
If you’ve noticed, your cat’s tongue feels rough, unlike the wet, slobber-filled tongue we often expect. This is because a cat's tongue is covered with small, curved spines called papillae.
These brush-like spines, which are made using the same material as your cats’ claws, are the reason behind the prickly sensation you get when your cat licks your face.
Why Does My Cat Lick My Face? What Is My Cat Trying To Tell Me?
While it’s true that your pet cat grooms themselves to remove dirt and loose fur and achieve that purr-fect, tangle-free fur, your pet cats also have this social bonding thing called “allogrooming.”
Allogrooming is a practice wherein cats (kittens included) groom each other to build relationships and establish social ranking. So where does this leave you?
Well, besides grooming you to your feline friend’s level of purr-fection, your cat may lick your face, your hair, and other parts of your body for various reasons. Here are the things your cat might be trying to tell you every time your cat licks you.
“I Like You”
Yes, you read it right. Your cat is probably licking you because your pet cat likes, appreciates, and cares for you. Simply put, it's their way of showing affection.
As mentioned earlier, cats groom other cats to create a social bond. Mother cats groom their kittens to make them feel safe and show them that they care. The same applies when your cat licks you or other humans and animals.
“You Belong To Me”
Mother cats lick their kittens, not only to clean them up using their spine-covered tongue but also to leave their scent and claim them as their own. It’s very similar to scratching, cheek rubbing, or even spraying.
So why does your cat lick your face when you’re not her kitty? Most likely, your cat is licking you to tell other cats that “this human is mine.” Think of it as their way of “marking their territory” and telling you that “you’re now a part of its pride.”
“You Taste Or Smell Good”
Apart from showing you their affection and telling you that you belong to them, one reason why your cats are licking you is that you smell or taste good.
Cats, as we all know, are curious creatures. And for cats, humans can have an interesting scent worth testing out. Now, don’t worry. They don’t see you as food.
They might find the scent of your lotion or shampoo fascinating. They may also find the smell of your perspiration intriguing since sweat contains sugar and salts.
“Hey, Look At Me!”
Like pawing, meowing, or even knocking stuff over, your cat’s licking is also their way of telling you that they require some attention.
When it comes to attention, anything goes for cats. Being petted is the best. You might also want to feed them or play with them, but being reprimanded or shooed away works fine for them as well. As long as they’re able to get you to notice them, it’s a win-win for your cat.
“I Need Comfort”
That’s right. A cat may lick your face whenever they want to feel at ease. You see, a kitten that was abandoned by the mother cat before they turn 8-weeks old or a kitty that was weaned too early may become orally fixated. Licking gives them the same comfort that nursing provides.
Excessive licking can also serve as a stress displacement behavior. If this is the case, you might want to visit your veterinarian.
Remember, cats tend to be control freaks. As such, moving to a new home, the presence of a new pet or family member, or loud noises can make your pet cat or kitten anxious. When this happens, your cat may try to relieve its stress through licking.
Your pet cat licking you or the objects around them may also be a sign of an underlying health condition. Pain, nausea, and discomfort brought about by inflammatory bowel disease and the like can result in excessive licking. If you think this is the case, contact your vet right away.
When Is Licking Considered Excessive?
Licking or grooming is generally considered normal. However, when your cat’s licking starts to interfere with its quality of life, you can consider this a sign that something is wrong.
If your cat is grooming or licking like crazy you’ll most likely find bald spots when you check your cat’s mane.
The incessant licking may also result in hair loss and raw, irritated skin. If this is your cat, getting veterinary advice right away is a great idea.
Should I Let My Cats Lick My Face?
Getting a full-on tongue bath from your cat might seem okay despite the rough tongue. However, there are risks.
If you think about it, cat saliva isn’t really hygienic. Like humans, you’ll also find different kinds of bacteria in your cat’s mouth. Allowing your cat to lick your bare skin when you have an open wound may result in an infection, especially if you are immunocompromised.
Then again, this rarely happens. But why risk it? As always, prevention is better than cure.
Tips On How To Make Your Cat Stop Licking You
If you can’t get past your cat’s rough tongue (which is really difficult given its scratchy feeling) and you don’t want to be licked, you don’t have to punish your cat and ruin that cat-human bond you’ve already established.
Besides wearing something to cover your skin, there are a couple of paws-ome tricks you can try to stop or at least reduce the cat licks to the bare minimum.
Encourage Mental & Physical Activity
Since many cats tend to call for attention whenever they feel bored, you’d want to keep them distracted or busy. Scheduling regular play time sessions with your cats is ideal. Alternatively, you can also give your cat a toy or a food puzzle.
Redirect Their Attention
You can try petting your cat when your cat starts to lick your face. If you’re pretty busy, you might want to redirect their focus by tossing food, a toy, or a treat in a different direction (somewhere far from you but not too far).
Yes, that’s right. Sometimes, you just need to stand up and walk away. Hopefully, your cat will associate licking with your disappearance and will get the message that you don’t like being licked.
Remember, you don’t have to ignore your cat completely. Ignore your pets only when they start with their lick fest.
Keep ‘Em Calm
If stress and anxiety are the reasons behind your cat’s incessant licking, your best course of action is to figure out what’s stressing your cat and try to remove that from the picture. If it can’t be removed, make sure to give your cat lots of “me-time” or hiding places.
Now, if all else fails, you can always seek the expert advice of a trusted veterinarian. Your vet might be able to refer you to an animal behaviorist who can provide ways on how you can help your cat cope with stress.
If your cats lick you, don’t fret. They may want to taste you, but they won’t actually eat you because they know you don’t taste as good as their favorite cat food.
Jokes aside, you should instead feel grateful when your cats lick you. Why?
Whether or not your cat is stressed, bored, sick, or orally fixated, one thing is for sure. Your pet cat is licking you because they trust you.
They wouldn’t even bother licking you if they feel threatened or intimidated by you. When your cats lick you, it simply means that they feel comfortable around you, and that they like you.
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