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 that little 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 and also how they maintain their coats. 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 also a way cats cool themselves. 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.
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.