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Why doesn’t my cat lick me?

I had a few cats who enjoyed licking other cats and humans. I had other cats who were not lickers except when it came time to bathe themselves and groom their fur. Over the last several years, 30 years to be exact. I have rescued cats. I never had any cats in my home that were not well-behaved and licked themselves clean every day.

All seemed comfortable and appreciative of having a cozy, warm home to live in and eat whenever they wanted to. There was always fresh, cool, filtered water for them. My cats all had their own bed and blanket and a basketful of community toys with a sparing sprinkling of catnip. I always had fresh dry food and water in at least three places throughout the house. Every cat I ever had would come to the kitchen when they wanted to eat moist food. And all of them enjoyed sunning on my enclosed front porch. 

All the cats that have crossed my path over the last 30 plus years appreciated my efforts to care for them, and all showed their appreciation in various ways. Very few of these cats were obsessive-compulsive lickers, except for one. The most interesting was our first rescue, a pearly white kitty named Beebe who had a black V on the top of her head. 

Beebe was a bonafided licker. After she licked herself clean, she began on me. Later in time, she had four kittens. A few years later, she had six grandbabies. It was interesting to watch Beebe. She ran around the house every day, sharing her ten offspring’s care. She licked all her charges clean every day. 

Beebe was a lap sitter. When Beebe was not busy with her brood of children and grandbabies, she jumped up on the lap of whoever was sitting. She would rest a spell and soon start licking that person’s arms. 

I will try to answer why some cats, like Beebe, were a licker while others do not seem interested, aside from licking themselves clean every day as part of their natural grooming process.

Why Doesn’t My Cat Lick Me?

There are some plausible reasons why your cat may like to lick you. Cats usually like to lick your cheek, arms, or legs, as observed by devoted cat owners and researchers who study cat behaviors. Did you ever think that some cats follow proper cat etiquette? These cats are not as obsessed with licking. According to researchers, cats obsessed with licking like Beebe have been conditioned to lick. 

However, we adopted Beebe as a stray who could not have been more than one year old. So, I am unsure of claiming Beebe to be a conditioned licker. What I do know is that these obsessive lickers are one-of-a-kind cats. Those who constantly lick have reasons for their compulsive licking. 

  • Obsessive cat lickers are special cats.
  • Licking can be a form of greeting. However, every family with multiple cats always experiences a cat leader. When other cats approach a cat leader, they may headbutt them to recognize them as the leader in that hacienda. 
  • This action calls for the leader to lick the head of the less dominant cat. Cats look to their owners as the home leader and expect you to pet them. Licking, you would act outside the chain of command. 

Yes, this does sound crazy. However, this is what has been observed by devoted pet owners and researchers on cat behaviors. Every animal species has its own set of rules and regulations in life, including humans, many with their own queerly traditional etiquette patterns. Those animal lovers of specific species, such as the cat, yearn to figure out the whys and wherefores of these patterns. 

  • It has also been mentioned that cats lick humans because the human skin contains salts, and cats like the taste of salt.
  • Some pet owners feel that their cat licks them to show their appreciation and love for them.
  • Cats lick a human to show affection and look for a head pat or hug as a return of love. 
  • It is observed that a kitten licks their human because they are anxious. This action is said to equal one human hugging another human for reassurance. 

Is Licking the Only Way Cats Show Affection?

Cats very quietly show affection to their owners differently, unlike dogs who give their humans wet kisses or violently wag their tails when they see their owner walking through the door after a busy day away from home. 

We have had several kitties through the years that would lick, lick, lick, nip, nip and start over again. The nips never hurt. However, I always wondered what this pattern meant. While grooming, I observed these cats doing the same thing: lick, lick, lick, nip, nip. I came to realize that this was part of their grooming process. My cat was essentially telling me that I was her best friend, and she was feeling a bit playful. Cats can also nip to warn you to stop what you are doing. 

Cats show affection to their owners in a few different ways, such as, but not limited to,

  • Cat kisses
  • When their tails become fluffy
  • Chirps, low meows, and trilling noises
  • Licking of face and arms

Why Did My Cat Suddenly Stop Licking Me? 

