Depending on how you personally feel, it may be cute or strange when your cat licks you. You know that you don’t have especially tasty skin, but that doesn’t stop your cat from licking you every time they get a chance. This behavior is quirky, but in your cat’s world, it makes complete sense. They're telling you something every time they lick your arm.
Your Cat Loves You!
We often oversimplify or misunderstand animal emotions. We don’t know if love means the same thing to people as it does to animals.
We do know that licking between cats, especially mommy cats and their kitten babies, is an affectionate form of stimulation. Your cat was taught from the time that they were a kitten that licking
others is a sign of care. They could be referring back to this knowledge and using it to show that they care about you.
Your Cat is Claiming You
If other cats are skeptical of you after your cat licks you or nudges you, this is by design. Your cat knows what they’re doing, and they’re being a little possessive. Marking territory doesn’t always involve inappropriately urinating. All it requires is remnants of your cat’s scent.
Although you may regard your cat as your baby, they might be viewing the situation from the opposite perspective. Licking, nudging, and headbutting are ways your cat can mark you with their scent. When they do this, they’re declaring ownership over you. They want other cats to know that you’re already claimed.
Your Cat is Taking Care of You
Cats establish a social order within their friend groups. A large group of cats can sometimes have a designated groomer. That’s the cat whose role it is to make sure their cat family is cleaned and groomed. Your cat may have assigned themselves that role in your household. They could be licking you because they think it's their job.
Cats are also somewhat passive aggressive. Has your cat ever brought you toys or even small animals they’ve hunted? Your cat thinks you’re bad at playing or hunting and believes they’re doing you a favor. They could be grooming you because he thinks you’re dirty or that you’re bad at grooming yourself since they haven’t quite witnessed you licking yourself.
You Taste Good to Your Cat
If your cat is licking your hands after you’ve eaten ice cream, pizza, or some other human treat that your cat isn’t allowed to have, they're tasting the remnants of something delicious. You won’t give them their own scoop or slice, and they're living vicariously from the food you haven’t yet washed off of your hands.
In some cases, your cat may like the salty taste on your skin after you sweat. If your cat is particularly affectionate with you after you get home from the gym or when you’ve just finished the yard work, it’s the salt flavor they're chasing. Some cats may like the way salt tastes, but it’s unsafe to add additional sources of salt to their diet. Your sweat is the compromise.
Your Cat is Trying to Tell You Something
Licking is a discrete and polite way to get your attention. Some cats will softly meow at you and some cats will yell at you. Your cat might gently bop you with their paw to get your attention, or full-on swat you with intent. It all depends on your cat’s preferred style of communication.
Licking could be a reminder that your cat is hungry or a polite way of asking for a treat. It could mean your cat is in the mood to play, or that they’re overdue for a belly rub.
In some cases, licking can be a coping strategy for anxiety. If your cat feels upset, nervous, or unsafe, they might be licking you as a distraction or for reassurance. If you know your cat very well, you should be able to determine their mood simply by looking at them.
If they don’t seem playful or sleepy when they’re licking you, it could be that they’re asking for your help. Wide eyes and a heightened sense of alertness are usually indicators that your cat wants reassurance or help.
It could also be the result of your cat perceiving that you’re anxious, upset, or nervous. They might be trying to soothe you because they're sensitive to your emotional needs. Cats communicate visually, and your cat may be able to pick up subtleties in your mood that the people around you don’t see. If your cat runs up to lick you when you’re having a tough day, it’s an incredibly thoughtful gesture.
Why Does My Cat’s Tongue Feel Like Sandpaper?
Although it’s weird to be repetitively licked, most of the reasons why your cat is licking you are very wholesome and sweet. It usually indicates how well they're bonded with you. The only problem is that their love might hurt — a cat’s tongue is covered in tiny spines, making the equivalent of a kiss feel more like a mild scratch.
Cats use their tongues as a tool. These papillae, or tiny spines, help them to use their tongue practically. Spines help them to drink water, eat food, and groom themselves. These spines are very similar in form and function to a hair comb that helps your cat clean their coat.
There’s nothing inherently harmful about your cat licking you. If you’re willing to tolerate the rough texture of your cat’s tongue because you appreciate the gesture of their affection, you don’t have to make them stop. Simply respond in kind by scratching their favorite spot behind their ears or at the base of their tail to establish mutual affection.
If you would rather your cat didn’t lick you, stand up and promptly answer what you believe their request to be. Moving them away or moving yourself away will be perceived as a dismissive gesture. Eventually, your cat will get the point.
When Licking Behavior is Troubling
Cats that excessively lick or overgroom are usually experiencing high levels of stress. This stress can be environmental or rooted in fear. Although dogs are the pet that has developed a reputation for fearing thunderstorms or loud noises, cats aren’t much different. Many cats get nervous when they’re bombarded by stimuli that they don’t understand.
If your cat’s excessive licking seems to correlate with anxious behavior, you need to calm your cat down. Speaking to a vet about your cat’s anxiety can help, as can a thorough behavioral examination.
For feelings of stress and tension, CBD extract may help. VETCBD Hemp’s third-party lab tested, 100% organic, American-grown hemp CBD tincture is formulated especially for pets. CBD can help to promote relaxation or a sense of calmness in pets, just like it can in humans.
CBD doesn’t get your pet high. It works to support the systems within your cat’s body. It can support gastrointestinal health, healthy nervous system function, and normal brain functioning. Older cats will enjoy CBD for its supportive benefits to joint mobility. It’s a safe and natural supplement to promote balance in your pet’s wellbeing.
If you’re concerned that your cat’s licking may be problematic behavior, talk to your vet about introducing CBD extract into your cat’s wellness routine. We’re a team of vets ourselves, and we value this holistic approach to support the health of your cat so they can lick for love instead of stress.
Your cat meows mostly for you | Science Norway
What to do if your cat is marking territory | Humane Society