If your cat is exhibiting this type of behavior and you want to learn more about it, keep on reading.
Why do cats lick their bodies?
A cat’s habit of licking is instinctive and has been with the cat since it was a kitten.
It starts very early on with the kitten’s mother licking it immediately after birth to clean the kitten, as well as to stimulate it to excrete urine and feces. Mom cats will also lick the kitten’s fur to encourage it to breastfeed more.
At around four weeks old, kittens learn to self-groom. At this stage, they will start grooming their siblings and even their mother. The habit of grooming their siblings will carry on well into adulthood.
Cats will clean their fur and body by licking themselves. Licking can remove dirt and even parasites, while keeping the fur and skin smooth and clean. Licking also keeps the body cool when the saliva evaporates.
Licking their bodies also stimulates glands on the skin to secrete substances that keep the cats’ coats from getting wet.
Self-grooming can also help reduce anxiety, lessen depression, and minimize conflict. This is also a cat’s way of delaying behavior. Delayed behavior happens when cats have the motivation to perform two or more different behaviors at the same time. If the cat cannot do either of these behaviors, a third behavior will arise.
For example, if your cat is in a situation where they feel threatened, the only initial choices they may have are to run away or to fight the threat. In this situation, the cat may opt to groom itself instead of either action. Grooming will reassure the cat and allow it to calm down.
Sometimes, your cat will use licking to relieve stress so much that it can cause injuries, such as hair loss or even infections. If this happens, take your cat to the vet as there could be an underlying health issue causing this behavior that may need medical intervention.
Why does my cat lick my kitten’s bum?
Cat mothers normally lick their kittens to clean them. This is also why the mother will lick a kitten’s bum. Cats use their tongues to lick a kitten’s bum to stimulate the urine hole and anus so that the kitten has an easier time peeing and pooping.
After the kitten pees and poops, the mother cat will clean it again. That is why mother cats are prone to diarrhea at this stage; they may ingest waste while cleaning off their babies.
Why does my cat lick me?
1. It is their way of bonding with you.
Cats will rub their head and body on another cat, as well as lick the top of its head or ear to groom it and show affection. The same goes when they lick their humans.
Cats also like to lick each other and other animals to transfer their scent. This is vital for a cat because it tells the other cat that they are friends.
2. Your cat is complimenting you.
When your cat licks you, it is telling you that it feels safe and is thankful for everything you do for it. In the same way that cats lick their siblings or mother, it will lick you because it considers you to be a part of its family.
3. They are marking you as territory.
There are numerous ways cats mark their territory. These include cheek rubbing, scratching, spraying, and licking. When your cat is licking you, it is claiming you as something that it owns.
This is their way of telling other cats and animals that you belong to them.
4. The cat is grooming you.
Your cat does not realize that when they lick you, they are not really cleaning you. This behavior is completely natural to them. Mother cats groom their kittens to teach them to do it themselves, to show affection, and to bond.
In a group of cats, the cats will often designate an allo-groomer who licks and grooms all the other cats in the group.
In your relationship with your cat, it is taking on the role of allo-groomer, cleaning you and establishing your membership in the group.
5. It tastes something interesting.
Your cat may be licking you because it tastes something interesting on your skin. Maybe you spilled something or came into contact with something that left a residue on your skin. If it is warm or you have been exercising, your sweat tastes salty and your cat likes it. Despite using their tongues for grooming, cats actually have a more muted sense of taste than humans. Strong tastes on your skin will be very interesting to your kitty.
6. Your cat wants attention.
Another reason why your cat licks you is because it wants your attention. It is calling for your attention to maybe pet it, feed it, play with it, or just spend time with it.
How do I get my cat to stop licking me?
Unless your cat is grooming excessively or is repeatedly licking you, it really is nothing to worry about. Licking is part of a cat’s natural behavior. But because of a cat’s rough tongue, it can be quite annoying to have it constantly licking you.
If you want to stop this behavior, the most effective thing to do is to redirect its attention. For example, if your cat likes to cuddle, try to cuddle and pet it to distract it from licking.
You can also use toys and cat trees to divert its attention with play. Or you can simply walk away from your cat if the licking becomes excessive.
Your cat will lick your kitten’s bum because mother cats like to clean every inch of a kitten’s body. They lick the bum to stimulate the orifices to make peeing and pooping easier for the kitten.
In general, cats like to lick because that is how they show affection. They will groom you because you are part of the family. They will lick to show you they are appreciative of you. They will also lick you to get your attention, taste something on your skin, or mark you as their territory.
Image: istockphoto.com / Valentyna Gupalo