Why does my cat lick himself where I have stroked him or petted him (I don’t like the verb “to pet”)? This happens a lot. I haven’t seen an answer listed on the internet on the first page of Google search results. Instead, Google finds answers on why cats lick their human companion. I don’t want an answer to that as I have a page on that topic.
So, why do many cats almost immediately lick the exact same spot where you have stroked or petted your cat?
There are two theories that I know of (if you have others, I’d love to hear them in a comment):
- Your cat licks his fur to taste your scent, which you deposited on his fur. That is, it is a form of “scent exchange”. Cats like to lick us and it would seem to be a similar process. If a cat licks us, he is grooming us, and at the same time he is tasting our scent that is on our skin. In conclusion, the first possibility is that your cat is seeking a comfort zone and reassurances about your presence.
- Your cat is licking his fur to remove your scent. He only wants his scent on his fur. Your scent (in perspiration etc.) is troublesome to him. In short he is cleaning himself. Also he may want to put his coat back to the way it was before it was petted.
About 3 hours ago I was sitting in my armchair with my cat, Charlie, and we were looking at each other. There was a deep friendship in his eyes and I am not anthropomorphizing my cat. It wasn’t just the way he looked it was the whole package. We were together and there was a connection.
Of course, I touched him, stroked his head, he rubbed his face on my hand. He likes to do that. He’ll rub his nose on my hand quite hard. It is done with some force and commitment. That is him depositing scent on me, my hand.
Then I stroke his body near his shoulder. Almost immediately he begins to lick the exact area where I have stroked him and rested my hand. I like to leave my hand on him for a while. He likes that and purrs. When I look at him, he talks to me. I only have to look at him for him to recognize my presence and vocalize it.
Well, I have provided some background information to when Charlie licks the same place that I have petted (stroked and touched). What do you think? Do you think he is tasting my scent and getting a nice feeling of reassurance from that or is his removing my scent to put his coat back to the same state it was in before I touched and stroked him? Personally, I have to conclude that the reason is item 1 above – he is tasting me.
Lastly, I have to say that sometimes when you stroke your cat, soon afterward he will lick (groom) himself in a different place to where you stroked him. On that basis it appears that stroking a cat stimulates self-grooming. Stroking your cat is like another cat licking him. This probably gets him thinking about grooming the other cat and himself.
Conclusion: stroking a cat sets off grooming behavior. It may be reciprocal behavior. He gets groomed and then has an obligation to groom the groomer. Mutual grooming.
This is actually and associated point to make. When you stroke a cat is stimulates an urge to eat sometimes. This is probably a throwback to kitten hood when mother cat grooms her kitten and the kitten feels secure and suckles. That is my theory for what is is worth.