Tips&TricksUnraveling the mysteries of feline affection: Why does your cat lick your face?

Unraveling the mysteries of feline affection: Why does your cat lick your face?

The cat licks the woman on the nose.
The cat licks the woman on the nose.
Images source: © Getty Images | VeravanOudheusden

7:44 PM EST, February 11, 2024

Cats are unique creatures that have won the hearts of countless individuals. In ancient Egypt, they were worshiped, and severe punishment befell those who harmed them. The ancestor of the domestic cat is the Nubian wildcat. Interestingly, these animals were domesticated around 9500 years ago. Today, cats are viewed as the most beloved pets worldwide. Experts have found that an adult domestic cat may spend up to 8 percent of their time grooming their bodies with their tongues. This grooming behavior also plays an important social role. So, what does it mean when your cat licks your face?

Why does your cat lick your face?

According to experts, licking is exceptionally important for cats, and it often carries symbolic meanings. Adult cats frequently lick each other, even before mating. Thankfully, there's no evidence to suggest that a cat licking their human is a sign that they wish to mate. Surprisingly, behavioral experts are not entirely certain why these animals enjoy licking human body parts. While scientific evidence is lacking, several intriguing theories exist regarding this behavior.

The first of these theories is the trust theory. It proposes that your cat licks you to show that it trusts you. This could also serve as a signal that it does not consider you as a threat. Another theory, called the biochemical theory, suggests that cats may lick certain people because they enjoy their scent. For cats, licking also offers an opportunity to try new flavors, so if there's any food or cream residue on your hands, this could pique your cat's interest.

Do cats lick people to mark their territory?

Yet another theory delves into feline territoriality. According to Dr. David Sands, an animal psychology expert, cats are "scent machines". Their favorite scent is actually their own. Therefore, after being petted by humans, domestic cats often retaliate by licking their human caretakers. However, this behavior isn't motivated by affection, but rather by a desire to replace foreign scents with their own. Cats aim to make their mark on you in this way. Keep in mind that they are highly territorial animals. They enjoy leaving their scent on various objects and people alike, to assertively declare that something belongs to them.

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