Cats Grooming Owners: Why a Cat Will Lick Its Pet Parent

Many cat parents get groomed by their cats while lying down and cuddling with their cat. A cat is known to knead its parent, but licking doesn’t occur as often. So, why is it that sometimes a cat licks its owner?

At all hours of the day, cats seem to constantly be grooming themselves. Whether they lick their paws and then wipe their faces or simply lick their bellies, they seem to always be cleaning. Tabitha, a ten year veterinary assistant with the Animal Health Center of Mountain Home, Arkansas says that “cats have a very strong grooming habit to themselves.”

Cats Showing Affection Towards Owner

A cat can show affection to its owner in many different ways. The most common show of affection is kneading. This usually takes place when the cat is cuddling with its owner. The cat will use his or her paws to knead and “soften up” its owner.

The cat kneaded its mother while getting milk from her teats. Later in life, the cat will show affection to its owner by kneading him or her.

A not so common sign of affection is when a cat grooms its owner. This usually takes place during cuddle time just as kneading does. The most common place for a cat to groom its owner is on the owner’s face.

“Older cats are the ones that tend to groom their owners most often,” Tabitha says.

Cats Grooming Behavioral Issue

There are many different reasons to explain a cat grooming its owner. A cat thinking its owner is dirty and needs a bath is not one of these reasons.

Cats licking their owners is a behavioral issue. It’s not usually known as a bad issue, though. One reason, Tabitha says, is because “cats have their own grooming habit and can sometimes take their habit to licking their owner.” This can occur while a cat owner is laying down with their cat lying on their belly. For instance, during this time the cat will be licking its paws and just move to the owner’s skin out of habit.

Many animals love the taste of salt hence the numerous different types of animals that like salt blocks. Cats are one of these animals that like salt. Humans have salt on their skin due to sweat and moisture. Tabitha says, “A lot of times cats smell salt on the owners skin and start licking because of the good taste.”

Perhaps the best reason a cat licks its owner is for bonding. “When the cat is older it is looking for a social bonding experience like the one it had with its mother,” states Tabitha. Many times a cat owner will see cats grooming each other and that is a bonding experience as well.

How an Owner Can Deal

A cat’s tongue is rough like sand paper. So, a cat having a bonding experience can tickle or even be painful to its owner. If this is the case, the owner can just make the cat stop.

A cat licking and/or kneading its owner is a big bonding experience. The cat was used to this from its mother and want to pass it on to its owner. A cat will lick its owner to show love and care towards the owner and to bond. So, to deal with the tickle of a cat’s tongue an owner can just remember that the cat is bonding and showing love.