Why does my cat lick me?

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

For me the answer to the question, “why does my cat lick me?” mainly comes from personal observation.

Mother-kitten relationship

My cat looks upon me as a mother cat. All domestic cats do the same. Our cats are kept in a state of perpetual kittenhood with us as we provide for them and unwittingly dominate them by our sheer presence. Kittens are licked by their true (cat) mothers during the early days.

When I stroke my cat, she thinks I am licking her as her mother did. It feels that way and is a very similar action. Note: at the time this article was first published (around 2010) I was living with a female cat. I now live with a male.

Photo by tilaneseven – this is a Flickr photographer

In return my cat will lick my hand sometimes. It is a friendly return gesture in recognition of my friendly gesture. I might not be stroking her, in fact. It might be a human form of friendship that she has picked up as being equivalent to her mother’s lick. For example, I might talk to her quietly and cuddle her. There are a whole range of intimate and friendly gestures that might provoke her to lick me and it is not always on the hand. She sometimes licks my face as is the case for the person in the photograph.

There might be other reasons as to why my cat licks me. It might be the taste of my skin (maybe there is something on my hand or my skin might be salty through sweating) but this is relatively rare for me compared to the friendly exchange of linking.


This is when cats rub their flanks against our legs. It is also an act of friendship and depositing their scent onto us. It is a kind of merging of cat and human. Our scent (body odour) is also deposited on our cat. It is called scent exchange. It all helps to reinforce the bond.


The reason why they are most likely to lick the hand and not other parts of the body is the obvious one; it is the most accessible. Sometimes cats like other parts such as the face as seen in the photo which is often also accessible. As mentioned, cats are also attracted to our perspiration and our scent. They like tasting both. This is also part of the bonding process.


It all turns of the bond between us. It follows that if there is a weak relationship cats will be disinclined to lick their owner. This points to the conclusion that cats lick their owner when there is a close relationship. It’s a symptom of the nature of the relationship.


Sometimes my cat will do a lick/bite. The lick extends to a very gentle nibble on the hand or even my face if it is near her face. You can see a mother’s lick going to a gentle bite (loving bite) in this video of F1 Savannah Cat MAGIC. It is about 2/3rds of the way into the video. This is also a sign of affection. The lick goes together with the love bite.

Love bite

I have to say that sometimes the love bite can get a little out of hand if the cat is over-motivated! It can be irritating to some people. Sometimes I can get a bit irritated by it. Perhaps one issue here is that when cats nibble each other they feel it less because they have a nice coating of fur over their bodies whereas we have bare skin. It highlights a problem in our relationship with cats; we are not cats! We know it but our cats don’t always recognise that simple fact.

Human licks cat!

Sometimes (rarely) cat owners reciprocate the bonding allogrooming lick. It is an example of going to extreme you might think. Also, there is a product on the market nowadays which is a brush you can place between your teeth and brush your cat with it – see image below. This is meant to allow the cat’s caregiver to behave like a mother cat without actually licking their cat which the lady below does. Is it okay to lick your cat? Almost always yes, it is okay but you might lick up a flea and ingest it. This might give you a tapeworm! The cat flea is the vector for tapeworms as the eggs are harboured inside them. It is how cats get tapeworms. It is also just conceivable that you can get toxoplasmosis from your cat. Personally, I would not do it.

Woman licks her cat as she wants to behavior like a true cat mom
Woman licks her cat as she wants to behavior like a true cat mom. Image: Instragram.
Licki brush struggles
Licki brush struggles. It does not always work that well and it looks silly to be honest. Image in public domain.

Why does my cat lick me to Why Do Cats

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Why Does My Cat Lick Me? Ther are more below.

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Jul 21, 2010
why do cats lick?
by: Anonymous

my partner had a mole removed off of his chest about 2 years ago,while laying in bed my cat will proceed to lick the healed scar.we are not really sure why she does it,but we think that it maybe because she knows it is a wound.very amusing when she does it though

May 15, 2010
by: Anonymous

I’ve got a foster cat who just lost her litter to probably chlamydia, and I’m trying to give her a little extra attention to fill in for the loss. She is licking me ALL THE TIME. It’s actually a little concerning since I hope to get her adopted soon. She’s a wonderful lap cat, but she licks my feet, legs, arms, hands, and whatever she can when I’m sleeping.

I’m also concerned about the URI spreading to my other cats, so I have to try my best to disinfect……

Yikes, she’s wonderful, but I’m hoping the licking will stop…..

Sep 11, 2009
Thank you
by: Ruth

Another very well written article to add to my ‘Why do cats?’ collection.
Thank you, Michael.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

7 thoughts on “Why does my cat lick me?”

  1. Lts of typos but a wonderful story I wish I had a perfect relatinship with my ca he does not trust me at all. I wish he does, thx 4 sharing

    1. I’ll fix those typos! Thanks for the comment. Update: I see no typos! 🙂 I think you mean in the comments. Yes, that is very possible. I don’t edit comments.

    2. If you want your cat to trust you make your relationship as loving as possible and the environment as stable as possible. Do you trust him? If you have some doubts it will be reciprocated.

  2. I hav had a cat for 2 1/2 years and he had been very lonely yu would say because he was an unwanted kitten and they kept all of the kittens but him because he had a broken tail. I adopted him 2month after he was born and I ended up being just like his mom and he trusted me almost instntly. You could say it was love at first sight. Well now I try to pet him but nly after he licks my had and is situated perfectly on my lap, I love him so much.

    1. Beautiful. Well done. I believe a relationship with an unwanted kitten/cat develops into a stronger relationship than with cats from better backgrounds.

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