Why Does My Cat Lick Me?

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio

Kitties do strange things sometimes, like lick your hands or hair. And you might be wondering why your feline friend would think that you need to be groomed.


Cats definitely have some interesting habits and quirky behaviors, one of which is licking their humans. Some kitties might lick your head every chance they get, while others might lick your arm while you’re cuddling with them. Although this might seem odd to you, when you look at it from a feline’s perspective, it starts to make sense.  

Why do cats lick you? Here are a few of the possible reasons why your companion might want to groom you like he would a fellow cat. 

A Way to Show Love, Mark Territory, and Bond with You 

There are a variety of  ways that your cat can show you that he loves you, and one of those is licking you. After all, kitties who get along groom one another and, as a result, leave their scent on each other. So, when your adorable feline licks you, he’s basically marking you as his own and showing you that he cares as he leaves his scent behind on your hair or skin. You belong to your kitty as much as he belongs to you, and this behavior proves that a strong bond exists. 

In addition, an adult cat who licks his favorite human may be exhibiting the same behavior that he experienced when he was a kitten interacting with his mother. His mother cared for him and cleaned him, and now your cat is doing the same to you. So, again, this is a positive behavior that your kitty uses to let you know that he considers you his family.   

Also, it might just be that your cat thinks you taste good. Maybe you touched some food and the scent is still on your skin, or maybe your kitty considers your sweat tasty.  

What To Do If You Don’t Want Your Cat Licking You

At first, you might find it cute if your cat licks your hair, face, or body. But if it happens too often or for too long, your cat licks and then  bites you, or you just don’t like it, you can train your kitty to stop. 

Another thing to consider is that, if you use skin care products, hair care products, or fragrances, you don’t want your kitty licking you and potentially ingesting something that he shouldn’t. This is another reason why you may want to stop your pet’s licking habit. 

Redirect your cat’s attention with play

There are easy ways to stop your cat from licking you. You might, for example, redirect his attention to a toy that he can lick and snuggle with instead, or you might have a quick interactive play session. 

A toy filled with catnip may do the trick of grabbing your pet’s attention, and your kitty may even end up licking it if he gets excited over catnip. Check out the  Yeowww! Pineapple Catnip Toy for Cats, which features durable cotton twill and organic catnip and makes a crinkle sound that attracts kitties. 

Note: Although you might think of distracting your cat with some food, this might end up teaching him that when he licks you he’s rewarded with something yummy. Therefore, it’s better to get him to focus on a toy so he can release his energy through play instead.  

Move your cat gently away from you

If you think that your cat is licking you to get your attention, giving him more attention might reinforce this behavior, so keep that in mind. For example, instead of talking to or petting your cat, you might try gently moving him whenever he starts licking you so he learns that you don’t like it. 

No matter what, don’t be harsh and don’t punish your cat for licking you because it’s likely a sign that he cares about you, and you don’t want to cause any stress or fear.  

Can’t Figure It Out? Talk to an Expert

Although your kitty’s behavior can come from a positive place, there are also times when licking would be deemed abnormal and require the help of an expert. 

For example, some cats might lick people and various objects or they might even lick themselves excessively if there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed, such as a health concern, stress, or anxiety. 

If you can’t figure out why your cat licks you, or you think that your kitty is trying to tell you that something is wrong, talk to a veterinarian to get answers and implement the right solutions so your pet can feel better. Then, once the underlying problem is resolved, the licking may stop.

A Typically Normal, Affectionate Behavior

Some cats like to lick their human family as a sign of affection, and this wouldn’t be considered abnormal behavior. If your kitty has always been the type to lick you, you might even be able to predict when he’s going to do it. And if you don’t like it, there are things you can do to stop it. But if this behavior comes out of nowhere or becomes excessive, it might be a sign that something is wrong, so ask your vet just to be sure. 

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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