Understanding Why Cats Lick Things

A fluffy ginger and white cat licking the air

Any pet owner is familiar with the delightful, slightly disturbing sensation of a cat’s sandpapery tongue licking your skin. Cats are meticulously clean animals, so it’s natural that they lick themselves.

 It’s normal for your cat to lick himself or herself to keep clean regularly, but cats lick things for various reasons. If you find that your cat licks random objects daily or licks itself or you compulsively, there may be a reason for it. The backwards-facing papillae on a cat’s tongue help them feed more quickly and groom more efficiently. As a result, if your cat licks itself for grooming or licks the food bowl after feeding, it’s a sign that his or her tongue is working correctly and that he or she is simply practising good cat hygiene.

If your cat is continually licking non-food objects, you can investigate the cause – here’s are some of the main reasons cats lick things:

  1. Boredom Or Stress
  2. Nutritional Imbalance
  3. They Like The Taste

Cats Lick Things Because Of Boredom or Stress

Constant licking or grooming could indicate boredom or anxiety in your cat. After moving to a new house, adding a new pet to the family, or changing the litter box position, you may find that your cat began licking more compulsively. Encourage your cat to stop grooming by paying him or her more attention, playing with him or her more, or just snuggling with him or her more.

Self-grooming regularly will result in matted fur, skin irritation and infections, and hairballs. If your cat tends to clean itself obsessively, speak with your veterinarian about treatment options. Pheromones, which may help relieve excessive stress, may be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Your Cat’s Nutritional Imbalance Can Be The Cause Of Your Cat Licking Things

If your cat is licking random objects in your houses, such as pillows, walls, and knickknacks, he or she might be suffering from pica. Pica is a word that refers to a desire for non-food products such as socks, plastic shopping bags, or dirt. Pica in cats is thought to be caused by fibre or mineral deficiency.

Contact your veterinarian to address your cat’s nutritional needs if he or she is continuously licking random items. Check to see if your cat is consuming the right food for her breed and size, and adjust if your veterinarian recommends it.

It is also an excellent time to search for diabetes and other diseases, as licking random objects may be a sign of something more serious.

Your Cat May be a Fan of Unusual Flavours Which Is Why They Lick Things

Your cat’s licking is usually innocent and only a sign of their natural curiosity. If your cat licks non-food objects on occasion, it’s most likely a sign that he or she is investigating a new scent or thing in the house. Ensure that cats don’t have molars like humans, so the tongue is used to break down food until it reaches the stomach.

If you don’t mind a bit innocent licking, keep dangerous substances and objects out of reach of your pet. Toxic cleaning supplies, beauty products, and cat-poisoning foods, for example, should be kept out of control.

If your cat likes to open cupboards and investigate the pantry, put poisonous foods like coffee, chocolate, and raw eggs on a high shelf in the fridge to keep him/her from licking them.

A ginger cat locking a fluffy grey caats neck

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other’s Ears?

Cats interact using a number of techniques, including vocalisations, visual signals, tactile cues, and smell. The release and transition of scent marks are inextricably related to tactile contact. The following are examples of tactile actions:

  • mouth licking
  • rubbing noses
  • scraping and kneading
  • head bumping and double-checking
  • chomping

As a result, this licking and biting of ears greeting when one cat returns home are a form of communication. From one cat to another, a greeting of “welcome home, I’m glad you’re back.” Cats who are familiar with each other lick each other as a token of love or to bond. When two cats love and trust each other, they will engage in social grooming, known as allogrooming. It helps them maintain their close connection. They’ll only let this happen if they’re happy in each other’s company.

When one cat licks another’s ear, their scent is transferred to the other cat, further reinforcing and preserving their bond. These social grooming licks are typically concentrated on the face, especially the ears, which are crucial for expressing love and affection.

Why Do Cats Lick Each Other and Then Fight?

When cats switch from one bonding activity, grooming, to another, playing, they fight. Fighting is the product of cats letting off steam and having a pleasant time with one another. Fighting can become offensive, including biting. This type of action doesn’t usually cause alarm.

