Why do cats lick people?

Cat grooming cat. Just like cat grooming human

Cat grooming cat. Just like cat grooming human

Millions of people have asked and answered this question. There are hundreds of websites answering it! There are a dozen new ones each day. I will throw my two pennies worth into the ring. I think the answer is obvious.

Mothers lick their newborn kittens to wash them and when older to groom them. Siblings will groom each other. Unrelated cats that are friendly to each other, even very close to each other, will also groom each other.

Grooming another cat serves the function of cleaning the other cat and keeping the coat in good condition and it is a pleasant experience for the receiving cat. You can see the look on the faces of cats being groomed.

Mutual grooming also serves the function of bonding the cats. This is bound to be the case. Because it is pleasant for the receiving cat, he or she is bound to want some more and approach and be close to the grooming cat - and vice-versa.

So when adult cats groom each other it serves two purposes as described.

People who care for cats are seen as mother cats by their cats. This is because the person provides for the cat in all major aspects of life in a similar way that a true mother cat would for her offspring.

The difference with the person/cat relationship is that the cat never grows up because the person provides for the cat all of his or her life.

Bearing in mind therefore that the human/cat relationship is a cat to cat relationship from the cat's point of view, when our cat licks us he is licking a cat in an act of mutual grooming and bonding.

In response we do not lick our cat. Shame really. We have a poor substitute. We stroke our cat. This serves the function of bonding but not maintaining our cat's coat.

Gentle flea combing is like stroking and also serves to maintain the coat and the cat. Gentle and routine flea combing is probably the nearest we can get to licking our cat in return for her lick on us.

Comments for
Why do cats lick people?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Mar 06, 2012
Spot on Ruth NEW
by: Michael

Yes, Ruth, you are right, stroking, brushing and combing all substitute licking. It is great for bonding.

Mar 05, 2012
Cats NEW
by: Ruth

Apparently, when we stroke a cat it feels to him like a giant tongue licking him.
I think that's why cats love being stroked.
Tickling and scratching around a cat's face and ears and under his chin is like the mother cat grooming him and cats love that.
They do need to be brushed and combed daily and if it's made into a fun time it can be most enjoyable for both the cat and the person who loves him.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

This entry was posted in Cat Behavior and tagged by Michael Broad. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michael Broad

Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please try and upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks. Comment rules: (1) respect others (2) threatening, harassing, bullying, insulting and being rude to others is forbidden (3) advocating cat cruelty is forbidden (4) trolls (I know who they are) must use real name and upload a photo of themselves. Enforcement: (1) inappropriate comments are deleted before publication and (2) commenters who demonstrate a desire to flout the rules are banned. Failure to comply with (4) results in non-publication. Lastly, please avoid adding links because spam software regards comments with links as spam and holds them in the spam folder. I delete the spam folder contents daily.