Is it okay to lick my cat?

Is the question relevant to our lives? People ask it nonetheless. But frankly it is almost irrelevant. However, exceedingly rarely some cat owners do lick their cat and an avowed and self-declared crazy cat lady does it all the time because she wants to behave like a true mother cat caring for her newborn kittens. Only she is a woman and her cats are not kittens. But no problem. She said:

I know everybody knows I’m a crazy f***ing cat lady. I’m in my fifties. I don’t have any children. I never wanted any children. These are my babies. If I was a momma cat I would clean them just like that.

Crazy cat lady

Here she is enjoying her daily cat licking ritual. I think it must make her feel good. I think she feels that she is being a particularly good mom to her cats who she regards as her kids. Fair enough.

Crazy cat lady likes to lick her cats. Image: Instagram.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

However, I believe that there is no advantage to either the cat or the person to lick a domestic cat. The cat will take the same benefit in terms of their emotional wellbeing if you gently pet them with your hand or comb them with brush or flea comb as I do daily. And flea combing has the added benefit of catching the odd flea. Both these activities mimic licking a cat. That’s how the cat regards it.

Fleas

Which brings me nicely to the topic of cat fleas. If you really want to lick your cat you should make sure that your cat is flea-free which means flea combing daily as mentioned.

Human has to Ingest flea to get tapeworm
Human has to Ingest flea to get tapeworm. This is a modified image from the CDC.

If you don’t check, you expose yourself to the very slight possibility of ingesting a flea. No big deal you say. Not quite right as the cat flea is part of the lifecycle of the parasitic tapeworm; an endoparasite.

VCA Hospitals describes the process nicely:

First, a tapeworm egg must be ingested by a flea larva (an immature stage of the flea). Once inside the larval flea, the tapeworm egg continues to develop as the larval flea matures into an adult flea. During grooming, or in response to a flea bite, the cat inadvertently swallows the flea.

VCA Hospitals

If you lick your cat, you might do what a cat does sometimes: ingest a flea and tapeworm eggs inside the ectoparasite, which is how cats get tapeworms and how a cat-licking person might get tapeworms too.

Fel D1

Are there any other issues? You are depositing your saliva on your cat’s fur. I am not sure how they’d respond to it. They may well lick over the spot as it might feel uncomfortable to the cat.

You’d also be licking up cat dander which are small particles of dead cat skin and dried cat saliva. Cat saliva contains the cat allergen Fel D1. Even if you are not allergic to cats, ingesting Fel D1 – a protein – might sensitize you to the allergen and make you allergic to cats!

That’s me being wildly speculative because I don’t think it will happen but it is a point which is probably worth mentioning.

Toxoplasmosis

You might think that in licking a cat you expose yourself to getting toxoplasmosis from the dried cat saliva on the cat’s fur which you’ll lick up. Veterinarians say that toxoplasmosis is not transmitted in cat saliva. As we know it is transmitted in cat feces via oocysts. However, that is very rare. A cat owner is far more likely to get toxoplasmosis from eating raw foods.

Toxoplasma gondii oocyst
Toxoplasma gondii oocyst. Source: CDC and Science Direct.

It is extremely unlikely that you would pick up toxoplasmosis by petting your cat or being scratched or bitten by your cat, because the organism is not spread by the fur or saliva.

Vet Help Direct
Infographic in toxoplasmosis and its zoonotic ability

Conclusion

Is it okay to lick you cat? It is okay if you really feel the need to do it but there are very small health risks as mentioned. The tapeworm risk is dependent on how fastidious you are in ensuring that there are no fleas in your home or on your cat.

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