There are a couple of explanations why cats lick each other before fighting. It may be territorial, or the cats are only getting used to each other after not spending much time together. We’ll go through some of the more unusual habits you’ll encounter, as well as strategies to help avoid them.

What Does it Mean When Cats Lick Each Other’s Heads?

Cats have the power to lick for hours. Cats use their specially developed tongues to maintain good hygiene by removing dirt gathered during the day or detangling knots from their skin. This cleaning practice, however, does not always end with their bodies. Their licking extends to their fuzzy companions, and we’re not sure why.

If you have numerous cats at home, you will notice that they begin to lick each other for no apparent reason. The cats get their tongues and appear spotless, mainly if they are indoor cats who don’t get into as much trouble.

Why Does My Cat Lick My Other Cat And Then Bites Him?

Cats lick each other and then bite each other as a means of communication. Allogrooming is the term for mutual grooming in cats, as discussed above. Allogrooming is common in both wild and domesticated cats, and it occurs in both genders. It is also common in both spayed and unspayed cats.

Licking is a cat’s instinct as well as a calming activity. Licking feels unique to cats, just as a bath or a good massage does to humans.

But, if allogrooming is so pleasurable, why do so many cats bite each other during a licking session?

The most popular explanation is pretty straightforward. Biting is a way for cats to communicate, and it isn’t necessarily supposed to be offensive. When a cat bites another after a licking session, the cat is usually saying, “I’m done now.”

It’s the same kind of action you’d see if you were petting your cat for an extended period. The bite serves as a signal to their licking partner that they are slightly overstimulated and should slow down. However, this isn’t the only explanation why a cat could bite another cat while licking.

Another popular explanation is boredom. If your cat is bored or feels cooped up, he or she can try to initiate play by biting. Keep an eye on your cats to see if the biting stops or if one of them seems to be encouraging the other to bite. If they’re attempting to entice the other cat to communicate with them more, your cat is probably bored and trying to play.

The last reason cats bite during or after licking is if their hair lengths are different. Shorthaired cats are known to attempt to bite longhaired cats’ fur when licking if they become overwhelmed by the size or are trying to remove a matt or tangle.

A grey cat licking his lips against a blue sky

How Can You Tell Which Cat is the Dominant One?

Cats wrestle and play with each other, and they may get a little rough at times, but that doesn’t mean they are dominant. As part of their playful habits, cats who live together and get along will engage in non-painful ear chewing, picking, chasing, and other behaviours. These behaviours emerge in a kitten’s early years and are recognised by well-socialised cats. Still, cats that have not been well socialised may struggle to interact effectively with other cats. Cats who are dominant and pushy, particularly in multi-cat households, can be an issue.

The behaviour of a Dominant Cat

Cats that are more dominant than other cats will exhibit those behaviours depending on the circumstances. Dominance in a cat can occur at any age, but it is most noticeable when it is socially mature, about two to four years. Cats will usually test their boundaries with other cats at this age to create a hierarchy.

A cat’s essential superiority is illustrated by marking or spraying urine on territory, stealing and hoarding toys, rubbing its face on things it claims as its own and claiming separate sleeping areas. Cats who live alone can show these behaviours due to their instincts–and you might not even know! A dominant cat who lives with other cats, on the other hand, would be more noticeable.

In a multi-cat household, dominant cats can assert dominance by hissing, hitting, and growling. They can also urinate in places frequented by other cats, force other cats out of the food bowl before they have finished feeding and make other cats feel threatened. Dominant cats in the house can also prey on sick cats. Cats can detect and scent changes in other cats before their owners are aware of them. Consequently, they can be pushier and act out for no apparent reason against a sick cat.

A dominant cat’s actions may also be affected by stress. When an indoor cat sees an outside cat through a window and takes out his or her anger on a different cat, this is known as displaced violence. Other significant household changes may also cause this form of dominance display.

When a new cat is added, or many cats live together, the hierarchy will change. Some cats will behave dominantly in one room with one cat and then abruptly switch roles with another cat in a different room. If a cat does not get out of the way of the dominant cat, it will be forced to fight. Passive-aggressive actions from the dominant cat, such as repetitive licking, jumping on, or sitting on the other cat, can be exhibited. Still, the submissive cat continues to stand its ground for too long. Swatting and even biting may occur.

