Why do cats lick you?

Cats are known for their peculiar behavior, and one of the common behaviors is licking their human companions. While some cat owners may find it endearing, others may wonder why their feline friend engages in this behavior. In this article, we will explore the various reasons why cats lick their humans, from instinctual reasons to health-related reasons, and even problematic licking behavior.

Instinctual Reasons for Licking

Cats are known for their grooming behavior, and one of the reasons they lick their humans is because it is a way of grooming. Cats use their rough tongues to clean themselves, and they also use it to clean other cats in their social group. Licking is also a social bonding behavior that cats use to bond with their humans and other cats. Additionally, licking can be a way for cats to mark their territory, as they have scent glands in their mouths that they can use to leave their scent on objects or people.

Health-Related Reasons for Licking

Cats may also lick their humans for health-related reasons. For example, cats may lick their humans as a way of showing affection, similar to how they would groom their kittens. This behavior can be a sign of trust and love between the cat and their human companion. Additionally, licking can be a soothing behavior for cats, and they may lick their humans to provide comfort, especially if they sense that their human is feeling anxious or upset.

Finally, cats may also lick their humans if they detect salt or other minerals on their skin. Cats have a highly sensitive sense of smell, and they may be attracted to the taste of minerals on their human’s skin. While this behavior is not harmful, it can be a little uncomfortable for some people.

Problematic Licking

While licking is a natural behavior for cats, excessive or obsessive licking can become a problem. If a cat is constantly licking their human or themselves, it may be a sign of anxiety or stress. In some cases, excessive licking can even lead to hair loss or skin irritation, which can be harmful to the cat’s health.

If you notice that your cat is engaging in excessive licking behavior, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Additionally, it may be helpful to observe your cat’s behavior and identify any triggers that may be causing them stress or anxiety. Addressing these triggers and providing your cat with a comfortable and safe environment can help reduce their licking behavior.

In some cases, behavioral modification techniques, such as positive reinforcement training, may also be helpful in reducing excessive licking behavior. It is important to address any problematic licking behavior in cats to ensure their health and well-being.


In conclusion, cats lick their humans for various reasons, from instinctual grooming behavior to health-related reasons, such as providing comfort or affection. While licking is a natural behavior for cats, excessive or obsessive licking can become problematic and may be a sign of underlying anxiety or stress. By understanding the reasons behind a cat’s licking behavior and addressing any problematic behavior, cat owners can ensure the health and well-being of their feline friends.

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