Have you ever felt your cat’s rough, sandpaper tongue, and not just because you were giving him a pill, or have something tasty on your fingers? Maybe he lies down next to you and starts washing your arm, or if he’s like Aria, he settles himself on the back of your sofa or chair and starts washing your hair. What gives? Why do cats like licking us?
Licking and grooming is comforting
Mother cats groom their kittens from the time they’re born. Dr. Karen Becker says that the very first feeling a kitten experiences is the warm, raspy tongue of his mama. He can’t see, so he relies on his mama for everything, and being groomed is a very comforting feeling.
Siblings that are raised together often groom each other throughout their lives, and even cats that aren’t related, but who bond, will groom each other. This is how they show that they care for each other. In other words, our cats like licking us because it’s one way they show heir love for us. They’re “mothering” us, trying to give us warmth and comfort.
If you’re like me, though, your cat’s tongue hurts. Gizmo will try and wash my face whenever she gets the chance, and she usually goes for the tip of my nose. Worse, she sometimes goes for the really sensitive skin on my cheek, below my eye. It hurts! I can only stand a few licks from her on my face, and she doesn’t really wash me anywhere else. Of course, she doesn’t understand it hurts, and pulling away seems to hurt her feelings.
What to do when we don’t like it that our cats like licking us
When cats like licking us, we might feel that we have to put up with it, but we don’t. What do I do, when Gizmo starts licking my face, or Aria starts making my arm raw? I distract them, usually by scratching their ears or back. Catster agrees that distraction is a good way to stop this behavior. They suggest using a toy, or some catnip, to distract her attention.
Sometimes, we think our cats like licking us, but it’s really compulsive behavior because they’re stressed out. Licking is self-soothing, but cats suffering from this compulsion don’t always lick themselves. Try some good, interactive playtime to de-stress your cat, if you think he’s licking you because he’s stressed out. Daily play sessions can help cats who feel stressed.
Regardless of why our cats like licking us, trying to get them to stop altogether takes a lot of love and patience. Don’t yell at your cat, or get rough with him, especially if you suspect he’s licking you because he’s stressed. If his licking doesn’t bother you, though, then let him go to town. Just be careful to keep him from licking open cuts, scrapes and wounds.