Here, you study the research article on dominant cat behaviour.

Why Do Cats Like to Lick Human Earwax?

Cats have highly developed olfactory systems, enabling them to find out all sorts of things with their cute little button noses. Dogs get all the publicity with their skilled sniffers, but cats also have highly advanced olfactory systems, enabling them to find out all kinds of things with their cute noses. When those adorable button noses lead kitties to items we humans wouldn’t consider naturally sniffable–in general, ears and the things that can come out of them–it can be a little alarming. What is it about earwax that makes particular cats so excited?

Earwax is a Sneeze-Inducing Substance

According to the most straightforward theory, earwax smells friendly to cats, which also has some research. If you think about it, earwax is often made up of dead skin cells, fatty acids, and other substances with no discernible odour (if it does, you should have it checked). Cats are attracted to and live on animal proteins, so this combination–whether it’s for your ears, your dog’s ears, or another cat’s ears–is simply a source of protein for them.

Kitties don’t taste things the same way humans do because they only have around 500 tastebuds compared to 2,000 to 5,000 in humans. Cats, for example, do not have the same “sweet” taste as humans. So, if your cat enjoys cake icing, it’s more likely that she’s drawn to the fat than to the sweet taste of the sugar.

Cats have developed a keen sense of smell to compensate for their lack of tastebuds, helping them find food. Although cats have fewer scent receptors than dogs, they could be better at discerning between different smells. Though some may view this as evidence that cats are more discriminating than dogs when it comes to what they eat (like poo), it indicates that cats taste with their noses rather than their tongues. So, whether it’s a can of cat food or, in this case, your earwax-coated earbuds, anything that smells like fats and proteins would be delicious for cats.

Why Do Cats Lick Themselves?

Cats are usually clean animals, but grooming can become an obsession in some cases.

Starting With a Clean Slate

After giving birth, the mother cat’s first task is to cut the amniotic sac and then lick the kitten with her rough tongue to help it breathe. She would then give the kitten’s anus a “tongue rub” to facilitate a bowel movement until it starts breastfeeding.

By the time they’re a few weeks old, kittens are imitating their mothers and grooming themselves. If they’re in a litter, they’ll probably lick and groom each other as well. Grooming has a variety of functions beyond mere cleanliness.

To Get Rid of Injuries

Cats clean their wounds to keep them clean and probably avoid infection. Dead skin cells can also be removed by licking with a rough tongue.

To Protect Scent From Predators

The sense of smell in cats is fourteen times stronger than in humans. The scent is used by most predators, including cats, to track prey. In the wild, a mother cat will conceal her young kittens by obliterating their feeding signs. After breastfeeding, she will thoroughly lick them. Cats can bury uneaten dead prey in the wild for the same purpose. You will see the same instinctual action when you see a cat scratching at the floor around the food dish after it has eaten.

Coat and Skin Grooming and Lubrication

Cats groom by stimulating the sebaceous glands at the base of their hairs and spreading the resulting sebum across the hairs with their barb-like tongues. Self-grooming also aids in the removal of dirt and insects such as fleas from the coat. Furthermore, since cats lack sweat glands, their saliva assists them in cooling down on hot days.

For the Sake of Fun

Licking is pleasurable, and cats appear to lick simply for the sake of it. They will also groom one another (and their human companions) out of what seems to be a desire to share a pleasurable experience.

A white and brown cat licking the side of another cats head

When Cat Licking Turns Into An Obsession

Excessive licking may become an obsessive-compulsive disorder, resulting in bald patches and skin sores.

Over-Licking in cats is always a product of tension, and it’s close to humans chewing their nails to the quick. Cats, on the whole, despise transition of any kind. This obsessive licking could be triggered by a new infant, a death in the family, or even rearranging furniture. Flea bites or ringworm are examples of physical causes, but they must be ruled out before diagnosing a stress response.

Cats who were isolated from their mothers at a young age could not go through the usual weaning process and would sometimes groom themselves by licking or sucking. When the kitten is kept in a healthy and predictable environment, this behaviour will usually diminish and disappear with time.

