Why Do Cats Lick Things? An All-Purpose Guide to Your Cat’s Tongue Behavior

why cats lick

Cats Lick the Strangest Things! (Here’s Why)

Every cat owner knows that delightful, if only slightly disconcerting feeling of a cat’s sandpapery tongue as it licks your skin. Cats are fastidiously clean creatures, and because of this, it’s natural for them to feel the need to lick. It’s entirely natural for your cat to lick him- or herself regularly to keep clean, but there are also many other reasons why a cat may lick things.

licki brush If you notice that your cat regularly licks random items, or compulsively licks itself or you, there may be an underlying cause for all of the action. A cat’s tongue is covered with backward-facing papillae that serve to make eating easier and grooming more effective. For this reason, if your cat occasionally licks to groom, or licks the food bowl after eating, this is a sign that his or her tongue is functioning correctly and that your cat is simply exhibiting proper cat hygiene habits.

However, if you notice that your cat is constantly licking nonfood items, you may want to figure out the cause – here’s a quick guide to a few of the potential issues at stake.

Stress or Boredom

Constant licking or self grooming could be a sign that your cat is bored or anxious. You may notice that your cat started licking more compulsively after moving to a new home, introducing a new pet in the family, or changing the litter box location. Discourage your cat’s constant grooming by giving him or her a little extra attention, engaging in more play time, or just by having a little extra snuggle time.

Constant self grooming can lead to matted fur, skin irritation and infections, and hairballs. If your cat continues to engage in compulsive self grooming, contact your vet to talk about ways to combat this behavior. Your vet may decide to prescribe pheromones which can help reduce unnecessary stress.

Nutritional Imbalance in Your Cat

If your cat is constantly licking random items in your home like pillows, walls, and knick knacks, he or she could be showing symptoms of pica. Pica is a term used to describe the habit of craving non food items such as socks, plastic grocery bags, or dirt. Some veterinarians believe that pica in cats is caused by a deficiency in fiber or fat.

If your cat is constantly licking random items, contact your veterinarian to discuss the dietary needs of your animal companion. Make sure that your cat is eating the right food for her breed and size, and make a switch if your vet deems it necessary.

This could also be a great time to screen for diabetes and other diseases, as licking random items could be a symptom of something more rare.

why cats lick

Your Cat May Just Love Unique Flavors

In most cases, your cat’s licking is harmless and just a symptom of their innate curiosity. If you notice that your cat occasionally licks harmless non-food items, it’s probably just a sign that he or she is checking out a new smell or item at home. Keep in mind that cats don’t have molars like humans do, so much of the breaking down of food before it hits the belly is done using the tongue.

licki brush adIf you’re okay with a little harmless licking, just make sure that dangerous substances and items are kept out of reach of your cat. Keep toxic cleaning supplies, beauty products, and foods that are poisonous to cats out of reach, for example.

If your cat has a habit of opening cupboards and exploring the pantry, be sure to keep toxic foods like chocolate, coffee, and raw eggs on a high shelf in the fridge to discourage your cat from licking them.

Your Cats Are Licking You Because They Like You

According to Dr. Leslie from The Nose Print, your cat’s mother constantly licked him or her as a kitten to stimulate breathing and suckling. Because of this, your cat may associate licking with affection. Your cat’s licking you may just be a sign that he or she loves you and thinks of you as family.

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