Why do some domestic cats lick people

Why cats clean people

Cats are constantly grooming themselves. A healthy cat spends around three and a half hours a day for its own beauty care. Grooming and cleaning is not only done out of cleanliness, but also because the constant plucking and tugging of the fur removes loose hair, parasites and burdock and promotes blood circulation in the skin. Working with the rough tongue also encourages the sebum glands to secrete fat, which gives the cat its very own scent.

With most cats, however, the desire to lick is not limited to their own fur. Conspecifics are also often and gladly cleaned. One suspects this is due, among other things, to a kind of maternal instinct. After all, cat mothers lick their kittens, they are hardly ever born, regularly and thoroughly clean. In addition, washing each other's cats creates the group odor and strengthens the bond between them.

It seems that cat washing has a lot to do with hierarchy. At least this is the conclusion of one study that examined the cleaning behavior of around 80 domestic cats. It turned out that higher-ranking animals were more inclined to lick the fur of lower-ranking animals than the other way around. It was also shown that the active cat was argumentative in around a third of the cases - which suggests that cleaning could have another component than pure friendliness. The authors of the study came to the conclusion that mutual grooming can be a way for domestic cats to redirect aggression.

Keen on the body lotion
The animal psychological consultant Gloria Isler from Zug has also observed that mutual grooming is not always meant in a friendly way: "There are animals that lick and lick other sleeping cats until they get up and clear the place."

If people regularly licked their cats, this is seen by most as a proof of love. A mistake? In her practice, she repeatedly experiences that cat owners assume that their darlings would particularly like them if they licked their faces or hands, says Isler. You yourself consider that "fundamentally quite questionable". For example, it is known that many kitties like to lick fat and also like certain smells. “My own cat, for example, always licked my legs when I had just put on cream. After changing the body lotion, it was suddenly over, ”recalls the animal expert.

Not only a “happy” taste, but also the opposite can be the trigger why a cat licks the skin of its human. With targeted licking, the cat can also try to get rid of an unpleasant odor, such as that of a strange cat. One of her customers was licked so excessively on the arms by her cat that the skin became infected, says Isler: "Only a long-sleeved sweater and a consistent change in behavior under expert guidance helped."

In another case in her practice, two cats jumped into their owners' bed early in the morning and licked the man's hair and beard, says Isler. In order to be able to go back to sleep, the man got up and fed the two cats: “He rewarded the undesirable behavior. The cats had successfully raised their humans. " In this case, banishment from the bedroom and changed feeding times would have helped.