Should I let my cat lick me?

This very fundamental question is asking whether cat owners/guardians they should let their cat lick them as a matter of course. The answer must be a very positive, Yes. In fact, it is essential that cat guardians allow their cats to lick them. There will be some questions about where it should be allowed to take place but, in general, you must allow your cat to lick you because they are reciprocating your symbolic licking of them (allogrooming).

Cat licking hand of person
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Cat licking finger of person. Photo: Pixabay.

From a cat’s perspective, when you pet your cat, it is highly likely that they perceive this as you licking them. This has to be the case because mutual grooming for domestic cats is through licking each other. They perceive us as surrogate mothers and it is probable that they regard us as felines and therefore when we stroke them we are licking them.

Mutual grooming – allogrooming

If you refuse to accept your cat’s reciprocating behaviour i.e. their desire to lick you in return in mutual grooming, then you are weakening the bond between you. Your objective as a cat guardian is to strengthen the bond because from it you achieve mutual contentment. The purpose of our relationship with domestic cats is companionship based upon a strong bond. Therefore to forbid your cat from licking you goes against the very purpose of the relationship. Cats normally lick our hands which is fine.


Coronavirus alert: there’s talk on the internet about taking precautions such as social distancing with respect to domestic cats. Personally I ignore this advice but for the more cautious amongst us, there may be an argument that you should wash your hands after your cat licks them. This is to avoid the longshot possibility that if your cat has contracted Covid-19 asymptomatically (you can’t tell that she has it) she might transmit it to you when licking you. As mentioned, I don’t subscribe to this sort of overly-cautious behaviour (as far as I’m concerned) but I respect all views and I know that some people are genuinely frightened of coronavirus.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Licking a wound

It’s probably unwise to allow your cat or a dog companion to lick your arm, hand or face if you have a scratch or wound in that area. This is because bacteria in their mouth can be transferred into your bloodstream which might cause an infection. That’s common sense but it is worth mentioning. Note: cat mouth bacteria is no worse than human mouth bacteria. This is not a criticism of cat’s mouths!

Licking your face

You often see dogs licking their owner’s face. Sometimes cats do it as well. If a cat licks the corner of your eye it might allow bacteria to enter your eye and thence to your body. This may cause an infection. It makes sense to be cautious about this.

Cat licks the face of a man

Cat licks the face of a man. This looks safe but there are some caveats. Picture in public domain in my view.

Kissing lips

As an extension of this discussion, it might be wise to not kiss your cat on her lips. There is the remotest possibility that you might contract toxoplasmosis from this action (or Covid-19 nowadays). This is because a cat washes her bottom by licking. She might acquire some oocysts which had been passed in faeces. The oocysts might be transmitted to the person from their cat’s mouth who ingests them and contracts the disease. It’s a huge long shot but it seems to me to be just about possible. I wouldn’t get too concerned about it but once again it deserves a mention.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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