Understanding Your Cat’s Behavior
One of the greatest assets of a cat is its tongue. The tongue is usually covered in something called papillae, which are curved spines that are important when they are grooming themselves.
Cats spend between thirty to fifty percent of their day ensuring that they have clean fur. They do this by licking themselves. So, if they spent all this time on their cleanliness, do they have any time left to lick their owners?
Most of the time, we assume that cats are showing how much they love us when they are licking us. However, this is not always the case. You might feel as if you are getting your skin removed or scrabbed off by the tongue of your cat. It is not always a good feeling.
Should you be worried when your cat keeps on licking you?
Why Does it Hurt When a Cat Licks You?
The tongue of your cat is designed to remove loose fur and dirt as well as for thorough cleaning. This means that the tongue can actually remove some hair off from your skin. The papillae discussed above are responsible for this capability with the tongue.
The papillae has some sort of hooks made with keratin facing backward, the same material that makes the cat’s claws strong. The papillae are also responsible for separating fur and getting to the skin to remove any dirt that might exist. This explains the reason why it hurts when your cat licks you.
Some of the reasons why your cat might lick you include;
Stress, Anxiety, and/or Pain
Sometimes, when cats are stressed, anxious, or going through some pain, they tend to lick their owners. Even though excessive licking might be a cause for alarm, sometimes it just means that the cat is trying to cope with the pain, anxiety, and/or stress.
In other times, the cat might start licking you excessively when you move to a new house, or when the cat experiences a change in environment. Even though this does not mean that you should be worried, you need to monitor the rate at which it licks you as well as itself.
The licking might get aggressive to a point that it’s quite painful on your skin. In addition, the cat might aggressively groom itself to a point where it gets bald spots on its skin. When this happens, make sure you consult a vet to help you find ways of changing this behavior.
Marking its Territory
Sometimes, your cat might lick you, other animals, and its toys to mark its territory. Cats do this to leave their scent where they lick to ensure that other cats stay away.
For instance, your cat will lick its kittens to show that they belong to her. In the same way, your cat will lick you to mark you as its territory.
If you have cats coming from various litters or maybe sibling cats that get along well, you will find them licking each other. This shows social bonding. Licking you, in the same way, means that the cat wants to bond with you.
Weaning Before Time
Some cats might have been left by their mothers or weaned before it was time for weaning. This makes them build a fixation that gives them the urge to lick excessively.
This is because the cat did not get enough time to get milk from its mother, and with no other option, they start licking people and themselves. They are usually looking for the comfort that they got from the nursing that their mothers gave them.
If this is the reason why your cat is licking you, then you should not be worried. You can find other cats for social bonding to ensure that it has options.
Sometimes cats lick their owners to groom them. Even though they do not know that licking you is not making you clean in any way, they are doing something that they were born to do.
When young, their mothers lick them to groom them and to ensure that they know how they can do it on their own. They also do this to bond with the kittens and show them affection.
This means that when your cat is licking you, it is trying to groom you like it was taught by its mother. It might also be trying to show you some affection, include you into its membership – if they are more than one cat, and help you understand its secret language.
Finally, you might find your cat licking you due to an interesting taste on your skin. This might be from a spilled drink or something you might have come into contact with. Due to this taste, your cat might keep licking you until the taste is completely gone.
However, it is important to note that cats are among the few mammals with a very poor sense of taste.
Even though a cat might mean no harm when licking you, it does not feel good on your skin. You might need to find a way of making sure that the cat does not lick you.
If you are not comfortable, you can try to discourage it from licking you by giving it a warm massage every time it starts licking. This will help in showing affection, feeling groomed, and creating a bond. It will also help in stopping the cat from licking you.
The above is a guest post kindly contributed by Nadine Westwood. Nadine is a health coach and writer who helps her clients achieve phenomenal and sustainable results by combining nutrition, fitness and fun! She believes primarily in living a happy life, and that the backbone of any lifestyle is that it must be sustainable and enjoyable. Learn more about Nadine at nomadicnadine.com.