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Cat Licking - Why Do Cats Lick?

cat lickingCats are meticulously clean animals and spend many hours of the day licking and grooming themselves. They have an amazing “barbed” tongue, which if you’ve ever been licked, you would know feels like sandpaper. This abrasive surface helps the grooming process by removing dirt & loose hairs.

Licking also makes sense from a survival point of view as it helps remove traces of blood from their fur after they have eaten. In fact, you may have noticed after your cat has fed, she will sit quietly and groom herself.

Licking and grooming also act to calm a cat and over-grooming is a stress-related disorder which can be classified as obsessive compulsive behaviour.  Self-grooming is relaxing to the cat, so it seems quite natural that when the cat becomes stressed it attempts to calm itself down by pursuing a relaxing activity such as grooming. Over-grooming may start out as a result of an environmental change (new member to the household, moved house etc.,) but over time this behaviour becomes compulsive, even if the original cause of the stress is no longer around. Read here for more information on over-grooming in cats.

Licking and grooming can also indicate the health of your cat. Failure of a cat to groom and lick itself is an indicator of sickness. If you notice your cat has stopped grooming yourself, it is a good idea to speak to your vet. Licking a particular spot could be over-grooming or caused by other medical problems such as an abscess.

Licking and grooming also help the cat to regulate body temperature during the warmer months. Evaporation helps cool the cat down.

Cat licking other cats:

A mother cat will groom her kittens, not only does this keep them clean (and in the wild removing scent helps protect kittens from predators), but she will also lick their anogenital which stimulates them to urinate and defecate.

Mutual grooming and licking among cats who share a house is common too and a good indicator of their happy relationship. This is their way of communicating a bond for one another and provides comfort and acceptance.

Cat licking humans:

Unless you have recently bathed in tuna and your cat is tasting you, the most logical reason for your cat to lick you is for the same reason they lick feline companions. They are showing their affection towards you & you should consider yourself loved.

Another possible reason for your cat licking you is that it is also believed that cats like the salty taste on our skin.

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