Why Does My Cat Lick My Face?

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Is your cat obsessed with your face? It is a heart-warming moment when your cat snuggles up in your lap and nudges your face. Is your cat licking your face during these snuggle sessions? These sandpaper kisses are part of the many quirky behaviors our feline friends have. A cat’s tongue is one of their most versatile tools, and they are constantly using it to learn, explore, and express themselves. In this article, we will tell you why your cat may use their tongue to explore your face and answer if they should be doing this.

 Your cat may be licking your face for one of the following reasons:

  • Attention-seeking behavior
  • Showing affection
  • Attempting to clean you
  • Accepting you as family

There are many reasons your cat is licking you, but a lot of them come down to expressing connection or affection. Read on as we discuss each of these reasons and talk about why your cat is obsessed with your face.

Why Your Cat Licks Your Face

You will often find your cat licking themselves, licking other animals, and licking you.  This behavior can be endearing or annoying, depending on who is receiving the attention. Let’s talk about why your cat is landing these sandpaper kisses on your face.

A woman holding her cat close to her nose to nose

Attention-seeking behavior

If your cat is bored, they may lick your face to get your attention. They could be grabbing your attention for a simple pat. Other times this behavior can indicate stress or anxiety. In cases where this attention-seeking behavior is stress-induced, the licking may seem obsessive or in excess.

If obsessive licking starts to get in the way of daily life, you should schedule a health check for your kitty with your veterinarian. With obsessive licking, you want to rule out any underlying health issues.

Showing Affection

Cats will show their bonds with other cats through social grooming. Your cat uses this same method to show their affection toward you. If your cat is giving you affection by licking your face, they are probably expecting a loving pat in return.

The video below is a perfect example of a cat grooming its human.

Read more on our blog post, “23 Signs That Your Cat Loves You.”

Marking territory

Your cat may rub their face against yours and then give a nice lick. This is your cat leaving their scent on you. Leaving their scent on you is your cat’s way of marking their territory or telling others that you are theirs.

Accepting you as family

Your companion may see you as a fellow cat. This is why cats have been known to leave dead mice at the door or bring home a live animal for their owner. They are attempting to share a treat with you or teach you how to hunt.

When a cat licks your face, they may be attempting to teach you how to groom. They have memories of their mom licking them as kittens and are passing this onto you.

Why Do Some Cats Lick Then Bite Your Face?

Some cats lick and then bite; this could be their attempt at a love bite. These nips are a normal way to show affection between cats, so your cat may assume it is okay to do the same with you. Biting is a normal part of a cat’s grooming method as well. These licks, followed by a bite, can be their attempt to clean you.

Read more: How To Deal With Feline love Bites

Your cat may also be trying to play with you. A friendly nibble can indicate boredom and the need to play in some scenarios. The video below explains in detail why your cat may lick and then bite.

Licking and biting can be a response to overstimulation. The feeling of being overstimulated can be from petting-induced frustration. If your cat is pat in the wrong spot or wrong way, they can experience this reaction and express their anger through licking and biting.

If you observe your cat compulsively biting themself, especially in a particular area of their body, it might indicate a more health serious issue. Likewise, if your cat bites you unexpectedly –somewhat aggressively or frightened rather than playfully– while you are enjoying a pat, they could be expressing that they are experiencing pain in the area being petted.

Consult your veterinarian for compulsive self-biting or unusually aggressive biting as your cat might be reacting to an underlying health issue such as anxiety, pain, parasites, or dry skin.

Why Does My Cat Lick My Face At Night?

Your cat licks your face at night for the bonding and creation of specifically, a family bond. The timing your cat licks your face may be habitual. Licking your face in these vulnerable moments of sleep is an indication of how comfortable your cat feels around you as well.

A beautiful bonding of a woman and her cat

Read more on our blog post, “Hot To Stop A Cat From Waking Me Up At Night (step-by-step plan).”

Should You Let Your Cat Lick Your Face?

To remain on the safe side, you should discourage your cat from licking your face. Cat mouths house all sorts of bacteria. Some of these organisms are harmless, while others can put those with immune deficiencies at risk.

Cornell University talks about Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), which is caused by bacteria that is carried by a cat’s saliva. Getting infected from being licked by a cat is extremely unlikely though. As the name suggests, you would need to get scratched or bitten for that to happen. Even then, CSD is a rare disease.

A cute Siamese cat licking her owners face, Why Does My Cat Lick My Face?

On the other side, letting your cat lick your face reasonably can build trust between you.

If you do let your cat lick your face, there are precautions you can take to protect yourself from certain health risks. These precautions include washing your face with antibacterial soap or wipes after your cat licks you. Most cat owners don’t bother with that and do just fine, but if you’re immunocompromised, you may want to discuss these measures with your physician.

Should You Lick Your Cat Back?

You should not lick your cat back. Your cat may become perplexed by you licking them.  The feel of your tongue is very different from theirs, and you end up leaving different scents on your cat, causing confusion.

A cat trying to lick her happy hoomans face

Ingesting cat fur poses drawbacks as well. Cat fur can carry bacteria like Salmonella or E.Coli, so you want to avoid getting this in your mouth. The King County Public Health site talks about diseases you can get from your cats’ fur, including Ringworm and Sporotrichosis.

Why Does My Cat Lick My Fingers?

If you have something tasty on your fingers, your cat is motivated to lick them. Something tasty could be food or certain soaps and lotions. Your cat licks your fingers for the same reasons they would lick your face as well. If you notice they lick your fingers when you are giving them a good petting session, they could be doing this as a thank you.

Why Does My Cat Touch My Face With Her Paw?

Your cat can be touching your face with their paws for a handful of reasons. Just like when they are licking your face, they may be trying to get your attention to play or be pet, transferring their scent onto you, or attempting to show you affection.  Cats are intelligent creatures. When they place their paw on your face, they may be imitating the way you pet them.

Your cat can be placing their paw on your face to create space as well. Cats will use their paws to stop you if the kisses, touches to the nose, or pats have become too much. They will place a paw on your face to create some personal space.

Why Is Your Cat Obsessed With Your Face?

Cats show their obsession with your face through licking, biting, rubbing, and pawing at it. Where does this obsession come from? Our faces and heads hold a lot of heat. This is one reason our cats have a certain draw to them.

A woman holding her cat close to her nose and licking her

If your cat is communicating with you like a fellow feline, they will use the face to communicate often. When communicating with other cats, they use their scent glands on their face and will often touch noses. This means the obsession also stems from a mode of communication.

In Summary

If your cat is licking your face, they are trying to communicate with you. This communication could be for attention, bonding, or something less pleasant such as stress. In general, we want to try to discourage this behavior, as cute as it may be. If we must give in to the kitty love, be sure to wash your face after to avoid health risks, such as bacterial infections. Your cat may be looking at you like you’re another big cat. This is an honor. They are bonded with you and have given you their full trust. Return the love with a comforting pet, leaving everyone a little happier.

Want to learn more about cat behavior? Take a look at our blog post, “Cat Behavior Problems [What To Do And What Not To Do].”

2 comments on “Why Does My Cat Lick My Face?

katocats September 19, 2021
Our Komere wakes me up most mornings with licks and face rubs I'm sure it is because its feeding time
msserena August 13, 2021
I've got a licker who can't keep her mouth shut. I can be standing looking out the window & guess what? My cat is licking my legs. Every time I try to hold her she tries to lick my hands & fingers. I pawn her off on my other cats & she loves the lick fest. Never had a licky lick cat before, I think she thinks she's part dog. I guess she loves me lots.

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