What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks a Cat?

What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks a Cat

When a dog licks a cat, it is saying that it sees the cat as a superior. Dogs lick other dogs, other animals, and humans as a way to show submission and to tell them that it views them as the alpha. This behavior is especially common in households where the cat was the first pet and the dog was introduced later as a puppy.

If you have observed this habit between your pets, and you wish to know more about it, then keep on reading.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Licks a Cat?

When a cat and a dog are first introduced to each other, it is normal for them to be wary of and awkward with each other. Things may even become aggressive, so the owner should always supervise the first couple of interactions before leaving them to play on their own. But as time goes by, a natural order of things will fall into place and you will observe behavior such as the dog licking the cat’s face. Here are some theories as to why a dog licks a cat:

Pack behavior

Wild ancestors of domesticated cats and dogs were pack animals, so it is not surprising for them to retain some pack behaviors despite going through generations of domestication. Dogs will lick as a way to show submission towards animals or humans they consider to be their superiors. So, when you see your dog licking your cat, it may be saying that it sees the cat as its superior. The dog may also simply want something the cat has.

Positive reinforcement

Dogs will also lick a cat as a response to positive reinforcement, such as food, treats, and pets from humans and animals. So, when you praise and pet your dog when it licks you, it will lick you when it wants to be called a good boy and get pets.

The same is true for cats. When a cat reacts positively while being licked by your dog, the dog will repeat the licking behavior in the future.

If you notice puppies constantly licking your cat, the puppies must have made a good impression with your kitty, because through the act of licking, your dog is being affectionate with the cat.


Dogs have a sense of smell 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than a human’s. This strong sense of smell helps them detect smells from far off distances with no difficulty. When a dog picks up a smell that interests them, they will want to taste the source of the fascinating smell. So, when a dog licks a cat, one major reason might be the cat’s smell. And if your dog really adores your cat, they will most likely want to lick anything that smells even remotely like your cat.


Dogs also groom themselves as well as animals or humans that they care for, just like cats do. When your dog licks your cat, it considers the cat to be part of its pack or family. Because cats also enjoy grooming themselves and others, if they are just as fond of the dog, they will also lick the dog to return the favor.

Normally, the submissive pet is at the receiving end of a grooming session, but different households have different situations.

Does my cat enjoy getting licked by my dog?

Even though your dog is showing signs that it likes your cat, is the feeling mutual? Licking behavior is cute, but as an owner, you must always be aware of how your cat feels about getting licked. This is because cats still really value their personal space and too much physical contact with a dog may annoy or irritate them.

Be sure to oversee their interactions to note signs of impending aggression from your cat. Warning signs like hissing when your dog approaches your cat to lick it is enough to maybe separate the two. Always make sure that your dog does not become too rough with the cat as this causes the cat to lose patience.

If your cat shows signs of friendliness, like purring and closing its eyes when the dog licks it, this may indicate the start of a good relationship. Despite these positive signs, continue supervising them to make sure your dog does not get too excited and worked up and become aggressive.

If your pets have been together for some time and have shown nothing but love and care toward each other, then you have no need to worry about your dog licking your cat. It may just be part of their routine moving forward. Continue to train both pets for discipline and to maintain peace as their bond becomes even stronger.

Maintaining the peace between cats and dogs

As mentioned above, if your dog licks your cat, their relationship is in a good place. But this is not a guarantee that fights can never break out. So, here are some tips to consider:

1. Give them sufficient food and water.

No matter how close the bond your pets may have, when food is involved, it may be a different story. So, it is important that you provide your cat and dog with enough food and water everyday.

2. Spend equal time with your pets.

Both cats and dogs can feel jealous if they notice you spending more time with the other pet. So, make sure that you spend an equally sufficient bonding time with both pets individually so they never feel neglected or left out.

3. Periodic vet visits.

Be sure that you are always keeping up with your pets’ health. Any sick animal can be in a bad mood because it is under the weather. Taking your pets to the vet for scheduled check-ups will ensure their health is always at 100%, and a healthy pet is a happy pet.


A dog licks your cat because of retained pack behavior, positive reinforcement, the cat’s smell, or grooming habits. Whatever the reason may be, this behavior usually indicates that your dog adores your cat, and as long as your cat is enjoying the attention, there really is no need to worry about it.

Image: istockphoto.com / Arkadova