Why Do Cats Lick Plastic?

There are some theories as to why cats might become enraged by those bizarre polymers, and they are as follows:

  1. Appetising Food Aromas

Soft plastics are porous, causing the odour of whatever was inside to be trapped. Cats have an improved sense of smell than dogs, and because we cover everything, including from meat to fish to sandwiches in Plastic, even the tiniest whiff of an enticing treat could lead to licking and probably swallowing of the stuff.

  • Have Some Crinkly Fun

A shopping bag makes various exciting noises that resemble small rodents’ sounds scurrying through the grass and leaves.

  • The Effect of Corn Starch

Even more, plastic shopping bags are being made from cornstarch-based biodegradable materials. Corn starch’s odour and taste seem to be appealing to some cats.

  • Lubricants That Can be Licked

According to some vets, lanolin (the greasy oil used in sheep coats) is often used in plastic manufacture. A curious carnivore could be enticed by one of these options. Since gelatin is often used in photo emulsion, the strange allure of those old Kodak moments could be explained.

  • It’s All About the Texture

Some experts believe that a cat’s tongue enjoys the smooth texture of Plastic. Some speculate that the Plastic’s temperature is a factor, but Plastic, in my experience, quickly absorbs the ambient temperature of the room it’s in.

  • Pheromones

Licking Plastic is likely an extension of the flehmen reaction since certain plastics produce chemicals that imitate pheromones or other attractants (a behaviour in which an animal curls back his upper lips, inhales, and often holds this position for several seconds). This may also explain why certain cats choose to relieve themselves in plastic bags.

  • There is a Mental Short-Circuit

Some cats develop a taste for non-food products. This disorder, known as pica, is often thought to be a behavioural compulsion and, other times, to be an effort to obtain nutrients that aren’t available in the cat’s diet.

Why Do Cats Lick the Hair of Their Owners?

Cats are meticulous in licking themselves, but some cats even lick the fur of their owners. A “beautician cat” can perch on the back of a chair or above your head in bed and use its teeth and paws to comb through your hair. If you step out of control, the cat can also keep your head steady or object.

Licking behaviour in cats can be both a physical and a social problem. How a cat behaves and responds is influenced by its physical and emotional health and intuitive traits. Consider it the H.I.S.S. Test (health, instinct, tension, and symptom solvers).


Skin and fur are kept safe and clean by licking. Licking is something that cats do for about half of their waking hours.


When kittens grow older, they begin to lick themselves. Licking behaviour is primarily automatic, but the environment often conditions it. If Mom is a neat freak, the kids are likely to have tidy “cattitudes” as well. Sloppy Mom-cats, on the other hand, can pass on their licking apathy to their offspring. Social cats lick each other and share communal smell, and mom-cats groom their babies to keep them clean.


Licking is also a stress reliever for cats. Self-grooming for stress relief is comparable to a person receiving a soothing massage. Cats may also use “power grooming” to harass other cats and drive them away from their preferred territory.

Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment

If your cat licks your hair, it is most likely doing so as a form of social behaviour. When cats like each other and have friendly relationships, they groom other cats in their family group. Since licking spreads smell, cats who sleep together and each other have a familiar odour. This produces a sort of “family perfume” that makes people identify as healthily and welcoming. If the cat starts purring out of nowhere, it’s possible she likes the scent of your new shampoo.

Your cats aren’t interested in making proper feline hairdos while grooming you (well, maybe some cats have a style in mind). Cats that attack an owner’s hair are more than likely responding to the human’s “furry portion” and attempting to share the family scent through proper grooming.

The cat will likely be rewarded in some way for repeating the action. Do you converse with the cat and pet it while brushing it? If your cat taps your head, it might be enough to respond by coming back into range if you step away.

Why Does Only One of My Cats Lick the Other?

If you have two cats and only one of them licks the other, the groomer gains superiority over the other feline. Even in larger groups, higher ranking cats lick most cats, while lower-ranking cats are licked more often. Licking is limited to two individuals in a social group. If one cat licks the other, it shows she has embraced the other cat as a family member and is simply establishing her household place.

Cats lick one another to strengthen social ties, build social ranks, and express affection.


Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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