Licking behavior isn’t uncommon in felines.
Every cat owner probably notices it on a daily basis. Your cat is likely most focused on licking her coat, which is known as grooming, since cats love to keep their furs nice and tidy.
But, you might also notice your pet likes to lick other things, and even – people. It seems that she especially likes to lick your hands.
What does it mean when a cat licks your hand? Is this something undesirable, and a behavior you should stop as soon as you start noticing it?
Let’s look at the seven most common explanations for this feline behavior.
1. Food Leftovers
Have you just eaten a tasty meal, or prepared a lunch for your family, and just after this, you notice your cat is excessively licking your hands?
Most likely, she’s enjoying the taste of food leftovers on your hands. Thanks to their great sense of smell, cats are capable of sensing taste much better than us.
I believe your cat is always curious to try your food. For example, if she senses the smell of chicken nuggets, she is likely to try to get some of them.
Of course, you should be very cautious about giving human food to your kitty. She gets everything she needs from the cat food, and she isn’t supposed to eat the meals her humans are having, especially not regularly.
Still, by licking your hands she isn’t likely to get sick – she will rather just enjoy the smell and remaining crumbs from your tasty meal!
2. Social Bonding
Licking behavior is one of the first things that newborn kittens pick up, as they observe their mother doing the same.
Mother cats lick their kittens for hygiene, but also to bond with them, and to make them feel safe and comfortable.
When they grow up, many cats might use licking to make social bonds with other felines. Some of them could also use this technique to bond with their humans.
Therefore, your cat might be licking your hands to make an even deeper bond with you! This is, in fact, her way of showing you two have become very close, and that she trusts you as her person.
3. Attention Seeking
Your cat licking your hands all of a sudden could be her attempt to communicate that she wants to get some attention.
Perhaps she needs you to give her food or water, or to let her go outside. Or, maybe you have been overly busy lately and haven’t had a chance to play with your kitty, and now she feels neglected.
Hill’s Pet suggests how there are some other common signs your cat is desperately asking for your attention, such as excessive meowing, staring at you, waiting for you at the front door, or knocking things off the table.
No matter how aloof and independent cats seem to be, they still need a decent amount of our attention and a daily interaction with us.
You should provide your cat with this, since, if not, you can expect your cat to start showing destructive behaviors, and not only giving you a subtle warning by licking your hands.
4. Territory Marking
Oh, yes, we all know how territorial cats are. It isn’t uncommon to see them excessively licking the area they want to mark as their own.
But, cats don’t limit places as their own territories – they might do the same with their owners!
This is especially common in multiple-cats households. If you have recently welcomed a new kitten into your home, territorial behavior is something you’ll almost certainly see in your resident cat.
She might lick your hands to mark you as her, as well as show some other territorial behaviors, such as sleeping on your pillow.
This might seem charming at first, but you should definitely react as soon as you notice your resident cat being overly territorial.
After all, the idea was to give her some animal company, and not an enemy in the same territory. Therefore, you should do your best to properly introduce your two cats.
Also, you should ensure both of them feel they’re getting your love and attention, as well as having their own, separate things in your home.
This way, your two cats will tolerate each other, and, who knows, in the future, might even start to like each other!
5. Your Cat Is Grooming You
Your cat might be licking your hands for the same reason she’s licking her coat – to groom you!
You have probably seen your kitty grooming other cats. Well, she might do the same thing with you, because she sees you as her favorite person.
The video below shows a cat that can’t seem to get enough of licking her owner’s hand!
When under stress, cats might start excessively licking, which is usually limited to them overgrooming their coats. However, some cats might start licking everything around them, including their owners.
Stress is a complex emotion, and you probably immediately imagine some serious cause of it in your cat. First of all, you need to understand that you might be surprised with the cause of stress in your pet. Also, some cats are more delicate than others.
Nevertheless, some things you might not have even thought of, could cause a stressful response in your cat. According to Cats Protection, some of them are the following:
• Living with other cats
• Guests in your home
• Loud noises, such as fireworks
• Any kind of change in their environment, such as a new family member
• Moving to a new place
If your cat suddenly starts licking your hands, and you can’t prevent her from doing this, she might be stressed.
You should try to figure out what could cause her to feel frightened and insecure in your home. If you have problems with this, you should contact your veterinarian.
7. Potential Health Problems
Some cats might start excessively licking themselves, or their owners when they’re feeling sick.
Felines are very good at hiding their pain, therefore, your car might not display any other symptoms. But, if you have a feeling like something is off, and your cat won’t stop licking your hands, the best would be to make a call and set up a vet check-up for your cat.
Any kind of change in their behaviors and routines could indicate underlying health problems in cats.
Instead of guessing what could be wrong, or trying to examine your cat without success, you shouldn’t waste your time, but better get her to a vet’s as soon as possible.
What does it mean when a cat licks your hands?
There isn’t a single answer to this question, since this could indicate many things. Perhaps your cat is just trying to bond with you, or she’s simply enjoying the smell of food on your hands.
She could also be trying to mark you as her own, and wanting to keep the other cats away from you.
Still, this behavior could also be a sign of a stress or a health change in your cat. To rule out these possibilities, you should get your cat examined by a veterinarian.
It can be concluded that a cat licking your hands could be completely benign, but might also indicate some conditions worth checking.