Why Do Cats Lick When You Pet Them

Cats are usually seen as more independent than dogs, which sometimes make people believe that they’re not attached or affectionate with their owners. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. As much as cats, in general, don’t display too much affection all the time, they make sure to show you some love. For instance, when you pet them, you’ll notice that they lick you most of the time. They also lick themselves, which you’ll see it’s another sign of affection.

That’s made me question, why do cats lick when you pet them? Cats lick you for different reasons but they’re all to show you affection. Now, it’s not always a way to “kiss” you. They might be trying to groom you, mark territory, or show you they love you. Now, if they’re licking themselves, it might be a sign of stress or they might just be comfortable enough around you to groom themselves while you pet them.

Now, there are three things to analyze here. The first one is why your cat is doing. The end goal is affection but the reason varies. Then, you have to see if the cat is licking itself, which can be worrisome or not. Finally, if it bothers you since a cat’s tongue can hurt your skin, you need to learn what to do about it.

As you can see, once you know how to answer those three things, you’re ready to deal with this. As much as it’d be easy to just say that it’s all about affection, you need to know more. That’s exactly what you’re going to learn below. All you have to do is stay until the end.

In Different Ways, It’s A Sign Of Affection

What you’re going to notice throughout this article is that the reasons vary, but it’s always about affection. Even though scientists were not able to prove that cats feel love for humans, they have affection towards us.

When you pet your cat and him/her lick you, it’s a sign of affection. It like an incentive for you to continue. Not only that, but they’re also retributing your gesture. Since they cannot pet you as well, they lick you.

Now, if your cat is licking itself, it’s a sign that you share a bond. They trust you enough to be relaxed around you. So, when you pet them and they start to groom themselves, understand that it’s a clear sign that you’re trustworthy and part of their family. They only do this around humans and cats they trust.

So, if people tell you that cats love more the house than humans and that they don’t like you, know that it’s simply not true. Remember when you pet your cat and when they lick you or themselves.

They Groom Themselves Around People They Trust

As stated above, cats grooming themselves around you means they trust you. Cats have their way to show affection, trust, and love. What it requires of you is to pay attention to the signs and learn to understand them.

The act of grooming is important, besides getting cleaned, to form a bond between cats. Since they also see you as a cat, they’re sharing a moment with you in which they can be relaxed. They know they can trust you and not be completely alert. It’s a moment of vulnerability.

Now, it’s not a sign for you to pet where they’re licking. If they start grooming while you’re petting them, just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s a special moment to strengthen the relationship, especially if you just got a new cat.

This can also be a sign for you to help your cat do his/her grooming. Even though they do this pretty well, you should help your cat. Especially the long-hair breeds. Get a grooming kit like the Friends Forever 6 in 1, take the comb, and get to work. Grab yours here.

You’re Part Of Their Family

Cats don’t live in packs, but they do have a sense of family. When your cat licks you when you pet them, they’re trying to mingle your scent to theirs. This creates the family scent that it’s important for them to form a bond. It’s another sign of affection. They do it to show you that your part of the family. In the same way that they bring you a dead animal, so you can eat.

Now, if your cat is licking itself, it’s also okay. This means that they not only trust you, but they’re relaxed and comfortable around you. Grooming requires energy and focus. This means that they’re not worried about predators or other kinds of dangerous because they trust you. It’s their moment to be relaxed and they chose to be around you.

So, as a sign that you’re part of their family, your cat licking you or themselves when you pet them is okay. Usually, the only moments that you should pay attention to and be worried is when the behavior becomes compulsive.

It Can Be Their Way To Mark Territory

Now, when cats lick you when you pet them, it may be another way for them to mark their territory. No, your cat does not think you’re a lamp post. Still, they’re doing the same thing that they do when they rub themselves against you. It’s another way for them to mark their territory.

Here’s what happens. When cats rub themselves against you, they’re leaving their scents on you. This is to show other cats that you belong to them. You’re part of their family. When they lick you after you pet them, it may be another way for them to mark territory and show other cats that you already have yours.

So, if your cat licks you, it may be their way to let other cats know that you belong to them. In a way, it’s another form to show affection. Showing other cats that you’re their territory is not something negative for them, it’s a nice thing to do. Just think about that next time your cat licks you.

If It Bothers Your, Redirect The Behavior

Cat tongues have these sorts of thorns that go back when they lick you. This makes their tongue very uncomfortable in the human skin. For them, it’s the perfect thing to help them groom themselves. It gets the useless hair off them, and out of their mouth and throats.

Now, if your cat spends more than a few minutes licking you, as much as it is a sign of affection, it may begin to bother you. After all, it’s like forcefully scratching your skin. This is why you might want to consider how to make your cat stop.

Since you don’t want to send the wrong message (that being affectionate is a bad thing) to your cat, the best that you can do is to redirect the behavior. This means that you’re going to replace the habit of licking you of your cat to something else.

The best way to do this is to teach them to do something else. You can, for instance, get away from them. The most effective way is to use treats to teach them positive reinforcement. The Temptations Classic Treats is the best cat treat. Get yours here.

Make Sure That Your Cat’s Emotional Needs Are Being Met

You may not be a cat behavior expert, but it’s always a good idea to pay attention to every behavior your cat presents. Excessive affection might be a problem. Your cat may be needy because he/she is feeling lonely.

The best that you can do about this is to spend time playing with your cat. Have lots of toys around the house and interact with your cat as well. Don’t let them play by themselves all the time. Join the fun.

This is the best way to make sure that your cat is happy and healthy. So, make sure to have lots of toys around to ensure that your cat is happy. The Kitty City Large Cat Tunnel is an excellent pack due to quality and variety. Take a look here.

If They’re Licking Themselves They Might Be Stressed

Now, the question might not have been clear enough. Maybe you want to know why cats licking themselves when you pet them. Then, cats might lick themselves when you pet them out of stress. It’s not uncommon since cats are sensitive animals.

A change in the environment or the lack of proper conditions might get them stressed. Cats thrive in clean environments that they’re familiar with. They also need their owners around.

This means that you need to make your house relaxing for them. This begins with making it clean and friendly to them. For example, the best way is to use a hormone pet diffuser. It’ll make the whole place smell good and leave them relaxed. The Comfort Zone MultiCat Calming Diffuser Kit is the #1 choice in this case. Click to view pricing on Amazon here.

Final Thoughts

So, that’s why cats lick when you pet them. It’s always a sign of affection even if the intention varies. Cats are loving animals that do value the people that are close to them. All you have to do is to make sure that they’re comfortable and relaxed in their own house.


As a kid, J. Cesar has always dreamed of becoming Dr. Dolittle. When he isn't writing, you can find him supporting his favorite football team or eating ice cream with his best dog-friend by his side. Linkedin Profile, My Website

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