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why does a cat lick your hand

Today s weird science question comes from Kendraw: My cat is obsessed with licking me. She will tolerate pets, but what she really wants to do when she needs attention is to lick me anywhere she can get skin. She won t lick my face, thank goodness, but my arm, elbow, and hand are fair game! She will literally hold me down in her paws and clean me. And it s not just a few licks; she gets quite thorough about it. I ve tried bitter spray. No luck. I know it s a, but is there any way I can gently get her to stop? Have you, like Kendraw, ever wondered Why does my cat lick me? First, I ll talk about why cats lick you, and then I ll give you some tips on how to persuade your cat that there are much more awesome options than grooming you until your skin is raw. 1. Cats lick as a means of social bonding
Kittens groom each other, and older cats who aren t related but get along well also spend time grooming one another. Often they ll get the spots that are hard for a cat to reach by themselves, such as the top of the head and inside the ears. Exchanging scents through grooming also increases the bond between a pair of cats. (One Catster writer documented her attempt at. ) 2. When your cats lick you, they re paying you a huge compliment A tongue bath from your cat is an indication that she feels totally safe in your presence. You are truly a member of her family, and she reinforces that by cleaning you like her mother cleaned her when she was a kitten. 3. Your cats tongues are covered with barbs Your feels like sandpaper because it s covered with papillae backward-facing hooks made of keratin, the same material that makes your kitty s claws.

The papillae help cats rasp meat off bones, and they also assist in grooming by acting like a comb to pull out loose fur and dirt. 4. Your cats might be licking you because of anxiety Some cats get so stressed that they begin licking compulsively. (One mysterious condition is called. ) Cats who lick themselves bald are often trying to comfort themselves because they re stressed. Other compulsive kitties might lick and suck on fabric, or even your skin. 5. To stop your cat from licking you, distract her Learn the signs that your cat is about to start licking. Before she starts washing your arm raw, redirect her attention with a toy. If your cat likes, slip a catnip-filled kicker toy in front of her when she s about to lick you. If she s not a catnip fan, try a treat-dispensing toy instead. 6. De-stress your cats with interactive play. It keeps your cat fit and trim, and it strengthens the bond between you. Not only that, but the chemicals released during exercise help your cat to relax and feel content. Feeling stressed yourself? Try these 7. Be patient when your cats lick you It s not easy to retrain a cat who has gotten used to performing a habitual behavior such as licking. Remember to stay gentle and avoid yelling or intense physical reactions like shoving your cat, tossing her off your lap, or (heaven forbid) hitting her. Tell us: Have you been able to rehabilitate a compulsive licker?

Please tell us in the comments how you did it. And, as always, if you have any other weird science questions, ask me by leaving a comment! Thumbnail: Photography Murika Thinkstock. Read more about cats and science on Catster. com: About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats. Why do cats lick people? And what about kitties who lick their humans hair? Heres my own experience with being groomed by a cat and a few reasons why cats groom humans: I rarely spend money on grainy beauty products that rub away dead facial skin cells. Why would I, when I have my namesake cat, Gormly Girl otherwise known as G. G. as my aesthetician? She love-bombs me with her sandpapery tongue and gives me daily exfoliating facial scrubs if I let her. G. G. even uses her paws as a brush and her claws as the bristles, running her front feet down my hair. I should be honored, experts say. G. G. , like many of our feline friends, is grooming her human. But isnt it our job to groom them, with tools like cat brushes and nail trimmers? Yes, but cats return the favor with their own grooming methods for people. So, why do cats groom humans? Take it as a compliment, advises, a certified cat behavior consultant in the San Francisco Bay area.

Cats groom humans for two reasons, and one of them is a sign of great affection. Cats lick people because they like you and claim you as family. In the wild, cats identify friends and family by grooming each other, which leaves their scent on each cat and kitten. In feral-cat colonies, where many females have litters, they all take care of the kittens and mark them as part of the tribe, Krieger says. So, when cats lick humans, they are expressing the same sentiment: I like you. Youre a friend/family. And both female and male cats do it. Grooming is big, Krieger explains. Feel honored, because she feels that you are part of her family and part of the colony. Shes put her smell on you. A cats scent doesnt just come from his oral glands. Cats also have scent glands in other body areas, including at the bottom of their paws. So, if they stroke you with their paws or, they are depositing their scent and expressing affection and acceptance. Do cats still love you, even if they don t lick you? Some kitties just arent lickers, Krieger says. But you can be confident that the cat likes you if he does lick you, unless it s for the second reason (read on). Its an individual thing, she says. If youre a stranger and the cat doesnt like you, he wont groom you. Sheryl Nordstrom, of the Phoenix area, has two gray brother cats Dusk and Mere. Dusk often licks her hand when she pets his tummy, after grabbing her hands with his paws.

I love it when he grabs my hand and licks it, Nordstrom says about Dusk He is a very sweet kitty. Mere, on the other hand, loves to sit on laps but doesnt lick, she says. Why do cats lick your hair? Brushing a humans hair, like G. G. does, is not as common of a grooming behavior as licking, Krieger says. Some cats also might chew on your hair, but dont let them, she says: Your cat could ingest your hair, and they do enough of that with their own. Also, if your cat licks you, make sure you arent wearing makeup or anything that could be toxic, Krieger cautions. Cats dont always lick humans because they love them. The other reason that cats groom humans isnt as personal or flattering. You may be wearing something on your skin or hair lotions, cleansers, etc. that smells or tastes yummy to them, Krieger says. Or, maybe you have the residue of tuna juice on your fingers after mealtime. Whether you are loved or yummy, just like not all cats groom people, not all human groomees enjoy it. If the licking or grooming annoys you, dont reinforce the behavior by rewarding it, Krieger says. Some people dont want to be slimed; some people think its really cute, she says. I have some clients whose cats do that while they are sleeping, and its to get their attention or food. Thumbnail: Photography by wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock. Read more about cat grooming and licking on Catster. com:

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