Some cat owners, me included, find that a cat obsessed with licking will not do so if that person is wearing lotion or perfume on their arms. Cats love to lick your arms when they are still wet after your shower.

If your cat used to lick you but no longer does, you may consider that it has a possible health problem. Cats are experts at hiding pain and illness until the illness is advanced and you suddenly see some symptoms of their disease, and you take them to the veterinarian. Underlying health issues can cause a human or a cat to act differently.

Cats can seem like strange critters because of what they do. They are sometimes hard to figure out. One example is your cat licking your arm, and you are petting your cat, and all of a sudden, your cat bites or scratches you hard enough to pull your hand away. Your first reaction is to show anger towards your cat, but do not do it.

Why Did Your Cat Show An Abrupt Change in Attitude? 

While your cat may enjoy a quiet time with you licking your arm, sometimes you shower too much attention on your cat to the point that petting them in return becomes uncomfortable for them. 

The time that you spend petting your cat is different for every cat. While Fluffy could sit for an hour with you petting them, another kitty feels that five minutes is tops for them. You can monitor your cat and observe for too much attention, such as,

  • Tail thumping or whipping tail from side to side
  • Twitching of its skin
  • Ears lying backward
  • Warning nips to your hand
  • Head lunges
  • Slight restlessness

To make sure your cat’s loving licks continue, it is vital to keep them busy during waking hours and show them attention and play, such as,

  • Providing catnip on toys or scratching boards
  • Using a fishing pole with a long string and toy
  • Some cats enjoy playing catch and may fetch thrown toys back to you. 

If your cat bites or scratches you unexpectedly, never yell, kick, or slap it. Cats do not understand your aggressiveness and will not come to trust you. Your actions like this can ruin the trust your cat has for you. Never hurt your cat, even though it has bitten or scratched you. When a cat scratches or bites you, you can bet they had a good reason. Cats never do this without good reason. So it is best if you retrace your steps to try to figure out what you did that upset Fluffy. 

Speak to your cat quietly and gently, and take care not to shower them with too much love at that moment. This can make matters worse. Cats tolerate only so much close attention and no more. When your cat bites you too hard, look them in the eyes and say to them gently and in a calm, low voice, “No.”

My cat, Mia, is good at doing this. It did not take much to make her angry, which is my fault because I was not paying attention. If Mia should bite me a bit too hard, I look at her and tell her, “No.” Her lovely green eyes get big, and she runs away. It takes her about 30 minutes, and she is back again, wanting a kiss on her head, and all is good once again.

Is It A Bad Sign If A Cat Does Not Lick You? 

The answer is absolutely not. Licking is how cats show affection to other cats and humans. However, not all cats show love in this way. Ask yourself,

“Do all humans show their affection for another human in the same way?”

Of course, they don’t, and cats are no different. Licking is only one way to tell if your cat is calm and comfortably satisfied in your home. Licking is one way in which your cat communicates with you. When a cat licks your face, they transfer a hormone and oil onto your skin known as pheromones. These actions show that they are comfortable with you, and this is how they take ownership of you. Every human and animal has a particular scent. Your cat becomes used to your specific smell and is comfortable and secure with you as its best friend. 

Some owners say that when they lay down for a nap, their cat comes from nowhere and jumps on them, licking their cheeks and lying on their chest. Cats that do this mark you as their own. Some cats are not lap sitters, nor do they like to jump on you when you nap. Every cat has different ways to show its love and appreciation for you. Never think that your cat does not like you because they do not lick you. Your cat may swipe its tongue across the top of your hand once in a great while. Accept this show of affection and know that this is the best you get from this cat.

Because your cat is not a licker does not mean that they love and appreciate you any less. Observe your kitty; they have other ways to show their love and appreciation to you, such as,

  • Have you seen days where your cat brings you a dead mouse or bird? They cannot go shopping in a store for you, so they shop in the wild to bring you a much-earned gift.