As a cat owner, you’ve probably had quite a few thoughts cross your mind that you never would have dreamed of before bringing home your furbaby — like frequently wondering, “Why does my cat lick me?”
On the spectrum of strange cat behaviors, licking you all the time ranks as slightly less odd than following you into the bathroom, but a bit weirder than the occasional headbutt. After all, the rough texture of their tongue on your skin isn’t always the loveliest feeling. But like those other peculiar feline habits, licking you is most likely a sign of affection.
According to Pam Johnson-Bennett, cat expert and author of Think Like a Cat (Buy on Amazon, $19.48), your furbaby is simply treating you like one of their fellow kitty friends when they start grooming you.
“Cats who are familiar and friendly will often lick each other. This behavior helps the bond grow stronger and the exchange that takes place helps create a familiar group scent,” she explains. “Cats depend on scent as an important means of identification. When your cat licks you, it’s also a way of strengthening the bond and showing affection much the same way in which you display toward her by petting.”
It can be especially common in cats who were weaned too soon and are looking for that level of comfort from their human parents instead (even well after kittenhood). Again, this is a good sign you have a strong connection with your furbaby.
Pet behaviorist Mychelle Blake also claims your cutie could just enjoy the way you taste. For instance, you might have a layer of salty sweat on your skin or have wiped some yummy aroma on yourself. But don’t worry, they aren’t reverting to their big cat days and attempting to have you for dinner. Just make sure they aren’t licking anything like a topical medication or something with ingredients that could be toxic to them.
It is possible your cat is licking you for more than just bonding reasons, though. Both experts mention that it could also be a sign of anxiety. Blake compares it to how we humans sometimes bite our nails when we’re nervous. In this is the case, you’ll probably notice other signs of anxiety than just the licking alone — like excessively licking themselves or having frequently a tense posture. In this case, it’s probably time to take them to the vet for a check up.
But most likely, your cat is licking you as a sign of affection. If it starts to get painful or too ticklish for you, try to distract them with a toy or grab a brush to switch the grooming session around on them.
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This article originally appeared on our sister site, Woman’s World.