why does my cat lick my face while i sleep
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? бHave you, like Kendraw, ever wondered Why does my cat lick me? бFirst, 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 reб 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, б 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 бMurika 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. By John Gilpatrick A cat s tongue is one of her most versatile body parts. It s covered with tiny little barbs that act as both a comb for when she s grooming herself and as a rasp for getting all those little meaty bits off bones or food bowls, says Marci Koski, a certified feline behavior and training consultant and owner of Feline Behavior Solutions in Washington State. That s why one of your cat s favorite daily activities is licking. And the behavior is not limited to just licking herself or her food bowl. Cotton, plastic, bedding, and rubber are common materials cats will lick, says Dr. Megan Maxwell, a certified applied animal behaviorist and owner of Pet Behavior Change in Virginia. Unfortunately, some of this licking can be problematic when it leads to chewing and then ingestion of these materials. Safety isn t necessarily an issue with another one of your cat s favorite targets: you. There are many reasons why cats like to lick their owners, but it s generally thought of as a positive behavior. I usually take my cats licking as a compliment, Koski says. While it may be a form of flattery, cat licking still has the potential to become excessive or tiresome. It s important to understand the specific reasons behind this feline behavior, so you can appropriately divert your cat s attention when your arm needs a break.
Here are the four most common reasons why your cat licks you. Maxwell says she has worked with many owners whose cats will lick or even bite them to get their attention. Sometimes, this might mean they want to play or be pet, but in other cases, it can be a sign of something more serious like stress or anxiety. While stress-induced licking is more commonly associated with a cat grooming herself, Koski says that excessive licking that persists after a stressor has been removed from a cat s environment is a cause for concern. If you find your cat licking you, some object, or herself to the point that it s interfering with daily life, you should first speak with your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems that might be to blame. If your cat gets a clean bill of health, a certified animal behaviorist can help you address the issue quickly. Yes, the idea that an arm covered in cat saliva is clean doesn t totally compute for us, but for a cat, it s an important behavior that promotes bonding. Within a group of cats living together, there is typically a designated allo-groomer, which is a cat that licks and grooms the other cats in the group, Koski says. Usually, the members of the group are related to each other, so licking a human may be the cat s attempt to include you as part of her group. Spill something on your arm? Don t be surprised to find Fluffy sidling up next to you to get a taste. Sometimes, it doesn t take a spill for this to hold true, however. Koski says cats may enjoy licking the salt that builds up on your skin naturally. Social grooming by licking is an important affectionate behavior in cats, and licking can be a sign of affection between cats and between a cat and a human, Maxwell says.
She adds that licking (both other cats or their human owners) is often a sign that a cat is calm. But because anxiety can also be a cause for licking, it s important to pay close attention to the context surrounding the behavior and other notable things (particularly anything that s changed) in your cat s environment. For a behavior that s often about love and emotional closeness, it s tricky to tell your cat to stop without jeopardizing your relationship. Koski says some people will attempt to prevent the behavior altogether by applying something that tastes bad to cats to their own skin. The idea is that the cat won t like the taste and won t lick you in the future. She says it can have an undesired effect, however, and the cat may begin to associate the unpleasant experience with you in a more general way, which can be problematic. The same holds true for any type of punishment that you might dole out in response to licking. If you feel like your cat is licking you excessively, the best thing you can do is redirect her actions, Koski says. I have a cat who loves snuggling with me and licking my face. What I ll typically do is simply move my face away from him and either offer my head to nuzzle against or I will pet him so that he just enjoys the petting and stops licking. If that doesn t work, Koski recommends simply walking away when licking becomes excessive, which causes the cat to associate licking you with you disappearing. With time and consistency, your cat should learn that you are a lick-free zone.
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